With New Year 2023 having finished and Twelfth Night approaching, your body might well be breathing a sigh of relief.
With festive celebrations spanning the month of December and involving copious amounts of rich food, all of the indulgence can leave you feeling unhealthy and worn out by the time January comes around.
Some people try to make themselves feel better by pursuing a diet or cutting out certain products, for example, by going vegan. Others turn to exercise to get them out of their post-Christmas slump.
But given December is also a time of office Christmas parties and other celebrations, you might be feeling lethargic and downbeat as a result of alcohol. So. ot’s no surprise that many people give it up at this time of year for Dry January.
So what is Dry January, how can you take part - and what health and lifestyle benefits could you experience as a result of laying off booze for the month? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Dry January?
Dry January is an annual campaign run by Alcohol Change UK - a charity which has the aim of eradicating the serious harms caused by booze. It challenges people to give up drinking for the month of January in a bid to get them to consider their drinking habits.
But the event has grown into something more than its official campaign, with many people dropping their booze intake off their own bats. In recent years, it has become much easier to drink less alcohol or abstain completely as many major alcohol brands have launched alcohol-free drinks.
How can you take part?
You do not have to take part in the official Dry January campaign, and you can start a dry month on any day you wish. But if you take part officially, Alcohol Change UK will provide you with tools and support.
The charity offers coaching email newsletters which contain tips and stories from fellow participants. It also has a ‘Try Dry’ app that not only tracks your progress through Dry January - offering incentives along the way - but is also designed to help participants keep a healthy relationship with booze after their month off.
The app helps you to keep track of the units and calories you have consumed, and shows the money you have saved by not drinking or not drinking as much.
Dry January benefits
Saving money is one of the most obvious benefits of Dry January, especially given how the prices of some pints have rocketed over the last 12 months. But there are also several other health and lifestyle bonuses from a month of abstinence.
With pints across the country now exceeding the £5 barrier, buying alcohol can be terrible for your bank balance. So it goes without saying that taking a month away from buying alcohol could save you a lot of money - especially if you drink on a frequent basis.
Drinkaware has said those consuming over 14 units per week are at risk of major sleep issues.
The alcohol education charity said heavier drinkers were likely to be missing out on the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep - a restorative period of rest which can affect your energy levels the next day. These drinkers were also more likely to have disturbed sleep.
Having a lot of alcohol in your system at night not only makes you need to get up to go to the toilet more often, but it can also relax your muscles to the extent you could become more susceptible to snoring. By abstaining for just a few days a week, Drinkaware said many could expect to improve their sleeping patterns, and therefore their daily lives.
Alcohol Change UK reported that a survey it did after Dry January 2020 found 70% of participants enjoyed better sleep with another 66% finding they had better energy levels during the day, having completed the challenge.
Pretty much everything we eat and drink contains calories. But booze is especially calorific.
Drinkaware analysis has found that the average pint of beer weighs in at 182 calories, while a typical pint of cider will set you back 216 calories.
Alcohol typically contains seven calories per gram - almost the same as pure fat. However, unlike fat, it these calories carry no nutritional benefit, according to Drinkaware. So, if you’re concerned about your waistline, cutting alcohol from your diet could well help you improve your health.
Longer-term health benefits
An alcohol-free month could also put you on a path to improving your future health prospects, a 2018 study has shown. The research, conducted by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal, found cutting down on booze for a month lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced the risk of diabetes and cut the risk of cancer.
But the research added a caveat - while taking a month off from drinking improved health, these benefits were likely to be lost should people revert to their old habits. So, if you’re seriously considering your relationship with alcohol, it might be worth abstaining beyond the month of January.