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Dry January: how a break from alcohol benefits body and mind

Since 2013, thousands of people have attempted a month free of alcohol in what became known as Dry January.

Timed to coincide with the New Year’s Resolutions and the excesses of the festive season, Dry January challenges people to go 31 days alcohol-free, feel the benefits and perhaps reflect on their relationship with alcohol.

Immediate Benefits

Alcohol Change UK, the charity running Dry January, says there are some things you’ll notice immediately.

Going to sleep without alcohol in your system leads to better, deeper sleep helping you to wake feeling brighter and refreshed. As alcohol is a diuretic – meaning it removes fluid from your body – you’re less likely to be dehydrated too.

Not drinking benefits both your waist and your wallet as well. The average pint of beer costs £3.95 and has more calories than half a cheeseburger.

The effects of just a month free of alcohol on our bodies can be pretty significant. Not only can our livers heal, reducing the levels of proteins that can cause cancer, but our blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of diabetes can also be reduced.

Longer Term

Alcohol Change UK say you can change a habit in 3 weeks. So, whether it is Dry January or another break from drinking, you can make lasting changes.

This is important because alcohol is linked with more than 60 health conditions – including liver disease, depression, high blood pressure and seven types of cancer.

Alcohol is the most significant risk factor for death, ill health and disability for people aged 15-49 in the UK. Every hour, someone dies in the UK due to alcohol.

So making positive, lasting changes about how much, how often and how we drink can reduce our health risks in the future.

Reset the relationship

As well as creating some good, new habits, it’s a chance to reset our relationship with alcohol.

Alcohol plays different roles in many people’s lives. We use it to celebrate, to help us wind down, to give comfort or even to help us cope.

We perhaps sometimes forget that alcohol is a drug because it is so commonplace and legal, and its use is often encouraged in wide parts of society.

Taking a break allows us to reflect on our habits and think about when, why, and how much we drink.

What people say

As dry January enters its second decade, there is strong evidence of the good a break from alcohol does people.

  • 70% of people sleep better
  • 86% of people save money
  • 65% of people notice a general improvement in their health
  • 70% of people drink more healthily after

You can read more about people’s experiences on the Alcohol Change UK website.

Helping yourself succeed

As with any lifestyle change, there are ways to give yourself the best chance of success.

Alcohol Change UK say that people who take on the challenge and use the ‘Try Dry’ app to support them are twice as likely to succeed.

The free app helps you track your savings on units, calories, and money so you can see your progress.

It also helps you spot patterns in your drinking habits and monitor your sleep, energy, mood, and general wellbeing.

Try Dry is available for download for free for both Android and Apple devices. You can sign up to receive regular coaching emails for that little bit of extra support and encouragement.

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