Dry January and the benefits of sobriety
With January often comes New Year's resolutions. From eating healthier to exercising to reading a book each month, there are plenty of resolutions that can benefit your mind and body all year.
Another common resolution that lasts just the month of January is called "Dry January."
Dry January is a commitment to skip drinking alcohol for the month of January. While the term was actually coined by an organization in the UK in 2013 to promote a healthier lifestyle sans alcohol, it's become a lot more popular in recent years as people worldwide seek the health benefits of sobriety.
"It's well known that alcohol isn't exactly good for you, especially in excess," says Heather Phelps, LPC, CAADC, a substance use disorder therapist and Program Manager at Mirmont Treatment Center. "But the benefits of sobriety might actually extend much further than you realize."
Here are the benefits of partaking in Dry January (or any dry period of time) and how you can get started.
Physical benefits of sobriety
One of the draws of Dry January is the promise of a healthier body. This starts with cutting out calories from alcohol that can add up quickly.
For instance, a light beer has roughly 100 calories, while a regular beer clocks in around 150. A fancy cocktail, like a pina colada? That'll add up to around 526 calories. Even wine—often thought of as a healthier option—is 128 calories for a white table wine.
What's more, heavy drinking (more than 8 drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks a week for men) has been connected to an increased risk of:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Cancer (such as breast, colon, stomach and oral)
- Sexual dysfunction
- A lowered ability to fight off infections
"A glass of wine here and there isn't going to cause these diseases, but excessive consumption of alcohol is a known risk factor for many health conditions," says Phelps. Take alcohol out of the equation, and your risk can decrease.
Mental benefits of sobriety
The term hanxiety—or anxiety after drinking a lot of alcohol—was popularized for a reason. Alcohol can make you feel good while you're drinking it, but it can leave you with plenty of negative emotions afterward (or in some cases, during drinking).
To start, alcohol disrupts normal brain function. While alcohol doesn't always cause mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, it can worsen these conditions.
"Alcohol also has a negative impact on your sleep. If you're not sleeping well at night, that can cause a host of issues during the day, such as lack of energy, mood swings and mental health disorders," says Phelps.
Financial benefits of sobriety
Your bank account can also take a hit if you indulge in alcohol too much or too often. The most obvious way is purchasing the alcohol itself, which can add up over time. For instance, the average New Yorker spends over an estimated $120,000 in their lifetime on alcohol (both in bars and for home consumption).
But the costs can extend far beyond the price tag on the bottle. Alcohol can also cause financial woes from:
- Loss of productivity at work, including absences, increased conflict and being less likely to be promoted
- Alcohol-related healthcare
- Law enforcement costs, such as a DUI
What to do if you're concerned about your alcohol use
Alcohol misuse is a serious concern. If you feel like you're drinking too much, too fast or too often, that may be a sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD).
AUD is when drinking alcohol causes distress or harm to yourself or others. If you suspect you or someone you care about has an alcohol addiction, talk to your healthcare provider.
"Your healthcare provider is an important first step in getting the treatment you need, which may include support groups, medications or counseling," says Phelps. "You can also speak with a therapist directly by calling one of our Mirmont Outpatient Centers located in Broomall, Exton or Media."
Dry January: A taste of sobriety
The benefits of sobriety are clear. During Dry January, many people get a feel for what an alcohol-free lifestyle would be like, including whether it might benefit their physical, emotional or financial health.
If January isn't the right month for you to explore sobriety, try another month (or another period of time), which can give you the same opportunity to reflect on your alcohol use throughout the rest of the year.