How many times have you heard someone mention Dry January in the last few weeks? Probably quite a lot I’m guessing! If you aren’t aware of Dry January, it is the ‘challenge’ to not drink any alcohol for the whole month of January. With the excesses of the Christmas period January 1st becomes the day where over 60% of us set ourselves a New Year’s Resolution, and figures say maybe less than 10% of them achieve it. Jamie and I have both written posts on how to achieve your goals, if you would like some ideas on that.
Back to not drinking. I think most people have some desire to do a Dry January or cut down their drinking in general. The question is why though? Why bother? Well in this post I’m going to cover the main 7 reasons I think it’s worth doing Dry January or a month of drinking. You’d be amazed the knock on effects of one month!
The first thing you are going to notice is the positive effect on your sleep. Using my sleep monitoring device for example, I see big differences on two almost identical nights where I spent around 8 hours in bed. The night I drank, my sleep efficiency was much less at 82.5%. Meaning nearly 20% of the time I was awake or not properly asleep. Whereas when I hadn’t drank it was 92.7%, that’s around an extra 30 mins sleep. I’ve definitely used alcohol to help me sleep a little better and for sure it does help you get to sleep, but in the end it causes you to have less sleep throughout the night. I hate mornings as it is.
Another positive effect I’ve found for my sleep is that when I go out when I’m not drinking I’m also inclined to come home a bit earlier. Coming home at 2am rather than 4am, makes a big difference to keeping your body clock in check. Avoiding the knock on effect of you feeling tired at work all week.
- Social Life
For me personally and I’m sure many of you, this seems to be the area that will take the biggest hit when you give up drinking. I think in some ways this can be true, but to be honest there are many reasons it isn’t. Have you been on nights out and the next day not really remembered all the details of conversations? I have this problem a lot and unsurprisingly not drinking helps with that.
I also notice that in the UK the majority of our social lives revolve around going out and drinking. Well why not for one month find some other things to occupy your time, spend your time in the outdoors, start learning a new skill, do more with your days or go visit new places. You don’t have to give up what you know, just have a break and you might find something else you like more!
- Better Skin
One of the biggest things I notice when I drink is how dehydrated I get. This leads to the dreaded dry mouth in the morning that always wakes me up. However the other big thing I notice from drinking, especially if it’s regularly, is that I get pretty dry skin and hair.
Stopping drinking for just the last 3 weeks I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my skin, my girlfriend has commented out how much healthier I look and I’d have to agree.
This could be the biggest detriment for me when drinking alcohol. I’d generally consider myself as a quite motivated person, but not when I’m hungover. This directly affects the day after I’ve been drinking and it also follows on to the day after in some respects. Forcing myself to do work or even thinking you are being fully productive on a hangover day is nigh on impossible, I feel like I operate at 60%. According to my Rescue Time plugin that monitors what I spend my time on. On Social Media I spent 27 minutes over my average, using the same day after I used in point 1.
I’m also not entirely sure of the reason why, but the longer I don’t drink for the more motivated I am to achieve that next goal and have the creativity to work out how to achieve that. There’s nothing worse than a Monday morning after a heavy weekend and you can forget ‘killing it’ that week.
- Sense of Achievement
As I’ve been drinking probably on average 3 times a week for the last 10 years, it really does feel satisfying to not have drunk for 3 weeks and counting. It’s also led me to challenge myself to a lot of other things over the coming months and know I’m going to achieve them. I’ve also quit sugar this month and knowing I can do alcohol has helped me with the sugar side (especially those hangover cravings). I will do a blog post shortly about my upcoming goals and going cold turkey on the sugar.
- Better Memory
As anyone who’s known me for a long time will tell you, I don’t always have the best memory. There is only one other period since I started drinking that I’ve done a 30 day stint, which was my final uni exam period, and I noticed memory improvement that time as well.
The reason you forget things from your night out is because alcohol actually stops the ability of your brain from turning short term memories into long term memories (the key to memory the next day). For frequent drinkers a respite from drinking can start healing this minor brain damage in as little as 14 days. At some point I will have a drink again, I’m sure and at least for the first few nights out I should remember more than I normally do. Before it resets again.
- Extra Time
Another thing that I’ve always been terrible with is being a morning person. I’m just not! I’d love to be one of those 530am, yoga, gym, 1 hour of reading before work people, but thus far in life I have failed.
My normal work day usually starts at 11am and I work till late. It’s always suited me like that. However I recently started a German language course at 9am, 3 days a week. Now I’ve limited my late nights, it’s obviously now much easier to get up early every day. I now have extra time on my evenings from less nights out and extra time in my mornings with being able to get up early. I’m managing to learn German and keep training as a web developer, without it feeling like any extra strain on my time.
- More Money
Well this is just obvious I guess. Obviously the price of a beer itself can be expensive, especially if you are a fan of craft ales. What is often not thought about though is the ‘knock on’ costs. Maybe some food on the way home, possibly a breakfast treat, an expensive morning coffee, the comfort food you crave the day after and the takeaway you want in the evening.
Once you think about it like that, the money really starts to mount up. It’s not just the beer you spend your money on and I have to say this month is the most flush I’ve been with cash in a while.
- Lower Glucose & Liver Fat Levels
While I haven’t had these tested, a pretty normal group of British drinkers who work at the New Scientist took part in Dry January. They found that their glucose and liver fat levels fell by 16 and 15 percent respectively, amongst some other benefits.
High liver fat levels are linked to liver damage and then can cause liver disease. High blood glucose levels can be linked to prediabetes and mean the body is becoming less sensitive to the insulin. Because the glucose levels have dropped it may mean that the body is responding better to insulin now than before.
- Less Drinking All Year
Alcohol Concern, who first devised Dry January have said that for everyone who can actually complete the 31 day challenge, 72% of those people go on to drink less all year. I think that makes sense really. It basically shows that once you have proven something to yourself, it’s much easier to keep doing it.
I’m definitely not saying the whole UK population should give up drinking, although there is a large percentage of us who should probably be drinking less, and less often than we do. It’s not always easy to achieve, but it does have at least these 10 benefits I’ve outlined above.
Give it go, I dare you!