There are many reasons why people choose to participate in Dry January—a time when people take a break from drinking and examine their relationship with alcohol. For some people, it may be part of a New Year’s resolution to incorporate healthy behaviors into their routine.
Taking a break from alcohol for an entire month provides one with an opportunity to assess their patterns of alcohol consumption and how it affects them physically and mentally. It gives a person a chance to cultivate alternatives for relaxing, socializing, and coping with stress. As a result, many people experience benefits such as improved sleep and waking without the fatigue, malaise, and upset stomach of a hangover. Some also find that without the extra calories due to alcohol they lose weight. Participants in Dry January also describe positive effects on their relationships. And an added bonus is saving money.
Here are some tips to keep you on track during Dry January:
- Identify why you choose to drink alcohol—for example, is it to have fun, to deal with stress and anxiety, or to fall asleep? Think about ways you could accomplish those objectives without alcohol, such as doing yoga, taking a walk, meeting friends for a hike, or playing games instead of drinking at a party.
- Let friends and family know about your plan to participate in Dry January. Consider asking them to join you and support each other throughout the month.
- Make sure alternative non-alcohol-containing beverages are available at parties and gatherings.
- Have a polite, assertive "no, thanks" ready for when you are offered a drink.
- As the month progresses, pay attention to how you feel. Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy? When you notice benefits, make note of them. It will help you keep your momentum going.
- Have a plan in place for when the month ends. As is the case with dieting, without a long-term plan it’s easy to resume old patterns.
Remember, if you feel better when you are not drinking, or when you decrease your drinking, then your body is telling you something. Listen to your body.
If you decide to return to drinking after January is over, stay within the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025, which provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and prevent disease. The guidelines recommend that adults who choose to drink limit alcohol intake to 1 drink or less for women and 2 drinks or less for men—on any single day, not on average. Keep in mind that drinking less is better for heath. Research shows that even small amounts of alcohol can carry health risks, including for certain cancers and cardiovascular issues.
Some people should avoid alcohol completely. It’s safest to avoid alcohol altogether if you:
- Take medications that interact with alcohol.
- Have a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking.
- Are under the legal drinking age of 21.
- Plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery.
- Are recovering from alcohol use disorder or unable to control the amount you drink.
- Are pregnant or might be pregnant.
- Experience facial flushing and dizziness when drinking alcohol.
For more ideas to help you explore your relationship with alcohol and tips for cutting back, visit NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking website. If you think you have an alcohol problem and need support for cutting back or quitting, visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator.
Best wishes and Happy New Year,
George F. Koob, Ph.D.
Need Help for an Alcohol Problem?
If you’re having an emergency, call 911. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 911, go to the nearest emergency room or call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to help you through this difficult time.
The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator can help you recognize and find high quality treatment for alcohol use disorder. If you drink excessively, seek medical help to plan a safe recovery as sudden abstinence can be life threatening. NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking can help you assess your drinking habits and provides information to help you cut back or stop drinking.