Millions of people ring in the New Year in with a glass of prosecco in hand. Many of those will wake up the following morning with just a dull ache where the memories of the night before should have been, the first words on their lips: “I’m never drinking again.” This rough start to the first day of the year often inspires a dabble with sobriety in the spirit of ‘New Year, New Me’. This is when Dry January annually takes place.
Dry January was created in 2012, while the first official campaign was launched in 2013. It was established as an event to encourage people to give up the booze for Alcohol Change UK, a charity formed from the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK. The charity aims to highlight the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and provides support for those who have dependency on alcohol, and their loved ones. Starting with just 4000 participants, now four million people officially take part in support of the charity, and likely many more who do it to prove to themselves that they can.
So, are there any actual benefits to giving up the booze for a month? Yes, of course, there are, if you can stick to it. It is not news that alcohol is bad for both our health and our wallet. According to the official Alcohol Change UK website, 88 per cent of participants saved money, 71 per cent had better sleep, 67 per cent had more energy and 58 per cent lost weight.
Interestingly, any person I questioned about Dry January had no idea it was a charitable event, and even I have to admit I was not aware of Alcohol Change UK’s role in the campaign. Perhaps if the charitable aspect was more widely publicised people would be more inclined to do it, and with the help of their resources, would be more inclined to stick to it as that is often the hardest part.
Giving up alcohol is tough, as it is so ingrained within our British culture, no matter what your age. The biggest struggle and downside of Dry January as reported by participants was the damage to their social life. Temptations of a drink after work often get in the way of good intentions. In addition to this, Dry January walks a fine line between being a good lifestyle change and a detox diet, leading some people to regard it as a health fad for the self-righteous. It would arguably be a better New Year’s resolution would be to make the conscious decision to cut down on general alcohol intake for the whole year. However, science says it takes roughly 30 days to break a habit and form new ones.
Therefore, going cold turkey for a month will, at the very least, force people to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol. As many participants report consuming less alcohol post-Dry January, it does seem to work.
So, if you would like to change your drinking habits, the start of a new year is as good of a time as any to do so. Dry January exploits the ‘New Year, New Me’ mentality in order to encourage people to make a decision to improve their health. This can only be regarded as a positive change. The degree to which it is successful is entirely up to you, although Alcohol Change UK have many resources to support you. The only downside may be the effect on your social life, so grab a friend, make them do it with you, and enjoy having your Sunday mornings back.
Image: Airman 1st Class Sahara. L. Fales via via health.mil