After the influx of Alcohol consumption during the holiday season, what’s a better way to start the new year than with the challenge of abstinence. Dry January is an increasingly popular challenge to decide to give up alcohol for a month. According to AARP, “Some do it as sort of start the year off right detox, others to lose weight, join friends in a fun health challenge, or sometimes test the seriousness of their alcohol dependence”. In an interview that ABC News conducted with Dr. William R. Miller, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico and former co-director of its Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addictions, he said, “It does break up the habitual pattern. It gives you a chance to decide what you want to do,” he explained. “Some people feel so much better that they want to continue to abstain.”. Dry January has many benefits for people who want to partake in this challenge.
Benefits of Dry January
Dry January Benefit #1: Give Your Body A break
Alcohol wrecks havoc on the body and takes a toll on your brain, heart, liver, immune system, and can even lead to cancer. Effects on the brain include changes in mood and coordination. Drinking causes damage to the heart which may result in stroke or high blood pressure, along with many other conditions. In addition to that drinking alcohol causes the immune system to weaken, and for drinkers to become more susceptible to disease. Lastly, drinking too much can lead to an increase chance of getting certain cancers. With all the damage on the body from drinking the entire year, whether it be a social drink or an excessive pattern, a little rest on the body will do a ton of good.
Dry January Benefit # 2: Take Off a Few Extra Pounds
The amount you drink, and deciding to stop drinking will have an impact on how much weight you will lose during Dry January. However, deciding to continue with alcohol abstinence would increase your chances of weight loss tremendously. Eliminating about 500 calories each day will help you lose about a pound a week, as each pound contains about 3,500 calories. Depending on what you drink, and how much of it you consume will be the determining factors in weight loss. The National Institute of Health has a calculator which is useful in determining how many calories are in each type of alcoholic beverage.
Dry January Benefit # 3: Start Living a Healthier Lifestyle
In taking care of your body, and cutting unneeded calories you are on your way to starting a healthier lifestyle. According to Vanessa Romero of Healthy Living, there are 4 psychological benefits of a healthy lifestyle which include, decreased mental illness, better ability to handle problems, increased self-esteem, cognitive benefits such as improved brain function and memory. When you take care of your body you are also taking care of your mind.
Dry January Benefit # 4: Breaking the Habitual Pattern
Whether you are a social drinker, one who pours a drink each night, or a few drinks daily the pattern of drinking becomes routine. With Dry January, a month without Alcohol breaks the cycle of drinking which could result is continuing the cycle of abstinence for a lifetime.
Dry January Benefit # 5: A Shared Challenge
Dry January is a shared challenge and a reminder that you are not alone. According to a Health & Wellness publication, “Last year over 2 million people cut down their drinking for January. 2017”. With the increasing popularity of Dry January, the numbers are expected to increase for January 2017. Often people struggle to fight the battle of alcohol addiction alone, but Dry January is a time when people from across the world come together to work towards abstinence from alcohol.
How to Do the Challenge Successfully?
So you may be looking at the benefits thinking they sound great, but at the same time be wondering how to implement this challenge successfully. What it boils down to is determination, and how bad you want it. However, there are several tips that can help you along the way.
Tip # 1: Don’t Do it Alone
Find a friend who is in need of the challenge, and be each other’s support. Someone close to you who is also dedicated will serve as a good protective factor for the success of this challenge
Tip # 2 Occupy Your Time
Whether you enjoy working out, watching TV, or some other type of leisure activity, create a schedule. You want to make sure that you are occupying your time enough to not become bored, or consumed with the thoughts of drinking.
Tip # 3 Avoid Places That Serve Alcohol
Being in restaurant’s, or bars is a sure fire trigger for people who like to drink. The best solution to avoiding triggers for alcohol is to stay away from these places if possible. Go to a restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol or eat at home for the month. Eating at home is also an avenue to a healthier lifestyle.
Tip # 4 Healthy Snacks
Substitute drinking with healthy snacks. Often time people become fixated on the process or making a nice mixed beverage in the evening, or enjoying a cold brew while watching the game. Instead, utilize healthy snacks to keep your mind preoccupied and your mouth busy.
Tip # 5 Don’t Forget The Rewards
The best way to ensure that behavior is repeated is to reinforce the behavior. This occurs with drinking when alcohol works on the reward pathways in the brain. Instead set goals for abstaining from alcohol, and when you successfully reach your mark, whether it be each day, or each week during the Dry January Challenge determine how you will reward your progress.