The festivities and parties have come to an end. We have bid adieu to 2023 and we are welcoming a new year, 2024, with much vigour and whim. For many across the globe, the advent of a new year also means ‘Dry January’.
But what does Dry January mean? Where did it begin? And what happens when you are able to accomplish Dry January?
Here are all the answers you were looking for.
What is Dry January?
As the name suggests, Dry January is abstaining from alcohol for a month. It means staying sober in the first month of the year.
This public health initiative began back in 2013 by Alcohol Change UK – a UK-based charity. And the idea behind it is: “If we got more people having a break from booze in January, could we get more people thinking about their drinking? And would they drink less after their month off because actually they enjoyed the break so much?”
According to the website of Alcohol Change UK, it was the brainchild of Emily Robinson, a British woman. She had signed up for a half-marathon in February 2011 and in preparation had decided to quit all drinking for one month in January. Besides feeling healthy, she also found that the idea fascinated her friends and when she joined the charity Alcohol Change UK, she pitched it to them as an idea for all to practice.
The concept of Dry January began in UK by the charity — Alcohol Change UK. Image used for representational purposes/Pixabay
This led to the proper Dry January in 2013 and it became a huge social media hit. Now, 11 years later, it has spread across the world. So much so, that there’s also a Dry July that challenges people to steer clear of alcohol.
While this is the modern origin of Dry January, the trend may have its roots in World War II. In 1942, the Finnish government initiated a massive movement during their war effort against the Soviet Union. They called it “Raitis Januar”: Sober January. Just as countries globally reduced or eliminated sugar, the Finnish government encouraged their people to stop drinking alcohol entirely for at least the month of January to save national resources. Through newspapers and magazines, Sober January reached the people—and the people responded. Though it was a drastic cultural shift, the campaign was one of the most successful in Finnish history.
But whatever its origin, Dry January has become a worldwide phenomenon with people across the world giving up their alcohol for a month in January. In fact, past surveys published by Morning Consult Pro have revealed that between 15 and 35 per cent of all US drinkers participate in Dry January.
When asked what makes Dry January so popular, Edward Slingerland, a philosophy professor who has penned the book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, told The Atlantic, “It’s a response to a recognition of the danger of alcohol. Alcohol is a dangerous substance.”
Is Dry January beneficial or not?
Medical experts and studies alike have shown that abstaining from alcohol for a month is beneficial to the human body as well as mind. Dry January enables people to sleep better and have more energy, improve mental health and concentration, give brighter skin, help save money and provides an amazing sense of achievement.
Doctors have noted that those who participate in Dry January experience weight loss and also have a better balanced emotional state.
This is backed up by a study published in the British Medical Journal. It showed that when regular drinkers avoided alcohol for 30 days, they “slept better, had more energy, lost weight, and lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”
There are several benefits to Dry January. It helps promote liver health, it helps to lose weight and also enables one to sleep better. Image used for representational purposes/Pixabay
Dr Ankur Gupta, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts, New Delhi, told The Quint that taking a break from alcohol can not only improve liver function, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health, but it gives the body the time it needs to “recover from the potential negative effects of alcohol consumption.”
Studies have also revealed that abstaining from alcohol for 30 days can also help reduce the risk of a person developing several forms of cancer, such as mouth, breast, bowel and liver.
For those who are into their appearance, Dry January is a boon for them too. Dry January also improves the health of one’s skin. Cutting out booze means your body is able to freely produce heaps of the anti-diuretic hormone vasopressin, which gives your skin a nice glow. And that’s not all, less alcohol also allows your pores to shrink, meaning fewer spots.
Dry January will also improve one’s sex life. Dr Claire Merrifield, a GP at Selph, explained to Vogue, “Alcohol can negatively impact your sex drive and sex life. Although many people feel more confident when drinking, alcohol tends to reduce both sex drive and sexual sensations, so many people who drink a lot suffer from sexual dysfunction. If this is the case for you, going alcohol-free is likely to improve your sex drive and enjoyment of sex.”
Studies have also shown that those who participate in Dry January make sustained changes to their drinking habits – meaning they either reduce their overall intake of alcohol or cut it out completely. Richard de Visser, a psychologist at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England, noted in a Washington Post report, “It becomes a reinforcing message instead of a punishing message.”
“Instead of public health people wagging their fingers and saying, ‘Don’t drink, it’s bad for you,’ people do it and say, ‘I didn’t realise how good I would feel.’ They often don’t realise how much stopping drinking will improve their sleep, or their concentration, or even just their levels of energy in the morning.”
However, some doctors have noted that those participating in Dry January could seem some drawbacks. Dr Preethi Daniel from the London Doctors Clinic has said that some may experience an inability to sleep soundly and some slight dehydration in the first few days of Dry January. “This could be a sign that your body is going through withdrawal from alcohol dependency,” she told The Independent.
What are the tips to succeed at Dry January?
For many, Dry January isn’t simple. However, there are tips to succeed at Dry January. The simplest is to rope in a friend. Even studies support this. They found that people were more likely to succeed at the challenge if they had social support or tracked their progress through the app.
One must also identify triggers and stay away from them. Instead of meeting a friend at a bar or pub, do it at a café or a public place.
And if you can’t reconcile with doing a Dry January, attempt a ‘Damp January, where you don’t cut out alcohol completely but reduce to a minimum.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started with Dry January and see the difference in your life.
With inputs from agencies