Dry January is the much touted moment when people choose to abstain from alcohol for the duration of the first month of the year. It’s an understandable impulse; after all the stuff you drank and ate over the holidays, there’s nothing more cleansing that announcing to the world (and convincing yourself) that you’ll steer clear of all alcoholic beverages for a period of 31 days.
People have a lot of opinions on Dry January, from its benefits to its limitations and possible repercussions. Here’s what you should know if you’d like to give it a shot:
There are plenty of emotional and physical benefits
The benefits of quitting alcohol for a significant amount of time are significant, from the emotional ones you get by sticking to your decision, to the physical ones like better sleep, more energy and even a better sex life.
“You can achieve an additional five to six [rapid eye movement] REM cycles a night by giving up alcohol,” Dr. Soma Mandal told Bustle. “This leads to better decision making and improved learning and problem solving.” Better sleep produces a ripple effect of positive benefits for your every day life, increasing your levels of energy, productivity and mood.
Total abstinence may be unrealistic
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Dry January is a term that envelops all types of alcohol, something that may prove to be complicated for habitual or social drinkers. For these people, reducing the amounts of days when they drink might be more realistic and tangible, producing significant mental and physical benefits without feeling like they’re taking on an insurmountable task.
It may also encourage extreme behaviors
If you complete Dry January and then choose to unwind in February, you’ll likely drink a lot more and lose most of the progress you made.
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While experts say that the short term benefits of the practice are great, there’s mixed evidence on the long term effects of it. “It’s worth bearing in mind that, to have a real benefit on health, people should be drinking within recommended low risk guidelines across the whole year. Dry January might be a helpful way to re-establish control over your drinking, and could have some short-term benefits (a lot of people report sleeping better, for example), but it’s unlikely to have major long-term health benefits in itself,” Professor Marcus Munafo told the BBC.
Dry January is an interesting experiment, one that’s bound to make the drinker think twice about their drinking behaviors, resetting their relationship to alcohol. While some people might take the opening as a way of regaining control over the amount of alcohol they consume, others might use the month to sleep better, shed some weight and get back to their usual patterns once it’s through. It’s all up to the person.