If you think of the holidays as a time to eat, drink, and be merry, then you might be ready for a change in the new year. Specifically, it could be the perfect time to take a break from alcohol and try a “dry January” challenge.
“Dry January began in 2012 as an initiative by Alcohol Change UK, a British charity, to ‘ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline, and save some serious money by giving up alcohol for 31 days,'” reports Today. “Millions of people now take part in the challenge, with more Americans taking notice each year.”
“Consistently drinking too much alcohol can have significant health implications, and participating in Dry January is a great way to start the year with healthier practices,” says Taylor Remington, founder and CEO of the Impact Recovery Center. Remington notes that giving up drinking “can help give people more energy, focus, and clarity.” Read on for five more reasons to put down the bottle after the holidays.
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The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that in addition to the high numbers of U.S. adults who engage in binge drinking and high-intensity drinking, almost 15 million Americans ages 12 and older have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). And each year in the U.S., approximately 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes.
If you’re someone who struggles with drinking or worries about the health implications, “Dry January can be a great way to reset drinking habits and break bad habits,” says Remington.
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You might be surprised to learn that consuming even one drink a day increases your risk of certain types of cancer. But if you don’t want to quit alcohol altogether, participating in Dry January “helps people practice moderation when it comes to drinking,” advises Remington. “People who take part in Dry January typically learn the importance of setting boundaries when it comes to alcohol consumption.”
You may discover some new favorite healthy drinks in the process, as well. (Looking for a mixer in your mocktail? Research has shown that orange juice and tart cherry juice both have myriad health benefits!)
You’ve probably noticed that when you go out for drinks, your wallet is a lot lighter by the end of the night. According to Yahoo! News, the average U.S. adult spends almost $600 on alcohol per year. “But on certain holidays, they spend significantly more than they do on any other day of the year,” says the site, which reports that December is one of the biggest months for alcohol sales.
“Dry January can be a great way to save money,” Remington says. “Many people find that by giving up alcohol for one month, they can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars without having to make any other major lifestyle changes.”
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If you’ve ever fallen fast asleep after a few drinks, only to find yourself wide awake later in the night, there’s a reason. “Alcohol has sedative effects that can induce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, but the consumption of alcohol—especially in excess—has been linked to poor sleep quality and duration,” explains the Sleep Foundation. “People with alcohol use disorders commonly experience insomnia symptoms.” The site also notes that alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Taking a break from drinking can help improve your sleep quality. “A lot of people may find that cutting out alcohol helps them sleep better and longer periods of time,” Remington advises.
Alcohol negatively impacts your health in a staggering number of ways. Just small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of heart disease, and research has found that drinking can actually shrink your brain and lead to anxiety and depression. Even light drinking spikes your risk of esophageal, gastric and colorectal cancer—and the list goes on.
“Dry January can help reduce the risk of diseases associated with alcohol consumption,” Remington says. “Taking a break from drinking for one month can help lower your risk of developing these types of diseases in the future.”