Dry January: What Can One Alcohol-Free Month Do For You?

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Peace Valley Recovery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide patient-centered care that focuses on healing and recovery from addiction. This blog provides information, news, and uplifting content to help people in their recovery journey.

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: March 5, 2023

Every January, millions of people set resolutions and outline goals for the upcoming year. The first week of the first month brings with it an influx of inspiration for individuals to become the best version of themselves. You’ve probably at least a few ideas for how you’d like to head into the year, whether it’s reading one book a month or finally getting into the gym as you’ve promised yourself.

Dry January is another common resolution. This 30-day alcohol-free challenge is a way for people to reset after the often boozy holiday season. Taking a few weeks off of drinking serves as a welcome reset for millions of people around the world. While many people used the New Year as a way to kickstart their step back from drinking in decades past, Dry January helped bring people together for a booze-free month.

Participation in Dry January continues growing each year. It’s an opportunity for many people to reconsider their relationship not only with alcohol, but with other substances as well. Some find that separating from alcohol is harder than they anticipated. In this way, Dry January also provides some clarity on what many people consider their “normal” drinking behaviors.

What is Dry January?

Alcohol is so interwoven with social interactions that many people hardly consider how much they drink. From happy hour with coworkers to drinks on a first date to beers at a barbecue, alcohol is a prevalent force. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 50% of people ages 12 and older have had at least one alcoholic drink in the last month.

Alcohol Change UK coined the term Dry January during a campaign in 2013. The organization wanted to get people interested and engaged in staying alcohol-free for a month. Dry January drew far more attention and enthusiasm than anticipated and quickly became a mainstream practice.

When you’re challenged to decline drinks for an entire month, it gives you a clear picture of your relationship with alcohol. Even if you don’t consider yourself a heavy drinker, you may find yourself surprised if you participate in the challenge. You may not struggle with compulsive drinking, but it may not be as easy as you thought, either.

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Dry January encourages you to reconsider your relationship with alcohol. You instantly become more aware of the role that alcohol plays in your life. After gaining some awareness, you can continue into the rest of the year taking a more intentional approach with your drinking.

Benefits of Cutting Back on Drinking

The inspiration for Dry January originated two years before the Alcohol Change UK campaign. Emily Robinson, part of Alcohol Change UK, was preparing for her first half-marathon in February 2011. Part of her training regimen included cutting out alcohol for the month before her race.

Robinson experienced notable differences in even the short time she spent alcohol-free. She slept better, lost weight, and had more energy throughout the day. She shared her experiences with friends and family, encouraging them to try it and notice the differences.

The benefits of cutting back on drinking aren’t isolated to Robinson alone. There are many positives to reducing alcohol consumption. Plenty of research shows that limiting drinking leads to dozens of beneficial effects. In addition to what Robinson noticed, some benefits include:

  • Better focus and concentration
  • Brighter mood
  • Refreshed skin
  • Fewer gastrointestinal issues
  • Less liver fat
  • Lower cholesterol levels

Alcohol Change UK also hired an alcohol behavior change expert, Dr. Richard de Visser, to track some of the campaign’s first participants. According to his six-month follow-up research, Dry January participants were so pleased with the benefits that 7 out of 10 people were still drinking less as a result. A month away from alcohol proved itself worth the initial challenge!