What Is Dry January?

Jan. 12, 2023

The holidays are over. The sugary desserts and heavy holiday meals have been eaten. Coming down from the overindulgence of the season isn’t easy. In recent years, people have started taking part in Dry January to get back on track with their health. 

Dry January is a popular trend to avoid alcohol for the month of January after the excess of the holiday season. Here are a few things to know about the program and how it may be beneficial to you. 

Starting small 

Dry January challenges people not to drink any alcohol for the month. It’s only 31 days of swapping out drinks with alcohol for other options. 

Making big health changes all at once can feel daunting. Opting for a short-term change can be less stressful and easier to stick with. And small changes can make a big difference in overall health. 

Health concerns

Drinking alcohol has known health risks. Drinking too much can lead to serious conditions that may lead to death. 

Alcohol-related health problems include liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke and some types of cancer. 

The Dry January program may be best for light to moderate drinkers. American dietary guidelines define moderate consumption of alcohol as two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. 

Immediate rewards 

Ditching drinks may seem like a downer, but you’ll soon see benefits. Drinking alcohol causes poor sleep habits. People who drink too much often have insomnia, one of the most common sleep disorders. Forgoing the nightly glass of wine could lead to better sleep overall. 

Alcoholic beverages are high in sugar. These drinks add calories to your diet. Cutting them out could help with bloating and overall weight loss. 

Some people notice a boost in overall mood. Eliminating alcohol can also affect physical concerns. For instance, it could lead to decreased cardiovascular risk and liver relief.   

As a bonus, skipping expensive alcoholic drinks will keep money in your pocket for more important things.

Lasting benefits 

Dry January only lasts for the month, but it can have lasting benefits. People who commit to taking a month off from drinking alcohol tend to drink less the rest of the year. 

The monthlong challenge sets people up to create new, healthier habits and keep up with them throughout the year. 

Healthy swaps 

There are plenty of options on the market that make a Dry January challenge easier. Instead of getting a cocktail when you’re out with friends, choose a nonalcoholic mixed drink or ask for soda with lemon or lime. Swap the glass of wine for flavored sparkling water. Choose a nonalcoholic beer. 

Get help

It is important to note that taking on a monthlong challenge to address drinking habits may not be the best idea for someone struggling with substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is a serious health concern and often requires help from a professional. 

If you drink alcohol to self-medicate, cutting out those beverages may uncover underlying mental health concerns, such as depression or anxiety. 

Anyone struggling with mental health should call the number on the back of his or her insurance card for resources or reach out to community services like South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse* or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration*. 

*The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are independent organizations that offer health information you may find helpful.

Some of these links lead to third party websites. Those parties are solely responsible for the contents and private policies of their sites. 

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