The new year is right around the corner, which means it’s the perfect time to start some life-changing new habits.
For many, that means participating in Dry January to reduce their alcohol use (or quit altogether). If you’re one of the countless people who want to cut back on drinking this January but aren’t sure where to start, you’re not alone.
Below, we’ll cover everything you should know about how to do Dry January 2024 successfully, along with helpful tips and fun dry January activities to try out instead of drinking.
What Is Dry January?
Alcohol Change UK kicked off the movement known as Dry January in 2013.1 Four thousand people participated in the first year, and as many as four million people took part in the movement in 2020.
But what does dry January mean, and what’s the point?
In a nutshell, Dry January is a health campaign encouraging people to avoid alcohol for the entire month. The idea is that you’ll reap physical, mental, and financial benefits when you participate, and you’ll set your new year off to a fantastic start.
Dry January Benefits
Intuitively, you probably know that starting the year with Dry January is a good idea for your finances and emotions. But cutting alcohol out—even for a month—can do a whole lot of good for your body, too.
When it comes to your physical health, here are some of the top Dry January benefits:
Lower Blood Pressure
Cutting back on the booze means blood flows more easily throughout your body, resulting in lower blood pressure and a boost to your health as you start the new year.
Your body will begin to rehydrate and balance itself out shortly after cutting out alcohol. After a few days, you’ll start to see your skin regain a healthy glow.
Alcohol can pack in some serious calories without you even realizing it. Try our alcohol calorie calculator to see how much of a difference taking a “dry month” might make.
It’s a well-known fact that alcohol is hard on your liver. Taking a break for the new year gives one of your most essential organs some time to heal and restore itself.
Despite alcohol being a depressant, drinking too much is linked to poor sleep quality. So, when you go booze-free for a month, you can expect more restful, deep sleep each night.
Trying Dry January can also have a lasting, positive impact on your relationship with alcohol. A 2018 study surveyed more than 800 Dry January participants over eight months. On average, respondents were still drinking less in August.
Even better, 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.2
Schedule a private call with a Ria Health team member and we can help you get started.
6 Things to Do During Dry January Instead of Drinking
Figuring out how to get through Dry January is tricky, especially if drinking is part of your regular routine. One of the most helpful tips is to replace old drinking habits with fun, new activities instead.
Here are a few alcohol-free activities to try out this January:
1. Start Painting or Drawing
If you’re a creative type of person, you’ll find that the new mental (and physical) energy you have from quitting drinking is perfect for channeling into art.
2. Take a Bike Ride
If you live somewhere that isn’t brutally cold, going on a bike ride is one of the most enjoyable January activities you can do. You’ll get some exercise, and be able to get some exploring in, too!
3. Skiing, Snowboarding, and Ice Skating
Need something to do in a cold winter state or country? If you want to get into wintertime activities, head to your nearest slopes for some skiing or snowboarding. For a more casual outdoor activity, grab a friend or a loved one and visit your local ice-skating rink.
4. Tune Into an Audiobook
Do you want to learn more about history, self-help, art, or just want to listen to some fun fiction stories? Audiobooks are a great way to incorporate new knowledge into your life and expand your mind.
5. Tap Into Your Spirituality
If you participate in spirituality or religion, Dry January is a perfect time to dive headfirst into your practices. For some, this can mean spending time in your religious place of worship with others in your community. And for others, this could mean more time meditating or journaling.
6. Revamp Your Space
Give some fresh energy to your living quarters by reorganizing your furniture, donating your old clothes, and deep-cleaning your space. This is an ideal opportunity to give yourself a clean slate for the new year.
How to Get Through Dry January: Tips for Staying the Course
Dry January sounds simple in theory—but in practice, it’s certainly more easily said than done.
If you’re finding your “sober month” difficult to stick with, or have struggled to do this in the past, here are some Dry January tips to make the process go a little more smoothly:
- Open up to your friends and family about your goals. Social support can make a world of difference when it comes to sticking to your sobriety.
- Write down goals and track your progress. Celebrate every day as a small win!
- Dodge triggers. Do you have specific locations, experiences, or even certain people that cause you to want to drink? If so, try to avoid these triggers when possible.
- Don’t be afraid to look for help if you feel you could use it. Support groups and telemedicine-based coaching are both good options.
Finally, remember that it’s not the end of the world if you slip up. If you had a drink or two, and now you feel like you’ve failed Dry January, remind yourself that it was a mistake, and that’s okay.
One day of drinking doesn’t mean you have to give up. You can always get back on track the next day, and you’ll ultimately feel better for staying the course.
Medications That Help Reduce Alcohol Cravings
If you expect strong urges to drink during Dry January, there are additional tools to help you through—including anti-craving medications. While not as widely known as programs like AA, the use of medication to help people cut back on drinking is gaining momentum. This might be especially helpful if you plan to use Dry January as a bridge to a healthier long-term relationship with alcohol. Here are two of the best-known options:
This medication is often used to help people cut back gradually, but it can also be an excellent tool for preventing setbacks. Essentially, it blocks some of the pleasure of drinking alcohol, which reduces the motivation to drink and helps people stop at just one.
Naltrexone is best for:
- People who want to redefine their relationship with alcohol and still drink moderately
- Those who tend to binge drink and would like better control around alcohol
- People who fight strong drinking urges or find themselves thinking about alcohol
This can be a useful medication if you’ve stopped drinking completely, including during a “dry month.” It works by rebalancing people’s brain chemistry so that they have fewer alcohol cravings.
Acamprosate is best for:
- Avoiding slip-ups and sticking with an alcohol-free lifestyle
- People who are interested in long-term abstinence from alcohol, through January and beyond.
In addition to these two, several other medications are gaining attention for helping people drink less. These include baclofen, and the seizure medications gabapentin and topiramate. As of this moment, all of these options require a prescription. However, the rise of telemedicine is making it easier to access this kind of support. If you’d like to try Dry January, and you know you’ll struggle with cravings, it may be worth looking into medication as an option.
If you’d like to learn more about options to reduce your drinking, including medication and counseling support, get in touch with Ria Health.
After Dry January
Dry January can be the perfect catalyst to reduce drinking, but what should you do after that? Some people choose to return to drinking alcohol, with a renewed awareness of how it fits into their lives. Others may decide they’d like to stick with sobriety long-term.
If you fall into the second category, what’s the best way to keep the momentum going? How can you cut back on alcohol for good?
Generally, the tips that got you through Dry January in the first place can help you keep going strong through the rest of the year. But aside from that, there is also robust support available, and it’s often easier to access than you think.
Ria Health offers support to change your drinking habits long-term, all from an app on your smartphone. Our members get access to expert medical advice, weekly coaching meetings, and even prescription medications to help reduce drinking urges.