The benefits of dry January
Across the US, tens of thousands of people are in the middle of Dry January. This 31-day no-alcohol sprint has multiple benefits, even if you don’t have a drinking problem.
Dry January starts easy. That first few days after a solid New Year’s Eve celebration (even if it’s just at home) leaves you with little appetite for alcohol. But as the days sink back into a routine, you start missing your evening glass of wine or your beer while watching the game.
But even if alcohol isn’t a problem for you, there are benefits to 31 days without it.
- Your weight-loss resolution gets a whole lot easier – A bottle of domestic, massed-produced beer has 150 calories. A fancy microbrew has even more. Your 5 oz wine pours tacks on 120 calories. So a night with your girlfriends can easily add 500 calories in alcohol alone…not to mention the snacks you order when your inhibitions are down. Even if you only drink a few times a week, alcohol affects your appetite and how your body absorbs nutrients. If weight-loss is something you’re planning for the new year, a dry January will give your efforts a significant boost.
- Improved sleep – Ever noticed how after a few cocktails, you may fall asleep easier, but you wake up a few hours later and can’t quite settle back in? That’s because alcohol is a neurotoxin that interferes with your brain’s ability to create sleep hormones. And even when you are unconscious after a few, your sleep quality is different, and your body doesn’t get the rest it needs. And a tired mind makes bad choices about everything—food, relationships, communication, work. So drop the drinks and get a few extra zzzs. Your brain will thank you!
- Lowered chronic systemic inflammation – Alcohol is a known inflammatory agent. This means for those who suffer from one of the hundreds of inflammation-based diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, allergies, and many more, alcohol makes your condition worse. Stopping alcohol consumption for 31 solid days gives your body time to heal, your inflammation to calm down, and for you to feel better. And if you don’t feel better, then start drinking again on February 1. What do you have to lose?
- Strengthened immune system – In the midst of flu season and, of course, the last gasp of pre-vaccine COVID (we hope), your immune system is more important than ever. Alcohol consumption drives down the immune system’s ability to fight off infection, so you’re more likely to get sick and have worse symptoms. A 2015 study found that even when healthy people participated in binge drinking, their level of disease-fighting immune cells (like NK and white blood cells) decreased. That alone is a great reason to abstain during January.
- Major mood boost – No matter how giddy you feel after a glass or two of wine, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressant. It makes it harder for your brain to produce the feel-good chemicals it needs to make you happy, even when you’re not drinking. Not only that, but many people who engage in a nightly “glass-or-two” are often self-medicating depression or anxiety. Taking a month off will give you some space to think about why your drinking ritual has taken hold and what might be a better way to deal with the underlying issue.
- You’ll save money – If 2021 is your year to get your finances under control, skipping the sipping could help a lot. If you’re shelling out $12 per glass a few times a week, you may be spending $200 plus dollars a month on drinks alone. Whoa! Think about dropping that money into a savings account, buying some stock, or throwing it at your holiday credit card bill. You won’t be hungover, AND you’ll accomplish another goal in the process.