Maybe you drank one too many spiked eggnogs over the holidays, maybe you’ve noticed alcohol is negatively affecting your life, or maybe you’re just “sober-curious.” Whatever your reason, you’re not alone. “Dry January,” or going alcohol-free for the first month of the year, has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Many people try Dry January for the sake of improving their health (especially after a couple of months of indulgences). From better sleep to a healthier gut, cutting alcohol can have a lot of benefits. But let’s be clear: Dry January should not be used for “detoxing” or losing weight. As with any short term fix, a month doesn’t make a big difference in the grand scheme of your health.
However, if you’re looking to better understand your relationship to alcohol or want to refocus your intention, Dry January is a great challenge to start the year. Just because you don’t necessarily have a problem with alcohol does not mean alcohol does not cause problems in your life (think: headaches at work after a couple of glasses of wine the night before or craving a drink when you’re stressed). Testing your relationship with alcohol can help you better understand your health and happiness.
Health and happiness aside, I get it. Dry January is hard for most of us. FOMA (fear of missing alcohol) is real, and keeping social plans can feel extremely difficult when so many events are centered around the very thing you’re avoiding. With a little help (and a whole lot of willpower), you can do it. Here’s how to make it to February 1, alcohol-free, while keeping your social life intact.
1. Use it as a time to reassess your relationship with alcohol
Throughout the 31 days, reflect on the process and consider journaling your findings. What feelings come up? Why and when is it hard to resist? Do you feel any social anxiety without alcohol? When do you crave a drink the most: when you’re stressed, anxious, or bored? Don’t judge your answers, but find where you’re using alcohol as a crutch to get through tough emotions. We can often identify underlying emotional issues when alcohol is no longer masking them. “Dry January” is not just good for 31 days; it can help you find what needs healing for your future self.
2. Make a plan to replace alcohol in your routine
Plan what you’re going to replace the habit with. If you’re in the habit of having a drink when you get home from work, go for a walk instead. If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, have a (healthy!) alternative like iced mint tea or kombucha. Replacing a habit instead of taking it out of your routine will make a big difference in what you feel you’re missing out on.
3. Get an accountability buddy
Whether it’s a friend in your inner circle or your sister that lives across the country, find an accountability buddy that either wants to do Dry January as well or is willing to hold you accountable. Check-in with each other often and talk through temptations and negative feelings.
4. Try something new with your friends
If your friendships revolve around happy hours and boozy brunches, suggest or plan some activities out of the friendship comfort zone. Instead of grabbing a 5pm drink, invite your work friends to hot yoga. Get creative with your social plans: invite your girls over for a spa night, plan an ice skating outing, or attend a painting class.
5. Commit to a challenge you’ve been wanting to try
Always wanted to run a marathon? Now is the perfect time to train when you don’t have hangovers and late nights holding you back. Think of Dry January as achieving something instead of taking something away. Whether you’re interested in taking an online course, reaching a fitness goal, or perfecting your morning routine, commit to the challenge and appreciate how avoiding alcohol is helping you achieve it.
6. Have a go-to mocktail
You don’t have to skip the GNOs and pub crawls just because you’re not drinking alcohol (seriously!). Order an orange juice in a champagne glass or a virgin bloody mary at weekend brunch, and get a club soda with lime at the bar. Often, our need for alcohol has a lot to do with what feels normal. It’s normal to have a drink in hand while seeing a band or a festive drink with a meal out. Have a go-to non-alcoholic drink to order when you’re out, and experiment with fun mocktail recipes (I personally love Perrier with kombucha, mint, and a splash of lemon juice – trust me).
7. Notice the good changes
Don’t focus on what you’re missing out on (that damn FOMA). Instead, focus on what’s gone well since you cut out alcohol. Is your skin clearer? Are you more productive when you wake up without hangovers? Are you finally meditating every morning, or successfully taking off your makeup before bed and applying night cream after nights out (for me, that’s a win)? Do you feel more energetic, or have you been eating healthier? While it may be easy to notice what you are missing out on (oh, but that glass of Pinot Grigio!), focus instead on what you’re gaining.
8. Don’t be judgmental
Just because you feel like you need a change, doesn’t mean your friends should (AKA don’t spend your time together preaching about the dangers of alcohol as they uncomfortably sip their vodka sodas). If asked about your decision, explain why you wanted to try it, not why they should. Show your friends that you can have (and be!) just as much fun without drinking (bonus: they’ll be less likely to peer pressure you to have a drink).