If December involved a few too many schooners of sherry, mugs of mulled wine, or bottles of beer, Dry January might be exactly what you need to get 2023 off to a soaring start.
What is Dry January?
Dry January, a campaign run by the charity Alcohol Change UK, challenges people to go the month of January without drinking alcohol. Each year, millions of Brits take the challenge and enjoy its many benefits.
Here are 5 reasons to go dry this January…
1. Better sleep and mood
Alcoholic drinks, especially those containing lots of sugar or caffeine, can have an impact on the quality of our sleep. They can disrupt our “restorative” REM sleep, meaning we may not be getting all of our much-needed quality sleep. In the short term, this can disrupt our energy levels, concentration, and mood, and can negatively impact our health in the long-term.
Alcohol also acts as a depressant and can directly impact mood in a negative way. This is felt most strongly after a night of drinking, however some people may experience weaker but longer-term disruption to their mood following alcohol. Giving up alcohol may therefore be one way to help boost your mood and prevent feelings of low mood or anxiety this January.
2. Gain control over your behaviour and build self-efficacy
It’s true that Dry January is about avoiding environments where drinking is easy and is the default. However, it’s also about not hiding away for a month and avoiding all social events. At some point during the month you will be challenged, and you will have to muster up the willpower to turn a drink down. Challenges like this, in the right dose, are a good thing as they can help build your self-efficacy – your confidence in your ability to achieve a self-set task. This is a powerful tool to help you adopt other healthy behaviours and make positive lifestyle changes. There’s no question that giving up alcohol for a month is challenging, but nothing worth having comes easy.
3. Improve long term health and weight loss
Dry January may be able to help with weight loss, as avoiding alcohol for a month also means avoiding the calories that come with it! Ditching the drinks can therefore be a helpful tool if your goal is to lose weight over the next few months. It can be surprising to learn that just one large, 250ml glass of red wine can contain as many as 228 calories, that’s more than a jam doughnut!
Avoiding alcoholic drinks may also improve your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and reduce diabetes risk – with the largest benefits being seen in the heaviest drinkers. Did you know over 10% of high blood pressure in men is alcohol related?
4. Healthier skin
Alcohol acts as a diuretic, which means it can draw water from our bodies and dehydrate us, and may lead to dryer skin. Additionally, alcohol can lead to inflammation, which in some people may lead to skin issues such as redness, flushing, pruritus (itchy skin) or breakouts.
Skin issues relating to alcohol may not affect everyone in an extreme way, however a month off the drink may help you notice if it has been impacting your skin in a more mild way – there’s only one way to find out!
5. Save money
Another big benefit of giving up alcohol for a month is the money you can save. According to Cancer Research UK, the average Brit consumes £64 worth of alcohol in a month. For heavy drinkers, and those who love their wine or beer in a pub, this number can be a lot higher! What would you spend that extra cash on?
One final benefit is that by undertaking Dry January you can help to raise awareness about the issues surrounding alcohol. The cost of alcohol to the NHS each year is £3.5bn, 200,000 children in England live with an alcohol dependent parent and 167,000 working years were lost to alcohol in 2015. By joining the community of people taking on Dry January, you are helping to spread the word about these costs – both financial and social, and helping charities like Alcohol Change UK to change these statistics for the better. Why not make the community even bigger by bringing someone along for the journey! This will spread the message even further and will help you stick to the challenge.
You may be thinking that you don’t drink enough to justify going dry for January, but Dry January isn’t just in place for heavy drinkers – everyone can benefit. Whilst those who normally drink the most may indeed benefit the most, anyone who takes part will see positive changes in their energy, health and savings! improvements in drinking behaviours in the months after are even evident in those who don’t manage to stay alcohol-free for the whole month – they’re just a bit smaller. This shows that there can still be benefits to just trying to complete Dry January. Alternatively, simply aiming to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink over January may be the right goal for you. Whilst on paper the benefits may not be as big, it might be exactly what you as an individual need to move in the right direction.
The Dry January campaign challenges people to give up alcohol for the month of January. It isn’t a fix-all, and more research into the long-term and between-person differences in its benefits is required. However, what we do know is that a month off alcohol offers a perfect opportunity to give your health a boost, reset your relationship with alcohol, and free up some cash while you’re at it.
Will you go dry this January?
Key sources & further reading:
Drink Aware – How many units and calories are there in red wine? https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/alcoholic-drinks-and-units/units-and-calories-in-alcoholic-drinks/red-wine#caloriesinredwine
University of Sussex – How ‘Dry January’ is the secret to better sleep, saving money and losing weight https://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/47131
Cancer Research UK – The benefits of taking on Dryathlon https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/get-involved/do-your-own-fundraising/dryathlon/benefits-of-taking-on-dryathlon