The benefits of completing Dry January
9th January 2020
After the festivities of Christmas and New Years I’m sure a lot of you out there have had your fair share of alcohol, with many people saying they need a break from the booze. This is where Dry January comes into play, where people challenge themselves to avoid drinking alcohol for the whole month. Dry January helps millions of people every year reset their relationship with alcohol, and start their year on a more positive and healthier foot.
A lot of people enjoy a glass of wine or pint of beer after work to relax. Alcohol releases endorphins that make us feel good by hitting the neurochemical pathways in our brain, so it’s no wonder a lot of us feel we need a drink to unwind. Drinking however, can lead to a whole range of health issues if not managed correctly, so staying away for 31 days is a great way to start 2020 healthier. Research suggest it only takes three weeks to break a habit, so this could lead you to a healthier lifestyle in the long-run.
The Benefits of Dry January
It helps to re-assess why you’re drinking
It can be easy to think that a drink at the end of the night cheers you up and helps wash away all the stress of the day. At first, this can be the case. After a while however, if consuming alcohol has become a main coping strategy, there could be an underlying issue such as depression or anxiety. Many people turn to drinking to cope with their mental health thinking it helps them to relax and forget, but this does more harm than good.
Although Dry January won’t fix your mental health, by stepping away from the alcohol for a month you can re-assess why it is you’re drinking. When you’re not self-medicating with alcohol you’ll be in a better position to recognize that you could have a problem and get yourself some real help. If you are struggling with your mental health, alcohol is not the answer, instead talk to a doctor.
You can get a better night’s sleep
Drinking alcohol disrupts your sleep. Whilst many people feel drowsy and fall asleep much faster after drinking, the quality of your sleep will be much poorer. The National Sleep Foundation explains that this is because drinking alcohol can affect the normal production of chemicals in the body that trigger sleepiness. After drinking, adenosine, the sleep-inducing chemical in the brain, is increased which helps you fall asleep faster, but it subsides quickly making you more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. Alcohol can also block REM sleep, which leaves you waking up feeling groggy and unrested and it can make you need to go to the toilet more in the night, disrupting your sleep.
Giving up drinking alcohol for a month can help you get sounder sleep, feel more rested and focused and have more energy. An independent study from the University of Sussex found that 71% of participants reported they slept better during Dry January 2018.
You can lose weight
Drinking no alcohol for a month can be an easy way to lose a few extra pounds. Depending on how much you drink, you could lose up to a couple of pounds a week. Alcohol is full of empty calories. Boozy drinks have a lot of calories in them, which do not fill you up like food does, causing you to pile on the pounds. Once people cut out the alcohol, often these calories are not replaced, causing them to lose weight. The study from the University of Sussex also found that 58% of participants lost weight during Dry January. If you’re looking to lose a couple of extra pounds after Christmas, Dry January could be a great way to kickstart your weight loss.
You’ll save money
Statistics show that in 2018, 88% of participants saved money during Dry January. Alcohol can be expensive, especially if you drink multiple times a week. £5-£10 for some wine or a cocktail might not seem like a lot, but over a month this really adds up. Going out to dinner, or to the pub with friends is a whole lot cheaper without the booze. If you’re looking to save some money after an expensive Christmas, cutting out alcohol is a good start.
Drinking alcohol is linked to a whole number of health problems. This includes seven forms of cancer, mental health problems, liver disease, heart disease and high blood pressure. The charity Alcohol Change UK, who promotes Dry January every year reported that in 2018, research found that a month off alcohol lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of diabetes, lowers cholesterol and reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood. One study found that 65% of participants reported having generally improved health at the end of the month. Staying away from alcohol for a month really can help you start off your year healthier – both mentally and physically.
It can improve your relationship with alcohol
Dry January doesn’t just provide benefits for the month, but all year round. One study with over 800 participants found that people who took part in Dry January were still drinking less in August of the same year. On average, they reported having one extra dry day a week, and the units they consumed per drinking day also dropped from 8.6 to 7.1.
By breaking the habit of drinking you may realise that actually you do not need alcohol to relax, have fun or get by. Taking part in Dry January can help you cut down on your alcohol consumption long-term, or even help you to quit drinking altogether.
Tips on having a successful Dry January:
Change your routine – If your habit is going home and pouring a glass of wine whilst settling down to eat your dinner or watch TV, change up your routine a little. Why not try doing something different of an evening to break that habit. Go see a movie after work, try a class, go out with friends or exercise instead.
Try a substitute – If you find yourself really missing your nightly glass of wine or beer or just crave the taste, why not try an alcohol-free substitute? There are plenty of alcohol-free wines, beers and mocktails which give you the same great taste, without the negative effects of booze.
Avoid situations where drinking is involved – If it is too difficult for you to see your friends or others drinking around you, don’t put yourself in these situations. Why not arrange meeting your friends in alcohol free places, go to a café for lunch instead or see a film with them? If your friends are a bad influence and tempt you too much, take a break from seeing them for a while.
Hold yourself accountable – Tell your friends and family that you’re taking part in Dry January or get them to take part with you, post updates on social media using #DryJanuary2020, or download the Alcohol Change UK Dry January App. If you tell others, or have someone who is relying on you to abstain with them, you’ll be more likely to stick to it, as you’ll be held accountable by others if you do give up.
If you want to kickstart your year on a healthier note, reset your relationship with alcohol or simply take a break from the booze after the festivities, Dry January is a great way to do this. Cutting out alcohol for a whole month comes along with a range of benefits, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Why not challenge others to complete it with you? A month will fly by, and trust us it’ll be worth it in the end.
Alcohol misuse is a serious problem, with one person every hour dying as a result of alcohol. Alcohol harm can affect any one, from any walk of life. If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or know someone who is, get help today. Contact a doctor.
Kays Medical can help
If you are worried about alcohol misuse in your workforce, contact Kays Medical Occupational Health team. We offer a range of Drug & Alcohol Testing Services as well as Lifestyle Health Interventions that can be tailored to your needs. Our Mental Health Awareness Course also discusses alcohol misuse, although this is not the primary focus.
Contact us today for more information.