5 Potential Benefits of Dry January

Jan 6, 2024
By Sarah Church, Ph.D.

Dry January is here again and we have received questions about what people could possibly experience if they take the Dry January challenge. Here are the answers to some questions that we have been asked.

1. What are the health and mental health benefits of completing a month without alcohol? There are many health benefits of taking a break from drinking, these can include, improved sleep, increased energy, weight loss, improved skin, reductions in blood pressure, and reduced cholesterol levels. Psychologically, people engaging in Dry January report better concentration, improved mood, and less anxiety.
Six months after completing Dry January, one research study reported that participants drank, on average, one day less per week and consumed one drink less each day on the days that they did drink when compared to their alcohol intake before the challenge.

2. How can completing this challenge inform some of our inner struggles? People report that they feel more in control during this challenge and afterward that they have a better understanding of their relationship with alcohol as they can compare how they are thinking and feeling while abstaining versus how they felt the month before when they were drinking.

3) Can this challenge serve as a form of relapse prevention? While Dry January is not a treatment for alcohol use disorder it can be a helpful tool for those looking to moderate their alcohol use and to develop healthier habits. At Wholeview we often encourage patients to engage in “sobriety sampling” at the beginning of treatment. We encourage them to stop drinking for 1-3 months. By taking a break from drinking, they can evaluate their drinking habits and better understand how alcohol affects their thoughts and feelings and they can make better choices about the role they want alcohol to play in their lives. Dry January is a socially supported way to engage in sobriety sampling so it’s a great way to kick off treatment for anyone who wants to evaluate their use of alcohol.

4) Are there connections between stopping certain behaviors and improving emotional resilience? When someone takes a break from drinking, their emotional resilience can be improved because they have more cognitive and emotional control. Not drinking can also allow people to be more mindful which can lead to improvements in interpersonal relationships as well. Also, succeeding in Dry January can improve one’s confidence in the ability to say no to alcohol which can lead to improvements in self-esteem.

5) Can participating in a challenge like this with a partner bring you closer? Participating in Dry January with a partner can help bring a couple closer together as they foster shared goals, engage in teamwork and support one another. Couples may also increase quality time by developing healthier pass time activities which can, in turn, strengthen their relationship.

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