Q: I’ve been looking to make some lifestyle changes this New Year, and I’m curious about Dry January. I’ve heard my friends mention it, but I don’t know a lot about it. Can one month really make a difference? What are your thoughts?
A: I’ve heard of a lot of people trying Dry January, which is abstaining from alcohol for 30 days. It’s an idea gaining traction among people of all ages.
There are a lot of healthy resolutions out there and this one makes a lot of sense. It can have positive health benefits, give you more energy, improve sleep, and save you money. Health experts say taking a break from alcohol can also lower blood pressure and perhaps help you shed some weight.
If you are interested in testing it out, here are a few suggestions from Harvard Medical School to follow that will help you along the way to a Dry January:
• Find a substitute non-alcoholic drink. For social situations, or when you crave a cocktail after a long day, reach for alcohol-free beverages like sparkling water, soda, or mocktails. There are many more options out there for alcohol-free beer and even “craft” non-alcoholic cocktails.
• Avoid temptations. Keep alcohol out of your house. When you are invited to someone’s home, bring your non-alcoholic drinks with you.
• Create a support group. Let friends and family know about your intentions and encourage them to keep you accountable. Better yet, enlist someone to do the challenge with you.
• Don’t give up. If you slip up, don’t feel guilty. Just begin again the next day. Or just cut back. Some people call that Damp January, where you decrease your alcohol intake instead of cutting it out completely.
And yes, there are apps on the market such as Reframe and Try Dry. They can help you track your progress, set personal goals, and provide motivational tidbits like calories saved and money not spent on drinks. Whether you’re cutting back or cutting out alcohol, the apps can be tailored to your choices.
Dry January can be a chance to reflect on your drinking habits. Some folks discover they don’t need as much alcohol and cravings fade away. If that sounds like your journey, why not extend the challenge for another 30 days? Who knows, your health and relationships might just thank you for it!
If you do feel you may have a drinking problem, consult your healthcare provider or community resources like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Good luck and cheers to a positively charged Dry January!
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Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of AgeSpan.