One of our favourite parts of the festive season is treating ourselves to mince pies and mulled wine – there’s no judgement here, we’re all in the same boat. However, now that January has arrived on our doorstep, it might be time to reign it in a little. Over-indulging, particularly when it comes to alcohol, can have detrimental effects on our mental and physical health. Excessive alcohol consumption just isn’t compatible with a balanced lifestyle. That’s why so many people choose to kickstart the year with a 31-day alcohol-free challenge. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you may think, especially when you’re armed with our useful Dry January tips. Let’s get started.
1. Find a Buddy
The first of our top tips for Dry January is to find a buddy or buddies. 31 days can feel like a chore if you’re doing it on your own. So, why not include some friends or family members? When everyone in your household is on the same page, it will make it much easier to stick to the plan and the overall experience is more likely to be a positive one.
We recommend having a buddy because you can help support each other when motivation is waning. You can hold each other accountable too, making sure both of you stay on track. We also recommend finding a buddy because you can use this challenge as an opportunity to talk about alcohol consumption. Start a conversation with friends and family about your relationship with alcohol and take some time to reflect. Perhaps you want to change how you consume alcohol going forward, beyond the end of the month?
2. Make a Plan of Action
To get started, we suggest mapping out your Dry January goals. In this instance, the goal might seem obvious but hear us out. Mark the end date of the challenge where you will see it. Grab a highlighter and mark it on your wall calendar, stick a post-it on the fridge, or add a reminder to your online planner. Keeping your end goals insight will help you stay motivated as the month goes on.
Next, you should take a look at your calendar. We tend to associate alcohol with certain places, events, or times. For instance, you might have a standing appointment with your partner to catch up over a Friday night bottle of wine. Likewise, you might have weekend plans to watch the match with friends and enjoy a couple of beers. To make things easier for yourself, you may need to avoid these situations or triggers.
Whether it’s a date night or a night out with friends, you can easily make some adjustments to accommodate your Dry January Challenge. Treat yourself and your partner to a cinema date or try cooking a new recipe at home together. Likewise, you could host your friends and serve snacks instead of beers whilst watching the football. Alternatively, try to pick a pub or bar that offers an alcohol-free version of your favourite drink so you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Many bars now stock alcohol-free cocktails (mocktails) and zero-alcohol versions of popular beers and stouts. Smashing your Dry January goal has never been easier!
3. Stick to Your Guns
If you have a special occasion on the horizon, don’t panic. There’s no need to take a rain check either, you just need to stick to your guns and be prepared. The sentiment “fail to prepare and prepare to fail” rings true here. You should explain to your friends and family that you’re taking part in Dry January when you arrive. Many people will understand and they won’t pressure you. Needless to say, there will always be one. At some point, your willpower will be tested but if you hold strong, it will be worth it. Be firm when letting the person know that you’re taking a break from alcohol for the month. If the person continues to pester or pressure you, politely remove yourself from the situation.
As mentioned above, most bars and restaurants now offer an array of zero-alcohol options so you won’t be stuck sipping 7up all night. Likewise, you can find many 00 options in supermarkets and off-licences so you can pick some up en route if you’re going to a private function.
4. Slipping up Isn’t the End of the World
If you do cave in during Dry January, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not the end of the world and you should be kind to yourself. The main goal of the challenge is to cut down on alcohol consumption after an indulgent Christmas period. Whether you cut down significantly or cut out alcohol completely is up to you – you can make the rules for your own challenge if you want.
If you are determined to complete the 31-day challenge without interruption, why not just start again? Start afresh with a clean slate and extend the end date beyond the end of the month. Again, you can make the rules. Alternatively, you can get back on the horse until the end of the month. Slipping up once or twice during the month is better than giving up completely! You are sure to be proud of yourself once you arrive at the end, having stuck with it.
What Are Your Dry January Tips?
Dry January is an amazing way to kickstart your year on the right foot, by putting your physical and mental health first. Alcohol isn’t just packed with calories, making it difficult to fit into a healthy diet in large amounts, but it changes your brain chemistry too. Alcohol is a depressant and it can leave you feeling down or anxious after a night out. This is particularly unhelpful at the beginning of the year when you might already be struggling with New Year Blues or back-to-work anxiety. Why not give the challenge a go this year? Our Dry January tips are sure to make things easier! If you feel like you are struggling and you would like to speak to a medical professional, our doctors are always happy to help. Simply book a video consultation to speak to our Irish-based doctors from the comfort of your own home. You can find more info on how our video consultations work here.