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by Erin Bates December 29, 2020
Here we are, finally at the end of 2020 and on the cusp of a brand new year. Though 2021 might not be drastically different (at least not yet), there’s something comforting in the ability to “start fresh” in January.
Many look to new year’s resolutions- from working out to eating healthier- as opportunities to build better and healthier habits. Dry January is a growing trend for resolutions, stemming from the idea that a month off alcohol can be beneficial in numerous ways.
Especially after a year like this, with young adults drinking at significantly higher rates than before, a break from alcohol could be a welcome change for many. But why give up an entire month of drinking? There could be more positive reasons than you think.
There are so many possible benefits of a booze free month, and while these are definitely not guarantees, we invite you to check in with yourself throughout the month to take notice of what changes for you. Here are just some of the benefits of an alcohol-free month:
While a night of drinking usually leads to quickly falling asleep, the actual quality of that sleep is pretty poor. Alcohol affects your sleep because of a few different factors. The first is that when your liver metabolizes alcohol, it takes a long time, so more alcohol continues to circulate throughout the body. Because of this process of alcohol slowly leaving the blood, the person is likely to experience sleep disruptions throughout the night.
Another issue is how alcohol can disrupt REM sleep. REM, which stands for rapid eye movement, occurs about 90 minutes into rest, and is the stage where you typically dream. REM is important for several reasons: research has found it helps us process emotions, regulate and prepare for trauma, and even effect memory and mood.
If your REM sleep is hindered because of drinking, you potentially miss out on these crucial sleeping stages. If you decide to participate in Dry January, be sure to take note of your sleeping patterns or if you feel more rested in the morning.
Ever woken up with a hangover and had an energized and productive day? If anyone has experienced this, let me know your secret. But for the rest of us, the day after drinking is usually a sluggish, sleepy day spent in bed. By eliminating alcohol, you automatically avoid hangovers and the dreaded side effects it can bring the morning after.
Plus, waking up hangover free can lead to a more productive day. It’s easier to get up early and tackle any tasks rather than feeling sick in bed. Since you may be sleeping better, both your brain and your body will be ready to go.
Especially with the ongoing pandemic, having a strong immune system is more important than ever. However, alcohol can negatively impact the function of your immune system in several ways. For one, drinking can cause inflammation, especially in the gut. This inflammation can kill of microorganisms that help regulate and maintain your immune system.
Alcohol can also damage immune cells and fine hairs (cilia) in the lungs, which are important for flushing out pathogens. This makes it much easier for viral particles to infect someone because of their worsening immune system.
Your body essentially prioritizes breaking down alcohol before other bodily functions, which takes away needed energy from maintaining your overall health. All in all, taking a break from drinking might help give your immune system a much needed breather to be as healthy as possible.
With better sleep, more energy and an improved immune system, you may just find a month off drinking will improve your overall health too. You might have more energy to get in that extra workout, and you may lose weight since you’ve reduced your calorie intake by cutting out alcohol. Your skin might look brighter because you’re more hydrated (alcohol dehydrates you and can cause dry, red skin).
Mentally, you might even notice your mood improving. That’s because alcohol can worsen feelings of anxiety and depression, and consumption can lead to a depletion in neurotransmitters, which help the brain naturally decrease anxiety. Without these “brain messengers”, people may become more anxious and want more alcohol to quell that anxiety. And after a year like 2020, self medicating was almost too easy. Sometimes it can feel like alcohol helps, but really, you’re exacerbating any underlying issues. Again, take notice of any changes you might have in your mood once you stop drinking. You might find yourself less anxious than before.
Let’s be honest- the last of these benefits is that you simply save money typically spent on booze. We all know drinking isn’t cheap, especially if you’re out at a bar or restaurant. For Dry January, take a look at your typical spending throughout a normal drinking month. Month after month, it can add up! Now see how much you save by choosing to stay dry.
And while you might be spending some money on alternatives, you may find yourself wanting less when you are consuming something. Instead of automatically reaching for another drink, it might be an opportunity to savor the one or two drinks you’ve made for yourself.
While there are so many great benefits to participate in Dry January, these are just a few things you have to look forward to. Dry January is an opportunity to start the year off fresh and hangover free. By eliminating alcohol for 31 days, you offer your body a break to focus solely on itself, and you allow yourself time to focus on building better habits.
We hope you join us this year for Dry January!