Why “Dry January” is About What You Do, Not What You Don’t

Jan. 2, 2019The holidays have passed, the new year countdown has come and gone and 2019 is officially here… how are you feeling? For many, the most festive season can also be the most stressful season. As much as we may plan to make informed choices, the holidays have a tendency to overtake us, which may mean perhaps an extra glass or two of wine (or egg nog) — sometimes to celebrate, sometimes — let’s be real here — simply to cope with the onslaught of family and obligations that the holiday season brings with it.



By the time New Year’s Day arrives, the closing out of the past year can leave us with quite a headache, and maybe even a desire to add one last resolution to the list: to imbibe just a little bit less. For this reason (and a host of other, more personal, reasons) many people choose to take on what’s come to be known as a “Dry January”. Occasionally paired with a Whole 30 or other New Year’s reset, a Dry January is a month of abstaining from alcohol — 31 days (or more) of eschewing wine, beer, spirits, etc. in favor of bettering one’s habits.

For some, this may sound like pure torture —  a surefire sentence to quiet nights spent at home, but for many, the process — and challenge — of not only giving up alcohol, but also everything that comes with it (think: the easy answer for what to do on a Saturday night, a cure for social anxiety, not to mention simply appreciating a quality wine or spirit) is what makes a Dry January so worthwhile.

Why? Think of what happens when you enjoy wine, beer or spirits: Even one small drink often has the power to ease social situations. Parties that would otherwise cause anxiety are suddenly easily navigated. And the need for a creative solution for what to do on date night flies out the window with the sheer mention of sipping craft cocktails in a dimly-lit, romantic bar. To put it simply, alcohol makes things easy, but it also has a tendency to overtake. By taking the easy way out, we often rob ourselves of the opportunity to connect with both ourselves and other people.

We reach for a beer at a party to ease the social tension instead of stepping out of our comfort zones, we head to a bar with a special someone instead of connecting over a shared interest or trying something new. Just like giving up social media for a spell can help you re-focus on experiences IRL and passing on sugar for a time can help you quell your sweet tooth, passing on alcohol can help you refocus and fine tune your wellbeing.

It doesn’t have to be forever — it certainly can be, though! — but swearing off alcohol for a spell can have lasting effects, like better agency over your habits, improved focus on your goals (and in general), less anxiety, and can even be the driving force behind improving your overall health and breaking other habits you’ve had trouble letting go of.

Saying “no” to alcohol for a full 30 days or more can sound like an impossible feat, but with the simple tips below you’ll be off on the right track. Ready to take Dry January by storm?

 

Write down your “why”

We all have a why — a reason for wanting or even feeling like we need to do a Dry January. Perhaps you want to simply break the habit of your nightly glass of wine, or you want to live healthier overall. Maybe you want to prove to yourself that you can do it. Whatever the reason is, write it down and keep it handy. Add it to your notes in your phone, tape it up on your bathroom mirror, stick it in your fridge. Keep your why close by as a reminder to yourself of your goal. And remember, giving up your glass of wine for 30 days isn’t hard. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is hard, brain surgery is hard… when it comes down to it, passing on drinks with friends for a month or so isn’t hard.

Get moving

A Dry January can show us we’re stronger than we think we are. You know what else can do the same thing? Movement and exercise — especially when there’s a challenge involved. Give yourself the ultimate reward of getting off the couch and getting outside. Run, walk, bike, sign up for a 5k or a 10k. Having a separate but related goal to achieve can strengthen your resolve to keep going in times when we’re second-guessing ourselves.

 

Clean your fridge

If you keep alcohol in your house while doing a Dry January, it will just serve to tempt you. Become the Best Co-Worker (or Friend or Sibling) Ever and give unopened bottles to those around you who will enjoy it (and of course aren’t undergoing a Dry January — or lifetime — themselves). Removing the temptation from staring you in the face every day will only make the process easier. When you’re done with your 30, 60, 90 or more dry days, you may even find that you don’t care to keep it in your space any longer.

 

Understand the habit — then replace

In The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg the habit loop is described as ‘cue-routine-reward’. Meaning, there’s a specific cue that triggers the routine, such as: We get home from work (cue), we instinctively reach for a glass of Merlot (routine). Then from that cue and routine, we’re rewarded: Wine glass in hand, you sigh with relief that your workday is officially done and you can kick back and relax. Duhigg posits that routines can be changed simply by identifying our own unique habit loops and replacing them with better ones. So 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? You now have something to look forward to that’s actually improving your wellbeing (and, at least in the case of yoga, your sleep!) instead of diminishing it.

Try something new

One of the best reasons to do a Dry January? It forces us out of doing the same old thing. Instead of using The Bar as the easy way out when it comes to what to do on a Saturday night, suddenly your schedule is wide open with possibility. Take your date rock climbing, meet your friends after work at a late-night museum or after-hours art opening, or take that Friday night spin class — you finally have the time to do it! By removing the same-old from our social calendars, we’re left with time to actually explore other interests. Who knows, you might discover at the end of your Dry January — or prescribed amount of time — that you’ve found something way better than that dive bar you used to love.

 

Have you done a Dry January? Share your secrets for success with us on social by tagging us with @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine

 

Julie O'Boyle

By Julie O'Boyle

 —  Julie O'Boyle is a freelance writer and content strategist with a background in fashion and DIY and a devotion to the outdoors and functional nutrition. Currently residing in the woods of Maine, when she's not writing you can find her at the beach or on a mountain, or otherwise getting her hands dirty.

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