Have you heard of “Dry January”? It’s a trend that started in the U.K. around 2014. Dry January is one month of abstinence from alcohol at the beginning of the year, and it can be especially beneficial if you’ve had more alcohol than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. When stay-at-home orders began as a mitigation strategy for coronavirus transmission, research showed a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020 as compared with 1 year before. And online alcohol sales increased 262% from 2019.
Yet, relaxing after work with a glass of wine or a beer is a very common habit and it doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. Alcohol hits the neurochemical pathways in the human brain and releases endorphins that make us feel good. With pandemic stress, a cocktail can provide a temporary sense of comfort – it’s no wonder so many of us gravitate to a drink to unwind. However, if you’re concerned about your drinking, Dry January is a great way to assess your relationship with alcohol. A 31-day break from alcohol works to improve your health in many ways.
- First, you may lose weight. People get hungry after a night of drinking, right? It’s sometimes called “the drunchies”. Without the drinking, that whole bag of chips and a one-pound burrito won’t look nearly as enticing.
- You may find yourself in a better mood. While Dry January won’t remedy an illness like depression, stepping from your nightly drink can provide the distance you need to assesses your motivation for drinking. When not self-medicating, you’ll be in a better position to recognize if you need professional help. Plus, other known natural mood lifters like exercise or spending time in nature are healthy habits. At the very least, Dry January can provide valuable insight as to why you’ve been regularly drinking.
- You’ll sleep better. Alcohol degrades sleep quality; drinking moderate or high amounts of alcohol decreases your “restorative” REM sleep. Giving up drinking for a month can help you get sounder sleep, giving you more energy to devote to the things that matter – like being more active.
- You’ll have a stronger immune system. Binge drinking (more than four drinks in a single occasion for women and five drinks for men) can suppress your body’s immune response. One study found that when healthy people had an episode of binge drinking, their level of disease-fighting immune cells (like NK and white blood cells) decreased two to five hours later. A strong immune system isn’t a bad thing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All in all, Dry January is a great personal challenge, and it’s not too late to start. To make it more successful, write down your goals, add a non-alcoholic reward into your day (like a walk in the park), and call L.A. CADA if we can help. We’re here at (562) 906-2676.