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Dry January Benefits: Should You Participate?

The transition from one year to another can mean more than just the flip of a calendar page. For many, it’s a chance for a fresh start—an opportunity to establish new habits, or begin a healthier lifestyle. Whether you’re experiencing that post-holiday drinking fatigue, or you’ve been meaning to cut back in general, Dry January may be the perfect way to kick off a new year.

What is Dry January?

Dry January began in 2013 as the brainchild of Alcohol Change UK, an alcohol awareness charity based in Great Britain. Starting with only 4,000 participants in its first year, the idea has spread quickly around the world. In 2018, over 100,000 people officially signed up with the charity for the challenge. Last year, 21 percent of Americans surveyed said they planned to participate in some way.

The concept behind Dry January is simple: For the whole month of January, participants don’t consume alcohol. After the dry month has concluded, many participants choose to remain alcohol-free, or significantly reduce their drinking.

This may sound a bit like an ordinary New Year’s resolution, and in a sense it is. But the idea of “Dry January” adds a degree of structure, accountability, and camaraderie that can make your efforts more successful.

What a Dry Month Can Do For Your Body

dry january benefits woman walking in the snow
Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash

Quitting alcohol for a month can have any number of positive impacts—from improved relationships to helping you save money. But some of the greatest benefits of Dry January relate to your health and wellness.

It’s no secret that excessive alcohol consumption can cause or worsen a wide range of physical ailments. This list includes elevated blood pressure, increased risk of certain cancers, and damage to the liver, kidneys, stomach, brain, and heart. A month off from drinking can be a great way to reset your habits, and ultimately prevent some of this long term damage.

But even in the short-term, one month sober can have immediate health benefits. These include:

  • Lower blood pressure – Even a short break from drinking can help reduce high blood pressure to more normal levels.
  • Healthier skin – “Drying out” actually helps to moisturize your skin, by freeing it from alcohol-related dehydration and hormonal imbalances.
  • Weight loss – Alcoholic drinks tend to be packed with empty calories. Abstaining helps you avoid that extra caloric load, while also giving your metabolism a boost.
  • Liver healing – For those with the beginnings of liver damage, a month without booze can make a big difference—in some cases reducing liver fat by 15 to 20 percent.
  • Better sleep quality – Without alcohol to disrupt your sleep patterns, you’ll enjoy better rest—and clearer thinking as a result.

Does Dry January Really Have an Impact?

All of this may sound good on paper, but has Dry January really made a difference in the lives of its participants? The movement is still young, but several articles, surveys, and informal studies suggest that the answer is yes.

In the first year of two of Dry January, 14 staff members from New Scientist decided to test the idea out. Each member filled out surveys, did ultrasounds, and had their blood tested at the beginning and end of the month. Those who abstained showed a significant drop in their liver fat and blood glucose levels.

Another UK article followed five heavier drinkers through Dry January in 2017. Each person’s liver enzymes, liver stiffness, weight, and blood pressure were measured before and after. Nearly all participants showed improvements in every measurement. Each also reported feeling healthier, and expressed a desire to continue with abstinence or moderation going forward.

Finally, recent research from the University of Sussex shows that even attempting Dry January can have a lasting impact. The study surveyed more than 800 people over eight months. On average, respondents were still drinking less in August. Eighty percent reported feeling more in control of how they drank, and 82 percent said Dry January had caused them to think more deeply about their relationship with alcohol.

Does a Whole Month Sound Too Difficult? Ria Health Can Help

Clearly, Dry January has significant benefits, and has made a difference in many people’s lives. That said, quitting for a whole month can be easier said than done. For many, having a strong support system is crucial.

Ria Health’s program is designed to be affordable, accessible, and flexible to each individual’s needs. We offer comprehensive support from home, via a smartphone app. Our members get access to anti-craving medications, recovery coaching, and convenient digital tools to track their progress. We even offer a choice between moderation and abstinence, so you don’t have to give up alcohol completely if you don’t want to.

To learn more about our program, schedule a call with a Ria Health team member today, or read more about how it works.

Read more: Tips for Dry January

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