After December’s indulgences, the prospect of a month off the sauce can seem pretty appealing. But is committing to dry January really a good idea? On the surface, it seems it. We’re all well aware of the benefits of temporarily ditching booze – better sleep, weight loss, a clearer head – but the month-long teetotal challenge could actually damage your health, and your relationship with alcohol too…
It Could Lead To Binge Drinking
While dry January was initially created by UK charity Alcohol Concern as a way for people to take control of their drinking and start a conversation about alcohol, its aim now appears pretty diluted. We all have a co-worker, friend or family member who sees their newfound abstinence as bragging rights, or posts lengthy social media statuses about what a ‘challenge’ they’re embarking on.
Many experts believe the kind of people who participate in dry January are those who already believe their drinking could be problematic, and that they use it as an excuse to make up for binge drinking for the rest of the year. Not to mention 1st February falls on a Friday this year – leading to an even greater risk of bingeing when the month-long abstinence ends.
It’s Not About Healthy Habits
The British Liver Trust says it doesn’t agree with dry months, instead suggesting people drink sensibly throughout the whole year and have two or three ‘dry days’ each week. Addaction, a major UK drug and alcohol charity, are also urging people to look at the bigger picture of their drinking habits. One month of not drinking may improve how you feel temporarily, but it’s no substitute for creating year-round healthy habits that look after your long-term health.
Dry January also ignores other major lifestyle factors. Yes, not drinking reduces the risk of certain cancers, liver disease and stroke, but not smoking, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are also hugely important. Giving up booze for 31 days isn’t going to undo years of binge drinking and neglecting your body.
It Might Make You Feel Worse
Lack of sunlight, financial stress and that back-to-work feeling… it’s no surprise January has been labelled the most depressing month of the year. Studies have shown people stay inside far more during January, leading to irritability, boredom and more arguments between couples – add dry January to all that, and it could spell serious cabin fever.
Of course, it’s possible to cut back on alcohol and still have a social life. But for people with healthy relationships with alcohol, banning booze completely often means they see friends a lot less in order to resist temptation – which can have a detrimental affect on their mood and mental health. Consider if it’s really worth it first.