The benefits of “Dry January” last longer than a month, studies show


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Each year, tens of thousands of people ring in the new year by participating in a month-long sobriety challenge known as ‘Dry January’.

The event is widely seen as a temporary test of willpower, and you’ll return to your old drinking habits once the month is over.

Studies show that those who participate in Dry January and other sobriety challenges frequently experience lasting effects. In many cases, they will drink less in the long run, and continuing to modify their drinking habits will result in significant improvements in health and well-being.

So why does the effect of a dry January seem so long lasting? A month sober may sound daunting, but it’s not so long as it seems impossible. Still, it’s long enough to provide opportunities to form new habits.It can be empowering in the long run, such as turning down alcohol in social settings. Health benefits such as improved sleep quality, improved mood and energy levels are immediately visible, and new habits can be reinforced.

Richard de Visser, a psychologist at the Brighton and Sussex Medical College in England who has studied what happens to people who participate in dry January, says experiencing these improvements can help you feel better in the long run. It states that it can motivate you to keep drinking less.

“It becomes a reinforcing rather than a punishing message,” he said. “Instead of public health officials waving their fingers and saying, ‘Don’t drink, it’s bad for you,’ people do it and say, ‘I didn’t know how good it would make me feel.’ People often don’t know how much they’ll improve their sleep, focus, or even their energy levels in the morning by quitting.”

From “dangerous” to “low risk”

In one study published in the BMJ Open, a team of researchers from London and the United States recruited a group of 94 healthy men and women who were willing to give up alcohol for a month. They compared her with a similar control group of 47 people who continued to drink. Both groups consisted of moderate to heavy drinkers, and on average she drank about 2.5 cups per day.

Researchers found that people who abstained from alcohol for a month had significantly improved metabolic health despite little or no change in diet, smoking, or exercise levels. . On average, they lost about 4.5 pounds, their blood pressure dropped, and their level of insulin resistance, an indicator of type 2 diabetes risk, “dramatically” decreased. They also experienced a sharp decline in cancer-associated growth factors. The researchers noted that this was a particularly important finding. This is because even low alcohol consumption can increase the risk of many cancers. These improvements were not seen in the control group.

Researchers followed up with study participants after six to eight months to see how they were doing. The one-month abstinent group maintained a “significant reduction” in alcohol consumption, whereas the control group did not. They determined that the abstinence group’s drinking habits changed from ‘dangerous’ to ‘low risk’ while the control group’s habits remained largely the same.

Save money and sleep better

In another series of studies, de Visser and his colleagues tracked thousands of Dry January participants to see if the challenge led to long-term change. They found that people who attended dry January generally drank considerably less in the following August as well.

On average, the number of days they drank alcohol decreased from 4.3 days per week before the challenge to 3.3 days per week six months later. I drank less each time and got drunk less often.

Before Dry January, I got drunk on average 3.4 times a month. By the following August, however, that number had dropped to 2.1 times per month.

Most people who participate in a sobriety challenge then return to drinking. But many are surprised by the benefits they experience during a month of sobriety.De Visser and his colleagues found that most of the dry January participants they surveyed saved money and They found that they reported sleeping better, losing weight, having more energy and better focus. Reported. Even people who hadn’t been sober for the entire month of January reported these benefits.

“The purpose of Dry January is not long-term sobriety, but long-term control,” said Richard Piper, CEO of UK non-profit Alcohol Change UK. “It’s about understanding your subconscious triggers, overcoming them, and learning how good it is to not drink. It will give you choices for the rest of your year.”

Try These Tips For Success

Not everyone softens their relationship with alcohol after attempting a month-long sobriety challenge. In his study, de Visser and his colleagues found a rebound effect in that a small fraction (about 11%) of those who participated in his January dry consumed more alcohol in the months that followed. I discovered that I was experiencing

These tend to be particularly heavy drinkers who are dependent on alcohol. That’s why it’s important for people participating in these challenges to realize that it’s not a silver bullet for everyone who wants to quit drinking.The Rethinking Drinking website has a list of helpful resources. “If you have a problem drinking pattern, you should talk to a health professional and get some support to drink so you don’t have a negative experience that makes it worse,” de said. Visser said.

Last year, 130,000 people worldwide signed up to attend Dry January. Here are some tips to increase your odds of success.

  • Do it with your friends. Sign up on the Alcohol Exchange UK website and download the free Try Dry app on your smartphone. I found that people were more likely to succeed in a challenge if they did. You can also sign up to receive ‘coaching’ emails from Alcohol Change UK. “Social support is helpful because it gives you a sense of belonging to something bigger,” he said. There is also a practical side, this is what I did.
  • Find your new favorite drink. Replacing alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages, such as fizzy water with lemon or a splash of cranberry juice, can help eliminate mindless drinking. “A lot of people drink habitually or by default just because they’re used to it,” says Piper.
  • Manage triggers. Instead of meeting friends at a bar after work, suggest going to the movies, taking a long walk, or having dinner at a restaurant.
  • Track your savingsThe Try Dry app can keep you motivated by keeping track of all the money you didn’t spend on drinks.
  • Try the dry (ish) January challenge. If going completely sober in January is out of the question, do something more attainable through Sunnyside, a mindful sobriety program. Sunnyside has an app that allows you to create your own variation of Dry January, also known as Dry (ish) January. You can set goals like not drinking on weekdays or halving your weekly drinking and track your progress. You can also use it year-round to track your alcohol intake and create healthier drinking habits.

Questions about healthy eating? Email EatingLab@washpost.com I may answer your question in a future column.

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