Dry January isn’t just something people in your life do every year to annoy you. It’s actually got some real health and lifestyle benefits.
After a couple of weeks of indulging in celebratory drinks with friends and family over the holidays, it might be time to cut back on the booze in the New Year. That’s where Dry January comes in – the trend of going the whole month without alcohol. This started a decade ago, in 2013, as a public health initiative from Alcohol Change UK. At the time, the organization asked people to “ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline and save some serious money by giving up alcohol for 31 days.”
For most people, Dry January is a time for re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol. As UC Davis Health patient navigator and substance abuse counselor Tommie Trevino explains: “When someone starts questioning whether they have a problem, I suggest they abstain for 30 days. I say, ‘If you can’t stop for 30 days, why not?’ Then we may need to re-evaluate the person’s relationship with alcohol.” And millions participate every year, with that number continuously growing.
And Dry January can be great for your physical health. Experts say Dry January can help in many ways – offering better sleep, concentration and digestion, lower blood glucose, clearer skin, weight loss and less anxiety. Plus, those who do Dry January are more likely to drink less in the following six months. But, these benefits also depend on many underlying factors, like age, gender and overall health.
Regular heavy drinking has been associated with a greater rate of stroke, fatal aneurysms, health failure and death. “There are several possible ways that alcohol is believed to raise blood pressure, including an imbalance of the central nervous system, imbalance of vasoconstrictors, impairment of baroreceptor control in the brain, increased cortisol levels and increased amount of calcium that binds to the blood vessels,” explains Heather Martin, DO, an internist and medical director of K Health Primary Care Program in Tennessee.