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The Benefits of a Dry January

The Positive Aspects of Taking a Break From Alcohol

By Adam HeathPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
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With the holiday season behind us, individuals across the country are interested in ditching the habits of yesteryear for a healthier lifestyle of today. With all of the normal indulgences that the holiday season brings, people across the world are looking for a healthy escape.

The amount of calories consumed, shorter days in North America and alcohol consumption in the later part of a calendar year can lead to weight gain and unintended health consequences. In 2021, now more than ever, it is pivotal to take control of what is within your control.

While more and more areas of our lives fall outside of what we can actually control, one thing we still can control is our health habits, lifestyle and what we ingest in our bodies. The month of January is the best time to take control of your life and implement a healthy lifestyle with habits that can lead to healthier patterns down the line.

Although bar owners and restaurant and bar employees are in financial stress, one of the silver linings is less amounts of car accidents caused by drunk drivers. The closure of many bars can also alleviate the social pressures of drinking with co-workers and/or friends. This can help an individual accomplish a dry January.

What are Some of the Benefits of Abstaining From Alcohol for January?

For moderate and heavy drinkers alike, having a drink, or a few drinks, with dinner or in the evening may be the norm. Especially in times of quarantine. Although alcohol may help pass the time involved with being in a lock down, alleviate boredom symptoms and loneliness, alcohol can also have serious short and long-term drawbacks. Taking some time away from anything, especially alcohol, can allow one’s mind to understand a different perspective and come to terms with a different lifestyle.

If you’ve ever woken up with a hangover after a night out, or a night in in 2020, you know the feeling. Tiredness, lack of energy, lack of motivation, anxiety and depression are some of the symptoms of a hangover.

Additionally performing a dry January can help lower blood pressure, improve liver functions and lower anxiety. While these immediate benefits may be temporary, it can help a participant of dry January understand the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol.

Allows a Time of Personal Reflection

Taking a month off from alcohol allows for personal reflection. While drinking less alcohol may make time feel like it’s going slower, it can also help individuals reflect, and organize, what is important to their person.

Since the onset of the pandemic, alcohol sales have spiked across the United States. People began to turn to alcohol as an escape from the depression and isolation that much of the population is experiencing in quarantine. However, these behavioral patterns may last with an individual once the pandemic is over and humanity can return to “normal” behaviors.

The surge of drinking during the pandemic has increased roughly 20%, while alcohol delivery services have surged with new customers. According to an NPR article Liz Paquette of Drizzly stated “We’re up around 350% in sales over the same time last year”. While this increase in sales is indicative of a greater consumption of alcohol, it may not be entirely reflective of how much people are drinking. Rather this rise in sales may be attributed to different purchasing behavior of the market during a pandemic.

Better Sleep

Alcohol is considered a depressant, meaning that it slows down the nervous system. While minor amounts of alcohol may have little impact on one's sleep and subconscious, going to sleep inebriated has its fair share of drawbacks.

Although it may be easier to initially fall asleep after the consumption of alcohol, the sleep that people experience while drunk is not as beneficial as sober sleep. REM sleep occurs roughly ninety minutes after an individual falls asleep. If you fall asleep drunk, alcohol will interfere with the actual quality of the sleep.

Weight Gain Associated with Alcohol

Less alcohol can equate to less last night snacks. If you’re not up drinking at 1:00AM you won’t have the same hankering for late night greasy food. A 2017 nature article outlined that alcohol intake increases overeating in human beings. These hankerings, colloquially known as drunchies, can lead to an unnecessary excess caloric intake and, compounded with the empty calories of alcohol, can lead to unnecessary weight gain.

Additionally, those that abstain from alcohol, even in short periods of time, can begin to form healthy diets that individuals that regularly consume alcohol may have a higher difficulty of forming healthy dietary patterns.

If you’ve ever spoken to a serious powerlifter, or bodybuilder, odds are they will tell you about their abstinence from alcohol, or they limit alcohol, to very limited amounts and special occasions. Since alcohol is composed of empty calories, many health enthusiasts tend to stray away from ingesting drinks that can increase weight and impair an individual's energy.

My Own Personal Story About a Dry Period From Alcohol

In 2018 I had a dry January… through July. I went six months without having a drink. Although I would not have drinks every night prior to this dry period, I found that when I chose to indulge, it would sometimes turn to over indulgence leading to the negative byproducts outlined above.

During these dry months I found a few interesting takeaways:

  • I lost 30 lbs in six months. No change in diet, no different exercise regimen simply the lack of alcohol and late night snacks caused a significant weight loss. Full disclosure, I have an ectomorphic body and have difficulty keeping weight on.
  • I was highly motivated and had an abundance of energy. Instead of waking up with the occasional headache and grogginess, I woke up energized and focused.
  • I stopped smoking cigarettes. Nicotine and alcohol are two of the most popular vices on planet earth. After smoking for more than twelve years, and after a few half-hearted and unsuccessful attempts to quit, I was finally able to stop smoking. Alcohol lowers ones inhibitions and people that drink may engage in “social smoking” that can turn into a full blown addiction.

Conclusion

Individuals that have become accustomed to having a few drinks every night may not realize the effects that these potent potables have on their nervous system, bodily functions and energy levels. Symptoms can develop that can contribute to a lesser version of one’s self.

For those that have gotten into a routine of having alcoholic beverages everyday, or nearly everyday, one may forget the impact that these drinks can have on a person’s psychological and biological makeup. By taking a temporary step away from drinking in January, or another month, an individual can gain a different lens of how alcohol interacts, and potentially interferes with their own body and mind.

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About the Creator

Adam Heath

Adam graduated from Chico State with a degree in History and works in the digital marketing sector. An avid fan of baseball, you can find him sitting in Petco Park's bleachers or wolfing down a burrito in his free time.

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