Trying a Dry January
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/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Trying a Dry January

The inclination to abstain from alcohol during the month of January isn’t new. It was first recorded in 1942, when the Finnish government launched the “Sober January” campaign. In the 2012, a British organization called Alcohol Concern did the same. They called it “Dry January.” The idea has persisted, because it offers many unexpected health benefits. What benefits could you realize by discontinuing alcohol for the month? Here are a few:

Physical health benefits. Metabolizing alcohol is hard on the body, especially the liver and digestive system. Just a short while after taking an alcohol break, you are likely to notice several health benefits, including improved blood sugar levels and decreased blood pressure. Over time, non-drinkers will experience decreased fat accumulations in the liver. In addition, non-drinkers often experience improved mental clarity and greater ability to fight infections. 

Weight loss. Most alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories. At the same time, they offer little nutritional benefit. Skipping alcohol alone could make a powerful difference when trying to lose weight. Alcohol also makes it more difficult to regulate our appetite and what we consume. Better eating habits acquired through sobriety could relate to another weight loss boost.  

Mental health benefits. People often associate alcohol with relaxation. For this reason, many people use alcohol to cope with anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings. When the alcohol wears off, the anxious feelings can seem even worse. A cycle of self-medicating with alcohol can lead to dependence. Learning authentic coping strategies and getting help for mental conditions, rather than masking them, can dramatically improve your life.

Financial savings. Whether you purchase alcohol to drink at home or go out for drinks, the cost of alcohol adds up. Trying a dry January will put a little money back in your pocket. Who couldn’t use that?

Increased awareness. If you drink alcohol regularly, you might not be entirely aware of its affect on your life. Abstaining for a month provides you an opportunity to reset your relationship with alcohol and realize just how much you had been drinking.

If you currently drink alcohol and you would like to experience the benefits of being sober, I encourage you to try a dry January. The positive effects could last a lifetime. According to a survey of 900 Dry January participants in August 2014, 72% had kept harmful drinking episodes down, and 4% had not resumed drinking alcohol.

Kim Fodor, MD, is an internal medicine physician at SVMC Internal Medicine, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.

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