The first month of 2023 will soon be coming to a close, and you may have heard your friends, family, and coworkers participating in something called “Dry January.” This is essentially a challenge many people have undertaken to abstain from any substance use in the month of January, be it alcohol or recreational drug use. While this has been a tradition many people have joined for years, it seems to have exploded in popularity for 2023 as we headed into the new year, with celebrities and influencers committing to this observance and tracking their experience on social media.
You might think that this is merely a test of willpower, avoiding temptations. However, according to research, people who participate in Dry January see continuing, positive effects throughout the rest of the year. Other studies show that people who took part in Dry January were still drinking less than their counterparts in August. Participants make sustained efforts to drink less in general terms, whether they are conscious of it or not, and this leads to overall improvements in their health and wellbeing. They are able to form new habits, and the positive reinforcement of “feeling better” helps motivate them to continue these habits.
Some of the most common benefits of Dry January include better sleep and more energy, more focused concentration, saving money, weight loss, increased hydration, clearer skin, and lower blood pressure.
If you didn’t participate in Dry January this year, it’s not too late! You can see the benefits of taking a month off from alcohol at any time in the year. One advantage of participating in Dry January is that your social circle is also more likely to be participating, so there might be less pressure put on you to drink. However, if you are invited to an event that serves alcohol or are out at a bar with friends/coworkers, you have the option to make or order a “mocktail”—a cocktail-style non-alcoholic mixed drink. This gives you the opportunity to take part in these activities without inviting the stigma of choosing not to drink. To help you more easily and quickly choose your next favorite mocktail, we have designed a Mocktail Recipe card, the size of a business card you can fit in your wallet, that you can download on your phone or print out to keep on your person!
If you choose to participate in a dry month, remember to surround yourself with people that will support you—perhaps even some that will join you. Try journaling at the end of the day. Write down the patterns that you witness. Did you have any triggers that gave you a strong urge to drink? Did you feel empowered when you sustained your commitment to yourself? And, if you embark on this challenge and find that you slip up slightly by having a glass of wine at a dinner party or a single cocktail at happy hour with coworkers, don’t feel like a failure. Going alcohol free is hard in a society so embedded into drinking. Remember that Dry January is about maintaining control more so than long-term sobriety.