“A Gift to my Body” – Why I’m doing Dry January

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Alcohol Change UK’s Dry January campaign which encourages people to stop drinking alcohol for an entire month.

Dr Jon Van Niekerk, Cygnet Health Care‘s Group Clinical Director, writes about his commitment to completing Dry January this year as well as the physical and mental health benefits of abstaining from alcohol for a month.

He explains:

“On New Years’ Eve, I had my last sip of alcohol for an entire month. I am committing to complete “Dry January”, a completely alcohol-free start to the year. After the indulgence of the festive period, I have started to look forward to a healthier start to the year.

People choose to forego alcohol for the first 31 days of the year for a variety of reasons, from saving money, detoxing their bodies or perhaps for mental health reasons. We know that alcohol is linked with more than 60 health conditions, including liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and even different types of cancer. In fact, alcohol is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15-49 in the UK. Cutting back on alcohol long-term reduces your risk of developing these conditions.

For me personally, when I heard about Dry January and its benefits, what was attractive is the realisation you could “sample sobriety”, and do it for 31 days without the daunting fear that it was going to last forever.

I wanted to reset my boundaries with alcohol and reap the benefits of a healthy start to the year. It is always good to step back and try to recalibrate your tolerance to alcohol. I know that when I do restart drinking, I will feel more in control of my intake.

I enjoy a drink as much as the next person but as I get older I have noticed that my relationship with alcohol has changed. During the pandemic especially, I became aware that alcohol becomes a coping strategy for when you’re stressed, or as a treat at the end of a hard day, and your usage increases without you noticing it.

Doing it in January is a big motivator for me because it means you can get that sense of accomplishment of doing something fairly simple at the beginning of the year and it kick-starts the momentum of meeting your other New Year’s Resolutions, whatever they might be. It gets you into the right frame of mind of meeting any goals you set yourself for the remaining 11 months of the year.

There are definitely some health benefits I have noticed even in this short amount of time. My sleep patterns are better and the quality of my sleep has improved. I feel more refreshed in the morning, and have more energy throughout the day. My memory has improved and I do feel like I have more resilience to deal with difficult situations.

I’ve noticed that I have lost a bit of weight (Christmas padding) and in turn, that uplifts your mood further. The physical and mental health benefits then start a sort of virtuous circle. If you feel physically healthier, it has a knock on effect to your mood and then you are more motivated to be more active, etc.

To make Dry January a success you need to find a substitute for the drinking. If alcohol is your method for winding down, you need to find something that works just as well. This might be increasing your levels of exercise, socialising with friends, or treating yourself to some nice meals.

Finding ways of coping in social situations is important too but this can be achieved by drinking non-alcoholic beers or mocktails. It also helps to tell friends and family you are doing it and they can support you if it starts to become a struggle. It’s a big motivator if you publicly declare you are taking part in Dry January because you will feel like you are letting people down if you don’t achieve it.

Every now and then I find myself craving a glass of wine, but I know there’s an end point so I remind myself I am investing in my health and that fills me with a great sense of accomplishment. I know I am giving a gift to my body and that is all the motivation I need.”

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4416 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.