New Year No-Booze Challenge: Why Go Dry This January

dry january

Holidays are often heavy on the drinking. This January, do the opposite.

We’re all human, which is why vices shouldn’t necessarily be forbidden — but moderation is key. And while we’re not telling you to abstain from a celebratory glass of champagne with a loved one, we are giving you some of the benefits of taking a break from alcoholic beverages for a few weeks, especially at the start of the year.

Moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Many who consider themselves non-risky moderate drinkers may unknowingly fall more in the excessive, binge or even heavy drinkers category. For men to have five or more drinks in a single occasion (binge drinking) or for women to have eight or more drinks per week (heavy drinking) isn’t uncommon in American culture.

However, during the holiday season, the drinking barometer is usually disregarded. Holiday festivities constantly present an opportunity for another glass of wine, another cup of cider and another mimosa. But now that the season of indulgence has passed, consider the benefits of committing to a dry January, in which you don’t drink any alcoholic drinks for the entire month.

Detox from your drink dependency

Having a beverage at hand, whether it’s alcoholic or non-alcoholic, becomes habitual — coffee in the morning, soda for lunch, an energy drink as an afternoon pick-me-up (we hope you don’t do that very often!), post-work happy hour beers and glasses of wine with dinner. The calories, sugar and carbs in these drinks add up and can add to your waistline. And the crash of a caffeine high and post-drinking headaches can affect your focus and mood. This January, cut down on the total amount of drinks you consume daily. Doing this will not only help lessen the desire for a drink to unwind after work, but will also contribute to your overall well-being. It feels good to break free from unhealthy habits, and perhaps that evening drink session is something you’ve become all too comfortable with.

Replenish your bank account

Friends and family may get extra love during the holiday season, but so does the credit card and your wallet. The holidays are expensive, from buying gifts and decorations to traveling and hosting. If you’re looking to tackle that December bill in the new year, skip the spirits. Whether you like to booze at home or can’t go out to eat without ordering an alcoholic beverage, the additional expense of drinks can drain your wallet. The $10 for a bottle of wine or $20 to cover a bar tab can instead be put toward paying off those Christmas bills.

Quite frankly, it’s much cheaper to drink water and healthier too.

Change your idea of fun

Social events and celebrations are often centered around drinking; it’s how we connect with friends, let loose and relax socially. But excess drinking destabilizes emotions, kills restful sleep and can lead to feelings of regret. Andy Boyle, for example, a Web developer for NBC News Breaking News and TODAY contributor, learned how to have fun with friends without drinking. “You’re still you,” he points out. You may be more inhibited, but the benefits will outweigh using alcohol to take the edge off. Rather than coming home from a boozy brunch to nap, you can do something productive. And rather than stay in bed all morning to sleep off a hangover, you can wake up early to eat a healthy breakfast and have a good workout to jump-start your day.

And we think that mocktails (cocktails without alcohol), and no-booze bars are going to become more popular than ever as more and more people choose an alcohol-free lifestyle.

Start fresh in 2017

Holiday boozing and overeating will weigh you down with extra pounds. But you’ll also feel the extra weight emotionally and mentally. A dry January is an opportunity to refresh you mind. You’ll start to feel lighter, improve your focus and concentration, have more energy and become more clear-headed. These positive effects can also help to combat those post-holiday blues that come once the excitement dies down and the regular routine kicks back in. This cleansed feeling and sense of revitalization can also carry over into the gym, as your workouts will be more effective.

Challenge your squad

Meeting your goal of a 100 percent dry January without a support system creates room for failure. So go for your month of alcohol abstinence with a partner or a group. Drinking is often a cultural expectation, and deviating from that expectation takes willpower, especially because it can strain relationships with those who don’t share the same the sentiment. But if your friends or family are up for the challenge too, you can endure the change together. Instead of rituals like happy hours or Sunday brunch, take a yoga or indoor cycling class together. You may find that committing to zero alcohol can lead to other health goals, like training for a half marathon or cooking at home more often.

Change your drinking habits for good

As your health and wellness shift during a dry January, you may find that you want to continue with no or moderate drinking indefinitely. Mental clarity, enhanced mood, improved fitness, meeting weight loss goals and even financial savings may motivate you to live without alcohol.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that people who successfully completed the challenge of a dry January reduced their alcohol intake overall six months later. In other words, very few participants reported an increase in alcohol consumption following the voluntary period of abstinence. Your changed outlook on drinking may even inspire others to give up the booze, for any duration and no matter what month it is.

Go dry for a new you!