Dry January is a challenge that originated in the United Kingdom and rapidly spread to the United States and worldwide. The idea is that many people overindulge in alcohol during the holiday season. Choosing not to drink for the entire month of January helps reset your mind and body while also creating the opportunity to examine your relationship with alcohol. But is there anything to it? Does Dry January really offer any significant benefits? And if you do choose to participate, how can you set yourself up for success?

Benefits of Dry January

According to Harvard Medical School, moderate drinking might have minor health benefits. But heavy drinking can be highly dangerous. Dry January is largely a response to the natural tendency to consume too much alcohol over the holidays. So “drying out” for a month can bring definite health benefits. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Better sleep
  • Healthier weight
  • Increased energy
  • Less sense of dependence on alcohol to have a good time
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Reduced blood pressure

Dry January challenges

Dry January can also have some challenges that you might not expect. If you’ve been drinking heavily, you may experience signs of alcohol withdrawal, including insomnia, anxiety, trembling, or sweating. And personal problems may rise to the surface if you have been using alcohol as an escape. It’s essential to seek advice from your doctor if any mental, physical, or emotional issues appear when you quit drinking.

Note that if you are a long-time heavy drinker, sudden alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. Rather than taking on Dry January on your own, get medical help to stop drinking safely for good.

Tips for success

If drinking, even in moderation, is a regular part of your life, it can be surprisingly tough to stop. Even if you plan to resume drinking after Dry January, you may need to take some active steps to complete the challenge successfully. Tips include:

  • Avoid temptation. Remove all alcohol from your home. Don’t go to bars. Bring your own nonalcoholic drinks with you when visiting family or friends.
  • Find a substitute. Many bars today create beautiful craft cocktails that are entirely nonalcoholic, allowing those who abstain from participating fully in the bar experience. But hitting the bars may be too tempting, so experiment with your substitute drinks at home. Whether you develop a new mocktail recipe or fall in love with fancy sparkling water, having a nonalcoholic go-to to enjoy when you’re craving alcohol can make a real difference.
  • Use the buddy system. Team up with a friend or relative who also wants to participate in Dry January. You can hold each other accountable while presenting a united front against those who may encourage you to drink.
  • Keep it up. No one is perfect, and you aren’t being graded on your Dry January performance. If you slip and have a drink one day, forgive yourself. Then make a renewed commitment the next day.

Dry January isn’t for everyone. But if you feel like you’ve consumed more alcohol than you should in recent weeks, it can be a good path to feeling better. It’s a short-term way to reset your mind and body, as well as a chance to examine how you use alcohol in your daily life.