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6 tips for a successful and satisfying Dry January

More and more young people are planning to ring in the new year by cutting out alcohol for a month.

friends clinking glasses together in a toast
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Millions if Americans will be toasting the new year without alcohol.

The Dry January challenge as we know it has around since the early 2000s, but the idea of taking a break from alcohol the first month of the year actually has its roots in World War II. To save resources, the Finnish government initiated “Raitis Januar,” or Sober January, in 1942, encouraging people to stop drinking alcohol entirely for at least that one month.

The modern Dry January has become more and more popular as people recognize the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol and acknowledge the impulse to cut back after the indulgent holidays. According to the American Association for Cancer Research, 19% of millennials, 14% of Gen Xers 12% of baby boomers say they plan to participate in Dry January 2024. That's about 31 million Americans.

Some people find it easy to stop drinking for a month, while others find it more challenging. If you're going to try to have a Dry January, here are some tips for a successful and satisfying month.


Get clear on your 'why' and remind yourself of it often.

If you've decided to try Dry January, there must be a reason. Maybe you're on a mission to take better care of your body. Maybe you're questioning your relationship with alcohol. Maybe you feel like it's a good self-discipline exercise. Maybe you read the WHO statement that no amount of alcohol can be considered safe or healthy.

Whatever your "why" is, keep it front and center in your mind—maybe even write it down someplace—so that you can call on it if or when you're tempted to drink.

Find some yummy substitutes for your favorite drinks.

When you're trying to cut something out, it can be helpful to have something to replace it with. Decide ahead of time what you're going to order in a restaurant instead of wine or a beer. Lots of establishments offer non-alcoholic alternatives to those things, but you might also just choose a favorite soda or even just water. It's just good to go in with a plan, rather than relying on whatever sounds good in the moment because what sounds good in the moment will likely be the alcohol drink you'd normally get.

You might even decide to treat yourself to a yummy mocktail so that you don't feel like you're missing out on the festive element of drinking. Mocktails have grown in popularity so it's not an unusual request.

Read other people’s success stories.

Sometimes a little inspiration can be helpful, so reading about other people who've successfully completed a Dry January can help.There are plenty of success stories from people who have done Dry January at least once, but many who have done it each year. Testimonials like these ones from a Reddit thread can help keep you going:

"It was worth it. It was an effort to drink less, lose weight, sleep better. I lost 4 lbs, slept better, and generally had more energy and focus in the morning."

"I’ve done it the past few years and love it. Honestly the hard part is the social side and less the alcohol side. I love a beer or a whiskey when hanging but the value of a clear head in the morning is increasing with my age. I find a reset helps me temper how much I drink in general. Like, the casual couch drink on a Tuesday goes away for a while after Jan. since it’s pretty worthless."

Track how you feel (especially after the first week, which might suck).

One of the things people who complete Dry January often share is how much better they physically feel. Better sleep, less grogginess, more energy, better digestion, lowered blood pressure, weight loss and more are commonly reported. Some people experience these benefits right away, but for someit might take a bit to feel those benefits as your body adjusts to not processing alcohol. Stick with it and pay attention to how your body and brain feel without it as you go through the month.

(A word of warning: Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome can occur in heavy drinkers who stop suddenly and can be dangerous, so watch for symptoms that are concerning. According to Harvard Health, mild withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, shaky hands, headache, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and insomnia. Severe symptoms can include hallucinations, delirium, racing heart rate, and fever, and often occur within two or three days after you stop drinking. Seek medical assistance immediately if you experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.)


Make it a group effort.

You can go through Dry January alone, but you probably don't have to. Who among your friends and family might want to do it with you? Even if you find just a couple of people who agree to support you, that can make a big difference in how you feel about the challenge. Not drinking for a whole month can be hard if alcohol is a regular part of your life, especially your social life. Ask for help from your loved ones to provide non-alcoholic alternatives and not to put any pressure on you to drink, and if anyone is available and willing to do it with you, all the better.

If you slip up, don’t quit, just pick back up the next day.

The beauty of sobriety is that it truly is a daily (or hourly, or minute-by-minute) choice, so if you do find yourself with a drink in your hand, you haven't ruined anything. Just pick it back up the next day and move forward. No need to beat yourself up. No need to give up completely.

For some people, Dry January is a welcome break for overall wellness. Others find it eye-opening when it's a lot harder than they anticipated and use it as a wake-up call that leads to life-changing—and in some cases, life-saving—shifts in alcohol use.

Dry January may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it can be a great tool to throw into your health and wellness toolbox if you're up for it.

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