Dry January: Why should I take a break from drinking?

Still nursing a headache from all the celebrating and partying you’ve done in December? 

The end of the year is usually marked with catch-ups with friends and family over food and drinks – and while there’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine now and then, heavy drinking can have an impact on your overall health. 

Enter: Dry January, a movement in which you avoid alcohol in January as a way to reset your system for the new year ahead. Even with Chinese New Year coming up in a few weeks, Dry January may be a good movement to take part in, especially if you notice that you’ve been hitting the alcohol section a little too often lately.

What is Dry January?

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As its name suggests, individuals taking part in Dry January abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January. The movement was started by the UK non-profit organisation called Alcohol Change UK in 2013, but has taken off globally since then.

A month without alcohol can be a difficult challenge, especially if you tend to drink often. However, there are many benefits to reducing your alcohol consumption, both for your physical and mental health.

Benefits of abstaining from alcohol

For the practical-minded Singaporean, one of the immediate benefits of Dry January is that you’ll definitely cut your spending costs. According to Alcohol Change UK, 86% of participants in the movement end up saving money – which is great to hear, given that alcohol does cost a bit in Singapore.

Financial considerations aside, the health benefits of cutting alcohol are:

  • Improves your sleep

Dry January Sleep

Even if you’re a sleepy drunk, alcohol messes with the quality of your sleep. Drinking alcohol before you sleep can disrupt your sleep cycle, because of the time it takes your liver to metabolise the alcohol in your system. Forget an excessive amount of alcohol, even one serving of alcohol has been found to affect your sleep quality; with a 2018 study reporting sleep quality dropping by 9.3%.

Minimising alcohol consumption can help you to sleep better; and this, in turn, leads to you feeling more refreshed and energised during the day.

  • Helps with weight management

Alcohol is mostly ’empty’ calories; that is, calories that contain very little nutrients. Throw in a couple of mixers in your cocktails, and you may end up consuming more calories than your body is burning. Have a few too many nights like these and you may find yourself putting on a few extra kilograms, which could be an issue if you’re trying to manage your weight.

  • Boosts your mood

As a depressant, alcohol affects our mood by suppressing the parts of our brain associated to inhibition. This is why you end up doing or saying things that you wouldn’t normally have done or said, after having a couple of drinks. 

By disrupting the neurotransmitters in our brain, alcohol ultimately has a negative impact on our mood and thoughts in the long-term. This negative effect is compounded if you’re already struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety or depressive thoughts. As such, staying away from alcohol can help to boost your mood and improve your mental health.

  • Allows you to reflect on your relationship with alcohol

Lastly, we may have a dependence on alcohol, without even realising it. Abstaining from alcohol for a month gives us time to reflect on whether we’ve been drinking too much and our reasons for doing so. For example – are you drinking because you’re trying to avoid facing up to an issue in your life? 

Having a clear mind can help you to identify if there are any problematic aspects to your relationship with alcohol; so that you can take the steps to remedy them.

Tips for staying away from alcohol

It can be hard to stop drinking alcohol, especially if you like to grab a couple of beers to mark the end of a work day. These are a few ways to make Dry January easier to stick with:

  • Get social support

For many, alcohol is a way of socialising with others, such as having drinks with your colleagues after work or meeting up with friends after a long while. Social settings are one of the main reasons why we tend to drink more than we expect.

Let your close friends and family know that you’re taking part in Dry January, and that you’d like their support to minimise your alcohol intake during the challenge period. For example, suggest meeting up at a dinner place that doesn’t serve alcohol or ask if they mind not drinking when you’re hanging out. You can even get them to join you for Dry January, so that you don’t feel alone in sticking the month out. Having someone alongside you can make for good motivation!

  • Create a temptation-free environment

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As the popular saying goes, Out of sight, out of mind – make it easy on yourself by clearing out all the alcohol in your home. You can reduce the temptation to slip up and drink, if you rid your environment of these visual cues. By clearing your home of alcohol, you also make it hard to get a drink, even if you do feel tempted and in the mood for alcohol.

Once Dry January is over, don’t rush to restock your alcohol stash. Maintaining your home as an alcohol-free zone can help you to manage your alcohol intake, even past the month of January.

  • Be gentle on yourself

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Dry January is called a challenge for a reason. It’s not meant to be easy, especially if you’re a regular drinker. 

Even if you do end up drinking once or twice, don’t beat yourself up for slipping. Rather, take the opportunity to think about what had triggered you to drink alcohol and how you can avoid putting yourself in such a situation in the future.

A Word from A Space Between

Although Dry January only takes place in January, you can challenge yourself to reduce your alcohol intake anytime in the year. Whether it’s for an entire month or just one week, abstaining from alcohol can enlighten you on how much you may or may not rely on alcohol. If you suspect that you may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, getting professional support can help you. 

Make an appointment to speak with any of our therapists at A Space Between and equip yourself with techniques to manage your drinking habits.

Sources

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