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Health

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
fauxels/Canva

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.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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