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Illustration for Dry January Image source: Viktoria Hnatiuk / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Signing on for Dry January can reset more than just your relationship with alcohol

Each January, more and more people decide to commit to a month without alcohol. This year, it is estimated that one in ten drinkers will try Dry January. But does quitting booze for a month really make a difference to our health and should you take part in this new tradition? 

If you approach Dry January thoughtfully, it can feel less like a fad and more like an opportunity to reset. Dry January can help you commit to a New Year’s resolution to cut back on alcohol after a month of indulgences.The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines moderate drinking as up to four alcoholic drinks for men and three for women in any single day and a maximum of 14 drinks for men and seven drinks for women per week. 

Dropping alcohol for one month can lower blood pressure, improve your insulin resistance, and reduce blood levels of a signaling protein linked to cancer, according to a small study. People who quit drinking for a month also find it easier afterward. Additionally, refraining from alcohol will relieve metabolic stress on your liver — as about half of all liver disease deaths are from alcoholic liver disease. It can also positively affect your sleep habits, immune system, and help reduce anxiety. 

However, it’s important to remember that abstaining from alcohol for one month will not make up for eleven months of binge drinking. The true health benefits associated with cutting out alcohol are based on long term abstinence. 

The biggest benefits of Dry January, a short period of abstinence, are psychological or psychosocial ones. If you think your regular (or excessive) drinking habits might be contributing to how you are feeling (mentally, physically, socially, etc.), removing alcohol can give you the perspective you need to make sustainable, healthy changes. 

While Dry January won’t directly cure your depression, stepping back from your nightly drinks can provide the distance you need to assess your motivation for drinking. When not self-medicating, you’ll be in a better position to recognize that you might need help from a doctor or therapist. 

When you remove alcohol from social situations, does it change how you want to spend your time? Are you ordering that mimosa at brunch because you like it…or because that’s the expectation in your friend group? How much is external pressure part of your alcohol consumption? It’s hard to critically observe these situations when you’re in the middle of them. Taking a step back always helps, and Dry January gives you an excuse, if you need one, to observe the dynamics of your personal relationships. 

Like cutting out any other harmful substance in our lives, focusing more on what we gain — rather than what we lose — is key to success. Participating in Dry January can provide you with clarity and inspire you to make larger positive life changes.   

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