We love January. It’s packed with ‘lightbulb’ moments and actions inspired by post-Christmas reflections about what matters most – good health, time out with friends, community wellbeing. It arrives with a desire to reset, to break bad habits and kick-start healthier ones.
Which is why we love Dry January. Organisers Alcohol Change UK are not anti-alcohol, but a charity wanting to promote a society free from the harm caused by it. A life where a drink is a conscious choice (and within healthy guidelines), and not a default or a way to mask underlying problems.
The benefits go without saying. Reducing alcohol consumption delivers better quality sleep, more energy, increased concentration, brighter skin, and often a healthier weight. Alcohol Change UK say 86 per cent of participants save money, 70 per cent have better sleep and 66 per cent more energy.
Want to join the crowds who never miss this time for a drink rethink?
Think about it as a space for something new rather than a month of going without. And fill the space, making the most of the extra energy you’ll have. So if you’re an after-work drinker go for a coffee or swim or workout with friends instead. If you drink when you get home, treat yourself to something nourishing like a bath and a book or a walk or cinema trip with your partner.
Tell a friend or, even better, team up with someone on the journey. That way you can report in and share the struggles and the benefits (those swims and coffee stops and walks).
Check out the advice at alcoholchange.org.uk. They have tools to help, including a free Try Dry App which they say can double the chances of your success.
Keep a diary, noting down what you feel when you don’t drink. Sleeping hours, eating habits, morning moods. Think, too, about why you’re making the switch – avoiding those awful social hangovers when you drink and say too much, or the morning headaches which leave you running late and chasing your tail for the rest of the day on catch up
Make a plan for when alcohol is on the table. If you’re going out with friends, think ahead about alcohol free alternatives you’ll try. If you don’t want to tell your mates or colleagues you’re doing Dry January for fear of pressure to drink, tell them about your 7am gym class and your desire to enjoy it without a headache. That will shut them up.
Be kind to yourself. This is more about rethinking the role of alcohol in your life than a competition to stay off the booze until Feb 1. So if you are out and succumb to a glass of wine, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, or need to give up on the joy of this January exercise. Brush it off and rename the month one-drink January, or one-drink-a-week January. Anything that leads you to drink less and feel the health benefits is a huge success, even if you are celebrating it with a random glass when the going gets tough.
Do remember, if you are dependent on drink, it’s not wise to stop suddenly. Speak to your GP about your desire to cut back this month and get expert advice on a safe way to do that.