What is the point of "Dry Jan"? Are there real benefits to a Dry January? It can feel a bit like “jumping on the bandwagon”, but there are tangible advantages to be gained (see "16 reasons to feel incredible when you cut out alcohol"). It’s a tough challenge though, so here are our Top 5 Tips for Succeeding in Dry January 2023.
Focus on the immediate benefits rather than longer-term advantages. (Planning for a long and prosperous life as a result of your month off is looking too far into the future to motivate most people). Short-term benefits of being alcohol free include better sleep, less guilt and anxiety, more energy, looking better and feeling virtuous. You’ll also be forced to find new things to do with your time. There’s quite a lot going for it.
- Treat Dry January as an experiment; an opportunity to learn something about yourself, rather than perpetuating ingrained habits relating to drinking:
- What’s it like not to drink for 31 days?
- What do you miss?
- Does it matter that you miss some things and what might be the implications (if it’s missing socialising, can you modify the way you socialise?)
- If it’s missing the "hit", do you have the beginning of a dependency?
- What unexpected benefits are there?
- Do people react differently to you: “you’re looking better”, “you’re unusually quiet”, “have you lost weight?”.
- Perhaps you are less comfortable socially when not drinking. Or maybe more pleasant. It’s worth finding out – a social persona that’s dependent on how much we have drunk is not a great place to be.
Make Dry January a competition – it’s a useful way to add resolve to a challenging task. Gather a like-minded group and all agree a financial forfeit. When someone has an alcoholic drink in January, they must contribute this forfeit to the pot. Those at the end of January who have not fallen off the wagon share the pot (or, for the more altruistic, agree a charity and send the money to them). If a drink on 15th of January is going to cost you £100, you might have second thoughts about how much you want that drink.
Make a fuss about Dry January. Tell all your friends you are going to do it. Post it on social media. Tell your boyfriend/wife/mum/kids/pub landlord. Annoy all your friends by telling them again. Take an ad out in the local paper or a poster on the high street. Make a T-Shirt. Buy 4 cases of ZAG ICE for delivery 31st December. Once the ground is prepared it will be too embarrassing to fail.
Have a Dryish January. A valid new year health goal is improvement through lifestyle choices. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – just making a few good modifications is beneficial, and maybe more achievable. So, is reducing, rather than eliminating, alcohol for January a realistic compromise? Maybe four or five dry days per week? Or alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic versions on a night out? Perhaps finishing the evening earlier or starting later? Possibly commit to avoiding drinking alone, or out of habit, or out of boredom. An advantage of these smaller changes is that they are easier to extend beyond January. They can become an ongoing lifestyle improvement rather than a temporary hit. The best way to live a healthier lifestyle is with an achievable and sustainable change to habits rather than a short, high impact "fix". There’s a more valuable goal attainable via smaller changes such as moderation. January can be the catalyst to a shift in behaviour that’s sustainable throughout the year and beyond.
That would be an impressive – and realistic – outcome.
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