New research finds ‘Dry January’ has benefits that could last throughout your year

Perhaps you drank a little too much on vacation, or you wanted to start dieting or exercising and you weren’t getting enough calories or energy from drinking alcohol. I can’t afford to lose motivation.

Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital, said:

Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez said: He teaches at Columbia University’s College of Teachers.

What’s the expert advice on how to have a successful ‘Dry January’? Read on.

1. Know why

Wakeman, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, says it helps to have a clear goal to make it a habit.

“Research we’ve done on goal setting shows that goals are achieved when they’re really relevant to the individual and not abstract like, ‘Drinking is bad and you should stop drinking.’ It’s more likely,” she said.

Specific goals, such as adopting new sleep habits and regular exercise, can help make quitting easier, she said.

“I really want to stop drinking because I know that drinking so much can make me wake up the next morning and not exercising is a very specific goal,” Wakeman said.

Experts say you may get additional motivation from the health benefits you get from cutting down or quitting alcohol.

“Reducing alcohol consumption over time can have really measurable health benefits in terms of blood pressure, cancer risk, liver disease risk, and other conditions,” says Wakeman.

“Over the course of a month, you may notice some short-term benefits, such as better sleep quality, improved complexion with improved skin, a clearer head feeling, and increased energy,” she says. Added.

2. Set smart goals

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

definite: Set achievable goals. For example, drinking less alcohol three days a week. You can add days until you reach your final goal.

Measurable: How many drinks do you cut and what size drinks? Beer is 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces and spirits is 1.5 ounces.

Achievable: Make sure you don’t have a lot of social events where alcohol is likely to be served during the month of abstinence.

Related: How does not drinking alcohol help my life and health?

Time base: Set a reasonable time frame for completing the work. You can set another goal later if you want.

“Setting the bar too high can lead to failure, so it’s a good idea to set smaller goals to achieve,” said Hafeez. “Nothing happens until you have an honest conversation with yourself.”

3. Share your goals with others

Experts say sharing your goals with a few friends and family members can help you reach them. For some people, it might help to announce their plans on social media and invite others to join in and report back on their progress.

“That’s where I think ‘Dry January’ came into fashion,” said Wakeman. “If you publicly declare that you are going to do something, you are more likely to keep doing it than to keep it to yourself.”

4. Consider mocktails

Drinking is often associated with social gatherings and good times. By doing so, you can train your brain to perceive alcohol as positive. Experts say you can combat these urges by replacing your favorite drink with something equally festive and flavorful.

“Some people just drink fizzy water, others actually have mocktails and[non-alcoholic]drinks and have a good time celebrating,” Wakeman said.

“Replacing one behavior with another can work because you’re tricking the brain,” said Hafeez. “It absolutely helps avoid temptation.”

An entire industry is dedicated to making non-alcoholic beverages that look (at least a little) like the real thing. Some even claim to have added “calming” or “healthy” ingredients.

“I’m skeptical of anything in a glass that claims to relax you or have amazing health benefits.” I don’t think there’s a downside to it if it’s an alternative that makes you feel like you don’t and is an alternative that helps you make the changes you need in your alcohol consumption.”

5. Track your progress, goals and emotions

Even if you can’t finally give up all alcohol, it can be helpful to track your emotions and urges and try to find the triggers, Wakeman said.

“Whether it’s alcohol, exercise, or diet, even just measuring your behavior can be an intervention in itself,” she said.

“Even if someone isn’t ready to make a change yet, simply keeping a journal of when you’re drinking, in what situations you’re drinking more, and how you’re feeling at the time can help you It really helps identify the circumstances that trigger a change, and you might be more likely to drink,” Wakeman added.

monitor symptoms

Experts say there’s another key factor in achieving a ‘dry January’. It’s important to be aware of any negative symptoms that you or someone you care about may be experiencing by abstaining or quitting alcohol. It may indicate that you need professional help to reach your goals.

“The first thing to look for is if you actually have an alcohol use disorder,” Wakeman said. Quitting is actually dangerous.”

Because people with alcohol use disorders are accustomed to having a certain level of alcohol in their system each day, they can go into withdrawal and experience serious physical symptoms such as shivering, sweating, rapid heart rate, and seizures. there is.

Wakeman said, “This indicates that you should seek treatment for withdrawal symptoms and consult a medical professional rather than quitting on your own.

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