Could "Dry January" Pave Your Way To A Healthier Lifestyle?
Once it started gathering steam, the "Dry January" movement migrated to the US and beyond. This year, a full 14 percent of Americans reported taking on the challenge, which is actually down from last year's 23 percent.It's still popular enough to spawn a trending #DryJanuary hashtag, and that companies like Heineken are getting in the game by promoting "dry January" packs of non-alcoholic beer.
A quick look at the statistics shows that the idea of giving up alcohol for a month may be a better one than you realize, since even people who don't have a capital-P problem with alcohol may be damaging their health in more subtle ways.For instance, alcohol can increase body-wide inflammation, suppress the immune system, and raise levels of stress hormones even a month off could give your body some much-needed time to alcohol's effects. One experiment that tracked the insulin resistance, weight, blood pressure, and cancer-related growth factors of a Dry-January group compared to a group allowed to drink as normal found that the non-drinkers showed improvement on all metrics. Other research shows that even just a week of abstinence from drinking can help you get better sleep, improved liver function, an improved gut bacteria profile and better immune functioning. Other data shows yet more positive effects experienced by dry January participants! For instance, around 90 percent reported saving money; 70 percent reported generally improved health, slept better, and had more energy; and 55 percent had better skin. Some of these effects were evident even if they didn't manage to stay sober the full month!
60 percent of these participants also experienced substantial weight loss. Since alcohol contains plenty of calories, can damage your metabolism, and often leads to poor food choices, cutting back may be an easy way to add some kick to your weight loss journey!
On the mental side, many dry January participants reported feeling a sense of achievement, better concentration, and that they had reevaluated their relationship with alcohol. They also felt more socially open and able to connect more deeply to people when they were not using alcohol to blunt their emotions
These insights helped Dry January-ers to drink less even after the experiment concluded. Seventy percent of people who had participated in dry January were still drinking less alcohol seven months later, and four percent deciding to quit altogether.
They also reported fewer incidents of drunkenness and harmful drinking episodes, as well as drinking fewer times per week and indulging in fewer drinks on each occasion.As with other New Year's resolutions, your dry January will go best if you have a structured plan in place to help you curtail your drinking. Find like-minded friends to hang with in one of those trendy new sober bars, or dive into new and exciting hobbies that are totally alcohol-free.Trading your evening buzz for a runner's high could also be a particularly good way to make use of the occasion. In fact, one Dry January participant who traded drinking for excercising ended up becoming a triathlete! In fact, with all the money you've been saving on alcohol maybe you can even spring for a few sessions with a trainer!
If you've already missed the bandwagon for Dry January and are still curious what a month of sobriety could do for your mental and physical health, there's no reason you can't start now and resume your drinking a few days into the next month. In fact, who's to stop you from simply declaring a Dry February?
Sober September and Sober October movements are also gaining ground, as is an entire non-month-specific "sober-curious" lifestyle for people who wish to reduce or even eliminate their alcohol intake year-round. Less drinking may just be the new next wellness frontier!
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