Giving up alcohol for January is actually really, really good for you
Just a diet coke for me please
More than something righteous to post about on social media, start a JustGiving page for charity or a bit of a new year detox – doing Dry January could have a huge impact on your health. Whether you manage to conquer Dry January, keep it up for a whole year or even take part in the famous Wet January – the change can have a significant effect on your body.
We spoke to Dr Sarah Jarvis who advises alcohol charity Drinkaware, who told us why sticking to green tea, juice and Shloer for a month is worth 31 days of growing abuse from your friends for turning down pint after pint. By sticking it out with Dry January you can look better, feel better and have more focus, even if it is just for a month.
How does it affect your health in the short term?
The short term benefits of cutting back can include brighter skin, feeling less tired, less irritable and more able to concentrate. Recent studies suggest that even a short term break can reduce liver “stiffness”, which is an indicator of early liver damage.
What about the future benefits?
In the long term, cutting back on alcohol will lower your risk of serious diseases such as cancer, liver failure and having a stroke.
Can it help with anything else? What about our mental health?
While alcohol can have a very temporary positive impact on your mood in some people, in the long term it can cause problems for our mental health. This is because alcohol disrupts the balance of chemicals in your brain that affect your mood. While you might believe that having a drink after a hard day helps you relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with.
It also disrupts your sleep pattern, which can affect your mood as well as your energy levels. Taking a break from alcohol can help improve your mood and relationships. It can also have a positive impact on your performance at work and your finances.
What happens when you finally get to start drinking again after January?
Cutting out alcohol for a month will reduce your short term tolerance to alcohol, so we recommend that if you do decide to start drinking again, you start with small amounts only to gauge its impact on you. It’s also important not to assume that cutting back or having a break from alcohol for a short while means it’s OK to drink to excess the rest of the year.
You can also use this month to reflect on how different you feel when you’re not drinking – with more energy, less irritability and better sleep and concentration. Its well worth keeping count of how much money you save, too – and thinking about how much more that would be if you reduced your alcohol intake in the longer term. In the long term, the best evidence for avoiding alcohol-related harm comes from sticking within the latest recommended lower risk guidelines of 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women, with at least one alcohol free day each week.