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Christmas is over, the new year is on the horizon and our livers might be ready for a little bit of a break from all the alcohol that was consumed! Dry January is calling.
What is Dry January
Dry January is a month of abstinence from all alcoholic drinks. It sits amongst all those healthy new year, new me habits that everyone likes to make. I’m partial to a G&T but If you’ve read my about me page, you’ll know that I work with people who have problems with alcohol from those who feel they’re having one too many each week to full blown physical dependancy so all too often I see the dangers of overconsumption.
I’m not for a minute suggesting that anyone reading this has a problem, but the UK has a culture of binge drinking and anything that makes us step back and re-assess is good in my opinion!
What are the benefits of Dry January?
So you’ve got this far and you’re thinking that Dry January might be just what you need, but what are you actually going to gain from doing it? Will you notice a difference or just feel like the odd one out with your water in the corner?! No you won’t, I promise!
Alcohol affects your sleep. You know after a big night out, when you’ve rolled in at 3am, crashed into bed with your takeaway ready for a proper kip? Well you’re going to wake up again at 7, feeling more tired than you did before you fell asleep either still drunk or that hangover is just starting to hit. Although you might sleep more deeply when you first fall asleep, those double vodkas will lessen your REM sleep. REM sleep is the bit that’s responsible for your concentration levels during the day. You’re also more likely to get up frequently to go to the toilet as alcohol is a diuretic.
A possible side effect of drinking less is weight loss. This won’t be the case for everyone, if you’re a minimal drinker anyway you’re less likely to notice weight loss but if you’re someone who drinks most evenings then it’s possible you’ll lose a little weight. A large glass of wine is about 170cals, a pint of 5% lager is 210cals. It’s easy to see how you can put on weight if you’re drinking regularly. What I would say is although you might be happy about this, consider in context with your overall health. Losing some weight is not the be all and end all so don’t become obsessive about calorie counting your drinks if you decide to enjoy a drink afterwards!
Low mood, confusion and lethargy are common symptoms after a heavy night drinking. That ‘beer fear’ that you get the morning after, where you feel anxious about your behaviour or lower mood than normal that’s the alcohol talking. But if you have an ongoing mental health problem, although it may feel like it at the time, alcohol will not help your symptoms in the long run. If you’re on anti-depressants, alcohol will stop them working particularly if you drink a large amount. If drinking has become less enjoyable for you because of your mental health then Dry January might be a great time to take stock of how you’re feeling and look at making some changes.
So how do you conquer Dry January?
Find your why
Why do you want to do Dry January? Is it for health reasons, have you made a pact with a friend or family member that you would do it together or are you just sick of alcohol after all those Christmas parties?! Whatever your reason make sure you acknowledge it. If you’re someone that likes to write down their goals, do that along with what the actions that you need to take to achieve it.
Tell your family and friends that you’re doing Dry January. This validates your actions and means that you have other support. Tell those that you feel will be most supportive and you never know they may want to join you! There are also loads of apps that you can download for that added supportive nudge. The alcohol change app is my fave. It tracks your dry days, counts money or calories saved if you’re after that and has lots of tips to help you through the month.
Expand your horizons
If your go to night out with the girls is the pub or cocktail bar it’s going to be hard for you surrounded by alcohol. Try to do other things that you could do without the alcohol. The cinema, a coffee shop or an evening class are all fun to do! Get out of your comfort zone. If you can’t stay away from the pub, research alcohol free options. There are tons of alcohol free beers and a number of places now stock alcohol free spirits so you have have that G&T without the alcohol!
Hopefully these tips help you get through Dry January if you’ve decided to partake! Whatever your reason for doing it is, use it as a chance to look at your habits and see whether there’s anything you want to change long term. If not, just be proud of yourself for making it through the worst month of the year without a drink!
If you’re concerned about the amount you drink and feel like you need more help visit the Drinkaware site for more information and support.