For some, January is all about ringing in the New Year and making resolutions.  For others it’s “Dry January”, a month long challenge to abstain from alcohol.  It is a tough challenge for some that comes with health benefits that last longer than just the month.  Many view the challenge as a temporary test of willpower and once February 1st comes around everyone goes back to their old drinking habits. However this is not the case, research shows that people who participate in “Dry January” often drink less in the end and make other changes to their drinking habits that improve their health and well-being.

The key thing about the challenge is that the duration is not so long that it seems impossible, but long enough to create new habits. It enables people to feel more comfortable turning down drinks in social settings, or cutting down the amount they drink.

The initial month long break from alcohol provides immediate health benefits such as weight loss, better sleep, and/or a boost to your mood and energy levels, which can all help to reinforce new habits.  Experiencing these improvements in your life can be a huge motivator to drinking less in the end.

In one study of moderate to heavy drinkers (drinking an average of 2.5 drinks per day), the people who gave up alcohol for one month on average lost 4.5 pound of weight, their blood pressure dropped and they had a dramatic reduction in their levels of insulin resistance (a marker for Type 2 diabetes risk).  They also had a reduction in cancer related risk factors.  As well, 6 – 8 months after the initial month challenge, this group had maintained a reduction in the amount of alcohol they drank.

If you want to try the “Dry January” Challenge here are some tips for success:

Do it with a friend:

You will get support and accountability.

Find a new drink:

Try replacing your drink with sparkling water and a slice of lemon or cranberry juice

Manage your triggers:

Instead of meeting friends at a bar after work consider going for a walk, a movie, or having dinner.

Track how much money you save:

Money can be a huge motivator so monitor how much money you keep in your pocket.

Go Dry’ish”:

If going completely dry is too much, then go dry’ish.  Cut the amount you drink in half, only drink on weekends, or whatever you feel you can realistically manage.  Cutting back is better than not even trying.

The idea of the challenge is not to cut alcohol completely from your life in the long term, but to mange how much you drink and reap the benefits of drinking less.