Dry January: The benefits of a month without alcohol

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Health Assured team

03 January 2024

As the new year begins, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on your drinking habits. Perhaps the holiday celebrations led to overindulgence, a string of hangovers, and an unexpected gasp at the bank balance.

With its chilly weather and the end of the festivities, January can leave you feeling low. That’s why cutting back on alcohol might seem like a good choice to reset and regain some energy.

A consideration for those interested in changing their routine is trying ‘Dry January’. This is a campaign that involves abstaining from alcohol for the entire first month of the year, organised by the non-profit organisation Alcohol Change UK.

Taking a month off from drinking could help you step back and examine your relationship with alcohol and consider the implications on your mental health. Undoubtedly, this task will prove to be easier for some than others. You might learn you depend on it to manage stress or feel comfortable in social situations. Or you might discover you feel better and think more clearly when not drinking.

The challenge of socialising and avoiding alcohol

Many people will find it hard to socialise without being tempted to have a drink. We live in a society where alcohol is omnipresent and often goes hand in glove with many social activities – going to the pub, out for a meal, watching live sports, attending weddings, festivals, local Christmas markets, and even airports are brimmed with bars.

In an illuminating podcast, the British actor Tom Holland, best known for playing Spider-Man, opens up about his mental battles with sobriety.

After a “very, very boozy” Christmas period, Holland found that having resolved to complete a dry January, “all I could think about was having a drink… it really scared me”.

Holland decided to extend his period of sobriety but found it hard to do so in the UK, where he said he finds socialising and alcohol are significantly intertwined. Following a period of five months without drinking, he said he was “the happiest I’ve ever been in my life”. He found benefits included improved sleep and the ability to handle everyday obstacles.

5 Benefits of Dry January

According to medical experts, abstaining from alcohol for one month may result in several physical and mental health benefits.

  1. Better sleep

The most immediate benefit of Dry January you will notice is improved sleep within a week. Alcohol is a sleep disruptor and studies have shown that it inhibits REM sleep. Reducing alcohol intake leads to better rest, further improving energy levels, focus, and productivity.

You can read more about the benefits of getting a good night’s rest

Many people notice their skin looks and feels better when they stop drinking. Without alcohol’s diuretic effects, the body and skin are naturally more hydrated – even after a few days.

  1. Weight loss

Alcohol can lead to weight gain by preventing the body from burning fat, contributing to sugar and starch intake, and causing cravings for foods high in fat. Cutting out alcohol even for a month can help you avoid those negative effects and the calories associated with alcohol, particularly beer and wine.

  1. Balanced mood

While it feels like alcohol lifts your spirits, it is actually a mood-depressant. People who drink heavily often experience bouts of depression and anxiety—even if they don’t have a history of these mental health conditions. Cutting back can help you avoid the emotional slump that comes after a night out and may increase feelings of well-being.

  1. Healthier relationship with alcohol

It’s a good idea to occasionally re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol. If you feel better when you’re not drinking, then your body is telling you something.

Developing a healthy relationship with alcohol will improve your overall wellbeing and mental health and have a positive impact on other areas of your life. You may find you are sleeping better, having fewer negative interactions with loved ones or work colleagues, and feeling more in control of your life decisions.

Supporting your employees with alcohol addiction and mental health challenges

With a Health Assured Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), we can offer you practical advice and support when it comes to dealing with alcohol addiction, depression, and how to improve your work-life balance.

Our EAP provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and at home. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support your employee's mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.


Find out more about EAPs


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