Considering Doing Dry January? Here's How to Increase Your Chance of Success
A little preparation goes a long way.
Depending where you live, January may be snowy, rainy, or balmy. But "Dry January" has nothing to do with the weather. Rather, it's a challenge started by Alcohol Change UK in 2013 that recognizes the many health hazards of drinking alcohol and presents an opportunity for people to quit drinking for a month.
"There are many reasons why it can be beneficial to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption," advises Taylor Remington, founder and CEO of the Impact Recovery Center. Remington notes that drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis can have serious health repercussions. Even a small amount of alcohol can spike your risk of heart disease and different types of cancers, among other illnesses.
You may also simply want to try quitting alcohol after all the eating, drinking, and merry-making of the holiday season. Whatever your motivation, Dry January can be a game-changer. Read on to find out how to make yours a success.
READ THIS NEXT: If This Happens When You Drink Alcohol, It Might Be Time to Stop.
Set goals—and write about them.
Remington recommends not just setting a goal for yourself during Dry January, but being realistic about it. "Some people may want to do Dry January for a full month, while others may only aim for two weeks or a few days," he says. "Choose a realistic goal, and don't beat yourself up if you don't make it."
You can also shift your focus and lean into the health benefits of Dry January by making a list of all the things that can be accomplished by cutting alcohol out of your life—and journaling about it, which has its own benefits. Keeping a journal is a great way to help reduce your stress levels, and can also can lead to an improved mood, lower blood pressure, and greater well-being, says Healthline. Studies have also shown that journaling when you quit drinking can help you with the process.
"Making a list of the reasons to curtail your drinking—such as feeling healthier, sleeping better, or improving your relationships—can motivate you," Harvard Health notes.
Strategize and plan ahead.
Planning ahead is a great way to get ahead of potentially difficult situations. Remington recommends having a strategy for scenarios that might make you feel like drinking. "For example, if you usually socialize at bars or restaurants where alcohol is present, plan an alternative activity such as going to the movies or meeting friends in a park to chat instead of drinking."
Another way to plan ahead is to proactively incorporate new hobbies and habits into your life. "Find activities that can help keep you occupied and distracted," Remington says. "Many people find that joining a new fitness class or picking up a hobby they enjoy helps them stay focused and motivated during Dry January."
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Ask for support.
It's more than okay to ask for help when you're trying to cut alcohol out of your life, but keep in mind that support comes in many forms. "It doesn't mean you have to go to Alcoholics Anonymous," George Koob, PhD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), tells Healthline. "You can find that kind of social affirmation in many different ways." Just sharing your participation in Dry January, as well as your hopes for succeeding at the challenge, can be helpful.
"By making your goals public to friends and family you also open up a channel of communication and support from them that's invaluable," says Healthline, which suggests asking your support network if they want to try doing Dry January with you. Some of them may be inspired to accept the challenge, too.
Choose your replacement drinks carefully.
Giving up alcohol doesn't give you a pass to indulge in other potentially unhealthy habits. Don't substitute soft drinks for cocktails, for example, as soda can have its own negative effects—studies show it can increase the risk of liver disease.
In fact, drinking soda can undo some of the benefits of Dry January. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that sugary beverages (this includes soda and "fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars," the site cautions) can lead to conditions such as weight gain, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gout, and kidney disease.
Thinking about replacing soda with diet soda? Think again: Diet soda has been linked to dementia. Instead, try some nourishing alternatives that won't cause the very problems you're looking to address by quitting alcohol.