Brits embarking on Dry January need to wait at least 10 days before they see the full impact of ditching the booze, a top expert has explained.
Counsellor and author Lynn Crilly said removing alcohol from your life for a month can bring “huge health benefits” that can set you on a path to a healthier and happier 2024.
Lynn said: “For moderate drinkers going alcohol free for a month can be challenging, but it is achievable and healthy. The same may not be the case for daily drinkers or those more dependent on alcohol and these people should seek professional advice and support before they do so.
“The first few days are likely to be the hardest as there may be some withdrawal symptoms such as difficulty in sleeping, and you are likely to also experience some hangover-like symptoms such as cloudy head, agitation, tiredness potentially this is due to lack of hydration.
“By day five you may be craving sugar that the alcohol is no longer giving you, but on the plus side you should feel sharper and notice an improvement in your concentration. By day seven it gets even better because your sleep should improve significantly. By day ten you should be feeling less sluggish, more energised, and raring to go. The full benefits will kick in. In the long run it reduces the risk of diabetes, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and reduces levels of cancer related proteins in the blood.”
Outlining the main benefits of Dry January, Lynn says:
Detox: Taking a rest from drinking alcohol can give your liver a much-needed break and time to re heal itself from the festive overindulging. Alcohol is known as diuretic, which means it causes you to wee more than if you just drink water, this makes it harder for the body to hydrate itself which leads to dry skin. Reducing the level of alcohol will give your skin a more refreshed look and make your eyes brighter. Often more calories are consumed by food rather than drink, meaning a potentially higher vitamin intake, leading to your skin looking healthy and glowing.
Improved Sleep: One of the first things that people notice when doing dry January is that their sleeping pattern improves drastically and they experience an increase in their energy levels. While alcohol can help people to fall asleep faster, the quality of the sleep is less restful and you spend less time in ‘real ‘sleep. On the other hand, days when you do not drink can lead to a much better sleep, making it far easier to wake up in the mornings.
Feeling less bloated or even drop a few pounds: Depending on how much you were drinking before you may find you shed a few pounds over the course of the month as alcohol is liquid calories which many do not replace with food, also the craved junky food at the end of a boozy evening will also be of the menu!
Save money: If you have been regularly spending money on alcohol it can really add up and put a dent in your budget, so by not shelling out for it you could put that money by and give yourself a treat at the end of the month such as a massage or a new outfit!
Tips on how to be successful
Begin writing a journal: At the beginning of the month write down the reasons you wanted to take a break from the drink, and the positive changes that are being made. Then if sometime during the month you are facing a particularly challenging time refer back to the journal to remember why you started.
Start a new workout regime: Since drinking can leave you feeling slow and sluggish, January may be the perfect time to start a new fitness regime. Having the new surge of energy will benefit you when exercising and release those positive endorphins.
Look at new ways to cope: If a glass of wine was your way of winding down at the end of a day, it may be worth looking at other options such as yoga, reading, meditating, going for a walk or even a hot bath with lots of bubble bath can all help you to wind down.
Look for a replacement: If drinking has become a habit, then it is a good idea to find a replacement to sip, sparkling water with lemon juice, or pour a can of flavoured tonic water into a wine glass and sip slowly, it is surprising how quickly one habit can be replaced with another especially when it makes you feel better.
Team Up with a friend: It is always easier to keep motivated if you are doing Dry January with a friend. Encourage friends and family to get involved, so that you are accountable and support each other or even raise some money for charity.
Keep Busy: The first few days will be the hardest, so it is always a good idea to have things planned to keep you busy, do things that are fun and will help to take your mind off drinking, because the less time you must think about it the easier it will become.
Be Kind to yourself: Drinking has become so ingrained in our culture and everyday life, whether you’re celebrating a wedding or mourning the loss of a friend, it can be difficult to abstain from alcohol for a whole month. People are often their own worst critic and can get down on themselves – and give up on their dry month if they have one drink, but please remember the whole point of attempting a month without alcohol is not to feel bad about yourself. The goal is to become more mindful of the role it plays in your life, if it leads to you drinking less than you normally would, then that must be a win even if you still enjoyed the odd glass of wine.