Here's What Scientists Have to Say About "Dry January"

Spoiler alert: It's healthier for you than you ever imagined.

If you've decided to do a Dry January—or foregoing booze for an entire month—the path that lies before you isn't an easy one. After a full month of endless holiday parties, our bodies are accustomed to alcohol and the greasy hangover food that follows it. And the truth is, going cold turkey is a lot easier said than done.

But, according to a new study, if you can manage to go alcohol-free for just one month, the benefits are enormous.

University of Sussex psychologist Dr Richard de Visser studied the results of 800 people who did Dry January last year, and found that 88 percent saved money, 71 percent slept better, 67 percent had more energy, 54 percent had better skin, and 58 percent lost weight. The participants also found that doing Dry January helped them better understand and control their relationship with alcohol. One in three felt they had a better sense of why and when they drink, and 71 percent of them realized they didn't need a drink to enjoy themselves.

Perhaps most importantly, the participants also found that they were able to better control their drinking once the month was up. Their average drinking days fell from 4.3 per week to a much healthier 3.3, the units of alcohol consumed dropped from 8.6 to 7.1, and they went from being drunk over 3 times a month to only twice. As such, 70 percent had improved their health long after Dry January was over.

"The simple act of taking a month off alcohol helps people drink less in the long term: by August people are reporting one extra dry day per week," Visser said. "There are also considerable immediate benefits: nine in ten people save money, seven in ten sleep better and three in five lose weight…This shows that there are real benefits to just trying to complete Dry January."

"Put simply, Dry January can change lives," Dr. Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said. "We hear every day from people who took charge of their drinking using Dry January, and who feel healthier and happier as a result. "The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it's not really about January. Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don't need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialize. That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about our drinking, and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to."

Of course, going alcohol-free for an entire month isn't easy for anyone who likes to drink. And if that sounds like you, allow me to give you one piece of advice: don't be dismayed by the occasional slip.

According to a recent study on New Year's resolutions, the thing that separates the 92 percent of people who fail at their their "new year, new you" goals from the eight percent who actually achieve them is that the latter group plows forward even if they fall off the wagon here and there. Visser also said that, while the benefits are a bit smaller, many of the changes reported by participants were also surveyed in those who managed to go alcohol-free for at least a part of the month.

And if you're feeling inspired, check out these 7 Genius Tricks For Successfully Navigating Your Dry January.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more