Dry January comes around every year and is a chance to reset your body by giving up alcohol for the first year of the month, especially if you find that you’ve overindulged during the Christmas and New Year period.
The initiative was first launched in 2013 by Alcohol Change UK (formerly known as Alcohol Concern), and the charity reports almost 200,000 people took part in Dry January in 2023.
Anybody can benefit from giving up alcohol for a month. Even if you just like the odd tipple on the weekend or want to kickstart a healthy new year by removing your intake entirely, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can reap the benefits.
Cutting back on the booze for a month might seem daunting at first, but the potential benefits could make it all worth it. If you are still on the fence about joining the Dry January bandwagon, here are six benefits of giving up alcohol to think about while you consider your decision.
1. A better night’s sleep
A full night’s sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy, but it disrupts the sleep cycle, particularly REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is crucial for feeling rested. So, when you give your body a break from alcohol, it can work wonders on your sleep patterns.
Alcohol also disrupts your circadian rhythm, which in turn affects your sleep cycle and leads to a poor night’s sleep.
By skipping the nightcap, you’ll set yourself up for some quality, uninterrupted snooze time and feel refreshed and ready to conquer the next day.
2. More money in your pocket
Alcohol is notoriously expensive, and having the odd drink a few times a week tallies up eventually.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the average price of a pint in October 2023 in the UK was £4.67.
Additionally, research by Creditfix found that someone drinking six pints of lager a week is spending around £105 a month. For those who prefer gin and tonics, six single measures could set you back £48 a week – nearly £200 a month.
Just think about how much you could save over the month if you gave up for the whole of January.
3. Improved mental health
Taking a breather from alcohol for a whole month isn’t just about giving your liver a break; it’s a mental reset button, too.
Alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain, increasing the risk of depression, research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows. Adding to this, the aftermath of excessive drinking, commonly known as a “hangover”, can perpetuate a cycle of waking up with feelings of illness, anxiety, restlessness, and remorse.
When you swap cocktails for mocktails, you’re giving your brain a chance to rebalance itself. You’ll also likely notice that your mood improves, and you may feel more positive overall.
4. Short-term physical health benefits
Calories from alcohol are often referred to as “empty calories” as they have no nutritional value. Believe it or not, just because wine is made from grapes doesn’t mean it’s one of your five a day! If you want to lose weight or simply get into better shape, alcohol can be a hindrance to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Dehydration is one of the main causes of a hangover, and drinking alcohol dehydrates you faster due to its diuretic effects.
So, giving up alcohol in January means you can say goodbye to Saturday and Sunday morning hangovers for a month. Instead, you could get up early and kick off your weekend with a good walk in the Yorkshire countryside, a local park run, or perhaps a visit to the gym.
5. Long-term physical health benefits
Cutting back on alcohol can offer long-term benefits, too. Indeed, according to Drinkaware, you could improve your heart health and liver function, and even give your immune system a boost.
These effects can set the stage for continued healthier habits, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases and promoting overall physical wellbeing in the long term.
6. Long-term habit changes
Dry January doesn’t have to be for one month. After four weeks of having no alcohol, your whole outlook on drinking might change. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will stop drinking altogether, but it could instil new habits, meaning you drink less throughout the year.
Throughout January, you could explore new ways to unwind, reconnect with friends without relying on drinks, and discover the joys of embracing clarity and presence in every moment.
It’s not just about what you’re giving up for a month; it’s about all the incredible things you could gain – an enhanced sense of wellbeing, a clearer mind, and a chance to discover a better, healthier version of yourself.
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