5 tips for a “dry January” at any time of the year


There are plenty of good reasons for deciding to go “dry” in January and quitting the booze. Maybe you’ve had a little too much to drink over the holidays or want to start a diet or exercise routine and can’t afford the calories or zap of energy and motivation that drinking. alcohol can bring.

“Or it can be someone who is really starting to wonder or question their relationship with alcohol, and this is an opportunity to really explore that,” said Dr Sarah Wakeman, director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“For some people saying, ‘I’m not going to drink all this month’ can be very difficult, so trying to do it can show you how easy or difficult it is for you,” says neuropsychologist Dr Sanam Hafeez , who teaches at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

What are the experts’ tips for a successful “dry January”? Continue reading.

It helps to be clear about your goal for making it a habit, said Wakeman, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“The research we have on goal setting indicates that goals are more likely to be achieved if they are truly relevant to you as an individual and not abstract like ‘I should stop drinking because drinking is bad,'” she said.

Concrete goals like adopting new sleep habits or an exercise routine will help make it easier to quit drinking, she said.

“I really want to quit drinking because I know when I drink a lot I don’t get up the next morning and I don’t work out, that’s a very specific goal,” Wakeman said.

According to experts, additional motivation may come from the health gains you can achieve by reducing or eliminating alcohol.

“Drinking less over time can have really measurable benefits for your health in terms of blood pressure, cancer risk, liver disease risk and other conditions,” Wakeman said.

“Over the course of a month, you may notice short-term benefits like better sleep, better complexion from improved skin, feeling clearer, and more energy,” he said. she adds.

Many of us may be familiar with SMART goals from work or school. They are used to help people set achievable goals. The acronym stands for:

  1. Specific: Set an achievable goal, such as reducing your alcohol intake three days a week. You can add days until you reach your final goal.
  2. Measurable: How many glasses will you cut and what are the glass sizes? A beer is 12 ounces, a glass of wine is 5 ounces, and a serving of spirits is 1.5 ounces.
  3. Feasible: Make sure there aren’t a bunch of social engagements where alcohol is likely to be served during your abstaining month.
  4. Relevant: How will not drinking help me in my life and my health?
  5. Based on time: Set yourself a reasonable time frame to complete your efforts. If you want, you can set another goal later.

“If you set the bar too high, you’re likely to fail, so it’s best to set smaller goals to achieve it,” Hafeez said. “Nothing starts without an honest conversation with yourself.”

Telling a few friends or family members about your goal can help you achieve it, experts say. For some people, it can be helpful to announce their plan on social media and invite others to join in and report on their progress.

“That’s where I think ‘Dry January’ sort of kicked in,” Wakeman said. “If you publicly state that you’re going to do something, you’re more likely to stick with it than if you keep it to yourself.”

Alcohol consumption is often associated with social gatherings or fun times. This can train your brain to see alcohol as a positive. You can combat those cravings by replacing your drink of choice with something equally festive or flavorful, experts say.

“For some people it might just be sparkling water, and for others it’s actually a mocktail or some kind of fun, party (non-alcoholic) drink,” said Wakeman.

“Replacing one behavior for another can work because you’re tricking your brain,” Hafeez said. “It can absolutely help you avoid temptation.”

There’s a whole industry dedicated to making soft drinks that taste (at least a little) like the real thing. Some even claim to have added “calming” or “healthy” ingredients.

“I’m skeptical of anything that claims to relax you or have incredible health benefits that comes in a drink, no matter what,” Wakeman said. “But if it’s an alternative that keeps you from missing out on a social situation and helps you make the changes you want to your drinking, I don’t think there’s a downside to that.”

Even if you don’t end up cutting out all the alcohol, tracking your emotions and cravings to uncover your triggers can be helpful, Wakeman said.

“The simple act of measuring your behavior, whether it is alcohol, exercise or diet, can be an intervention in and of himself,” she said.

“Even if someone isn’t ready to make changes yet, just keeping a diary of when you drink, when you drink more, and how you feel at those times , can really help you identify the types of triggering situations where you may be more likely to drink,” Wakeman added.

There is an additional element that is important for achieving a “dry January”, experts say. It’s important to notice if you – or a loved one – have any negative symptoms related to cutting down or eliminating alcohol. It could be a sign that you need professional help to achieve your goal.

“The first thing to know is whether or not you have an alcohol use disorder,” Wakeman said. “If someone has been drinking heavily every day and is at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it may actually be dangerous to quit abruptly.”

A person with an alcohol use disorder, who has become accustomed to having a certain level of alcohol in their body every day, may go into withdrawal and experience severe physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating , rapid heartbeat and seizures.

“That would be a real indication that you need to talk to a medical professional to get medical treatment for withdrawal and not self-stop,” Wakeman said.


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