The benefits of ‘Dry January’ and what you need to know

One of the major issues with New Year’s resolutions is that people begin with such a strong sense of purpose and attempt to accomplish too many goals all at once like eating healthy, exercising, learning a new skill or language, etc.

January is a popular time to make a new resolution, and it is often considered one of the longest months in South Africa, and as such, it is affectionately referred to as “Janu-worry”. That usually incites or means that people tighten their spending habits as a result.

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It’s not surprising that many people would choose to join “Dry January”, a self-improvement challenge that involves abstaining from alcohol. It’s meant to inspire people to drink less by noticing just how great you feel by the end of the month.

Statistical experience indicates that some people use these challenges to start alcohol consumption reductions or to stop drinking entirely.

However, resolutions don’t stick when there’s no end in sight. The key ingredient to long-lasting change is manageable habits with realistic deadlines.

The Alcohol for Change non-profit organization in the UK launched the challenge as a public health initiative in 2013. Since that first attempt with 4,000 people, “Dry January” has become ingrained in popular culture.

Patrons who have participated in “Dry January” cite various reasons for joining the challenge, stating that it’s about taking a break, living better and feeling better, and a simple way to starting the new year the right way.

Making the decision to participate in such challenges not only helps you save money, but there are also numerous health benefits that are backed by science. Picture by Christian Fridell/Pexels.

According to a European journal of public health, short abstention from alcohol can have physiological advantages, as well as positive attitude modifications and lower alcohol intake.

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The study further asserts that a person is more likely to make greater adjustments that are consistent with the initial commitment after committing to behavior change, so temporary abstinence may serve as a prelude to longer-term behavior change.

Why participate in ‘Dry January’?

Making the decision to participate in such challenges not only helps you save money, but there are also numerous health benefits that are backed by science.

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Taking a break from alcohol can trigger immediate health benefits, like weight loss, better sleep, and a boost to your mood and energy levels, which can reinforce the new habit.

A small-scale study of the effects of a month of abstinence found marked reductions indicating that despite making little to no modifications to their diets, smoking habits, or exercise habits, the researchers discovered that those who abstained from alcohol for a month experienced significant improvements in their metabolic health.

They saw a weight loss of roughly 2kg on average, a reduction in blood pressure, and a “dramatic” decrease in insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the levels of growth factors linked to cancer dropped dramatically.

In addition, it turns out that forgoing alcohol for 31 days saves you a lot of money. Eliminating alcohol from your diet will make you feel more competent in carrying out all of your varied tasks and obligations.

The “Journal of Health Psychology” reports that drinking alcohol is known to worsen or possibly induce depression and anxiety. Foregoing alcohol allows your brain to restore all the neurotransmitters, molecules, and signals that are damaged by frequent alcohol usage.

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