At the beginning of every year, I embark on a “dry January” challenge where I don’t drink any alcohol for the entire month. You might think this sounds nuts, after all, many of us rely on a glass (or a few glasses) of wine to take the edge off after a long, stressful work week. But what if I told you that not drinking could be the one thing you need to try to really set your New Year’s resolutions in motion?
Most people set out on a dry January to lose weight, detox from the holidays, or start the year off curbing their habits in hopes of being better able to do so for the rest of the year. While all of these are certainly benefits of not drinking, doing a dry January offers a whole lot more than that.
What I’ve learned from doing a dry January each year is that by the end of the month, I feel better in every way. I’m not a heavy drinker and tend to only indulge on the weekends, but even still, the improvements are noticeable.
In fact, after the first two weeks, I feel more energized and alert. My moods are better, and I feel happier. This could be because alcohol works on several centers of the brain that regulate focus, memory, and mood. I also notice that my weekend routine suffers less, and I’m more motivated to keep up with workouts and am less likely to indulge in fried foods of the hangover-cure variety. I sleep better and wake up earlier, ready to tackle the day on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and because of that, I get so much more done!
What’s more, I feel significantly less bloated and tend to lose a few pounds after a month of not drinking, and my belly does seem to shrink down quite a bit. This could just be from not drinking, since alcohol is a known inflammatory agent. However, it could also be because of the other, healthier habits that automatically come along with not partaking, like working out more and eating healthier.
My favorite benefit, though, has to be in my personal life. I have to say that after relying on alcohol for many years at social gatherings, I am always reminded during my sober month about the importance and joy of being present. Sometimes there are occasions that I can’t fathom getting through without a drink, and during this month, I just say no to those things!
This also makes it easier for me to identify how I actually like to spend my time: with the people I love the most, laughing, listening, and sharing space with them. Eliminating alcohol allows me to eliminate other things in my life that aren’t really serving me, and helps me make space for the things that do. I am more intentional with my time and energy during dry January.
So in short, there are plenty of benefits to taking a dry January. If you’re looking to get some energy and force behind those New Year’s resolutions, going sober for the month can give you the momentum to get moving. Imagine all that could be accomplished when hangovers are no longer a factor!