Take a break from alcohol with these tried-and-true tips for a great Dry January.
During the holidays, most of us tend to indulge a bit more than we typically would. For adults, that usually means a few extra glasses of wine, beer, or egg nog at every cookie swap, wreath-making party, family gathering, and get-together with friends. By the time New Year’s Day arrives, many of us are ready for rest, relaxation, and — if we’re being honest — an excuse to dry out.
That’s the reason — among a host of other, more personal reasons — many people choose to take part in Dry January, a month-long commitment to abstain from alcohol. Not only does swearing off alcohol for 31 days force you to get more creative with how you spend your time, it has lasting effects on your mind and body. Think improved focus and sleep, less anxiety, and better overall health. A booze-free month can even help you break other habits you’ve had trouble letting go of.
We can’t promise Dry January will be easy, but there is a good chance you’ll feel great by the end of the month. Ready to take on the challenge? Here are our tips for a successful Dry January.
Perhaps you want to give Dry January a go so you can finally kick that habit of a nightly glass of wine. Maybe you want to lead a healthier lifestyle. Or you simply want to prove to yourself that you can do it. Whatever your reason for going booze-free, write it down and keep it handy.
Add your “why” to the notes app on your phone, tape it up on your bathroom mirror, or stick it in your fridge. The idea is to have a reminder of your original motivation for participating in Dry January close by for those inevitable (likely stressful) days when you could really go for a cold one.
It’s said that pushing yourself and overcoming obstacles during a workout translates to how you’ll handle challenges in your life outside the gym, too. So if you’re having a difficult time staving off alcohol, introduce movement and exercise into your routine. Go on a run around the neighborhood. Meet up with friends for an after-work walk. Spend your Saturday morning on a brisk bike ride. Sign up — and start training for — a 5k. Having a separate but related goal will strengthen your resolve when you second-guess yourself.
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If you keep alcohol in your house during Dry January, it will only serve to tempt you. Go through your refrigerator and liquor cabinet and give unopened bottles to those around you who will enjoy it (and of course aren’t exploring a Dry January themselves). Removing the temptation from staring you in the face every day will only make the process easier. When you’re done with your 31 or more dry days, you may even find that you don’t care to keep it in your space any longer.
In the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, the habit loop is described as ‘cue-routine-reward.’ Meaning, there’s a specific activity or experience that triggers a routine. For example, when you get home from work (cue) and instinctively reach for a glass of wine (routine). As a result of the cue and routine, there’s a reward: Wine glass in hand, you sigh with relief that your workday is officially done and you can kick back and relax.
However, Duhigg posits that routines can be changed simply by identifying habit loops and replacing them with better ones. Instead of grabbing a glass of wine as your reward for making it through the day, what if you signed up for an after-work yoga class or replaced the wine in your fridge with something else delicious, like kombucha or fancy sparkling water? By swapping alcohol for another drink or activity, your brain will still register the reward, only now, you’ll be indulging in a healthier alternative.
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Participating in Dry January forces us to find new ways to entertain ourselves and make use of our time. Suddenly, your schedule is wide open. Take advantage and get creative. Plan a rock climbing date with your partner. Sign up for a pottery course. Meet your friends for a late-night museum or an after-hours art opening. Take that Friday night cycling class — you finally have the time to do it! By removing booze-related activities from our social calendars, we’re left with time to explore other interests. Who knows, at the end of your Dry January, you may have discovered a new hobby you enjoy more than that dive bar you used to love.
It’s always easier — and more fun — to accomplish a difficult task when you have someone to hold you accountable. For example, you’re more likely to make it to an AM workout if you promised a friend you’d join them. The same idea applies to Dry January. You’ll be more motivated to see your commitment through if there’s another person experiencing it with you. And when you’re struggling, they’ll be there for extra support and encouragement.
So rally your loved ones and get them on board with the idea of ditching booze for a month. At the end of the 31 days, you can toast your success, or high-five and see how long you can stick with it.
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