You likely didn't expect a blog by a whiskey company to write about Dry January. But we have a responsibility to talk about drinking responsibly, as does every alcohol company. We all see those little "Drink Responsibly" signs in adverts, but how much notice do we take? How often do we look at our drinking habits and determine whether they are healthy?
What is “Dry January”?
Dry January is a campaign originating in the United Kingdom run by Alcohol Change UK, founded in 1984. Known initially as Alcohol Concern, in 2007, the charity joined another 24 charity and health interest organizations and became the Alcohol Health Alliance UK. The name was then changed to its current form in 2018. The first Dry January occurred in 2013, with 4000 people registering an interest. In 2023, 9 million noted they were going to try abstaining from alcohol for the month. The campaign is now licensed in other countries, including France, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, and the USA, officially joining in 2023.
As a point of interest, in Finland, the government launched Sober January in 1942 as part of the country's war effort against the Soviet Union.
The simplest explanation of Dry January is this: you choose not to consume any alcohol in January. It sounds pretty simple when written down like that. But taking part will highlight your drinking habits. Noting down when you reach for a drink could help you look at whether you have a healthy relationship with alcohol or not. Are you a social drinker, or do you ‘always’ have a drink as soon as you come home from work? Do certain situations trigger a ‘need’ for a drink? What time of day are you drinking? Are you being honest with yourself about all of this?
What are the benefits of taking part in Dry January?
The most obvious will be related to your health. Studies have shown that alcohol can negatively affect sleep. Within one week, you will likely find yourself sleeping better.
Your skin/complexion will improve. Alcohol is a diuretic (always wonder why you need to pee extra when you’ve been drinking???). Your skin will become more hydrated and healthier when you consume less alcohol.
The liver, like skin, is one of our biggest detox tools, always working hard to process what we consume and move unwanted elements from our bodies. Like skin, the liver can also regenerate itself, so giving it a break from dealing with alcohol for a month will help with its repair and working on other unwanted elements in our bodies.
Your blood pressure may improve. Heavy drinking is related to high blood pressure, and even one month of abstinence will give your body a rest and help improve your blood pressure levels.
Weight loss!! Most of us see this as a benefit. Alcohol has sugars, starches, and, of course, calories. When we drink, our food-based decision-making also takes a hit. Come on, nothing is better than a bucket of crispy, greasy chicken after a few beers. By abstaining, we could also make better food decisions, which will impact our calorie intake overall.
These are only some benefits; everyone will have different responses and priorities as to why they may want to participate.
Who can I do Dry January with?
Some people are great at going it alone; others may want a support buddy to check in with and discuss how it's going. You can share strategies and tips. Meharry Research is licensed to bring Dry January to Americans in the United States. The link below will take you to the Meharry page about Dry January, where you can find links to apps to help you.
Will I miss alcohol?
While doing Dry January, you should continue supporting your local bars and pubs. Many support Dry January anyway and will have deals to keep you coming in. The world of Low and No alcoholic beverages is growing and getting much better. For many of us, drinking is part of socializing; Dry January isn't about locking yourself away from society to get through it. It can be about supporting each other and challenging yourself to only sometimes have a drink in every social situation.
Things to be aware of and when to seek professional help.
Dry January is a great way to start the new year for most people. Feeling energized and refreshed, saving money, and losing weight are positive ways to embrace winter/spring and hit some resolutions. But not everyone is in this position; some people may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and Dry January may feel like an excellent opportunity to address this relationship. However, alcohol detox for heavy drinkers, can be difficult. Withdrawal from alcohol can be painful and dangerous. If you are in a position where you recognize that you need help with your relationship with alcohol, please consult a medical professional so they can guide you and safely help you.
Lastly, if you participate in Dry January, we hope you will complete it with a sense of achievement and feel healthier going into 2024. You may already know that certain alcoholic beverages are healthier than others. For example, a standard beer (one pint) can have up to 222 calories (5%abv), and a 175mil glass of wine (12%) can have up to 158 calories. The good news is that whiskey at 40% per 25ml has approx. 100 cals. So, choose your alcohol wisely!
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