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Dry January 2022: Alcohol-free month explained, how you can take part - and benefits of giving up alcohol

After the indulgence of Christmas and New Year, many people opt to avoid alcohol during the month of January

Christmas and New Year celebrations are often the most indulgent of the year, and can leave you feeling like you want to give your body a rest.

Some people attempt to do this through dieting - for example, by giving the vegan diet a go during Veganuary - while others give up foods like chocolate and cheese.

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But December is also a big month for drinking, which can leave you feeling lethargic and downbeat in January.

It’s no surprise then that many people give up alcohol at this time of year as part of Dry January.

So what is Dry January, how can you take part - and what health and lifestyle benefits could you experience as a result of laying off booze for the month?

Here’s what you need to know.

Giving up alcohol for a month brings with it a range of health and lifestyle benefits (image: Shutterstock)

What is Dry January?

Dry January is an annual campaign run by Alcohol Change UK - a charity which has the aim of eradicating the serious harms caused by booze.

It challenges people to give up drinking for the month of January in a bid to get them to rethink or reset their relationship with alcohol.

But the event has grown into something more than its official campaign, with many people dropping their booze intake off their own bats.

In recent years, it has become much easier to drink less alcohol or abstain completely as many major alcohol brands have launched alcohol-free drinks.

How can you take part?

You do not have to take part in Dry January officially, and you can start a dry month on any day you wish.

But taking part officially through Alcohol Change UK will provide you with tools and support, should the prospect of facing an alcohol-free month prove daunting.

The charity offers coaching email newsletters which contain tips and stories from fellow participants.

It also has a ‘Try Dry’ app that not only tracks your progress through Dry January - offering incentives along the way - but is also designed to help participants keep a healthy relationship with booze after their month off.

The app does this by helping you to keep track of the units and calories you have consumed and showing the money you have saved by not drinking or not drinking as much.

Dry January benefits

Saving money is one of the clear benefits of Dry January.

But there are also several other health and lifestyle bonuses from a month of abstinence.

Here are some of the key benefits:

Drinking alcohol can severely disrupt your sleeping patterns and affect your energy levels the next day (image: Shutterstock)

Saving money

With pints frequently hitting and exceeding the £5 barrier in pubs across the South East of England and in major cities, buying alcohol can quickly have a bad impact on your bank balance.

Supply chain issues are also now threatening to increase the price of the UK’s favourite tipples, such as wine and beer.

So it goes without saying that taking a month away from buying alcohol could save you a lot of money - especially if you’re a heavier drinker.

Better sleep

Drinkaware has said those consuming over 14 units per week were at risk of two major sleep issues.

The alcohol education charity said heavier drinkers were likely to be missing out on the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep - a restorative period of rest which can affect your energy levels the next day.

These drinkers were also more likely to have disturbed sleep.

Alcohol can be extremely calorific, especially if you’re a beer or cider drinker. So you might find you lose a bit of weight if you have a month off booze (image: Shutterstock)

Having a lot of alcohol in your system at night not only makes you need to get up to go to the toilet more often but it can also relax your muscles to the extent you could become more susceptible to snoring.

By abstaining for just a few days a week, Drinkaware said many could expect to improve their sleeping patterns, and therefore their daily lives.

Alcohol Change UK reported that a survey it did after Dry January 2020 found 70% of participants enjoyed better sleep with another 66% finding they had better energy levels during the day, having completed the challenge.

Weight loss

Pretty much everything we eat and drink contains calories.

But booze is especially calorific, with Drinkaware analysis finding the average pint of beer weighs in at 182 calories, while a typical pint of cider will set you back 216 calories.

It found alcohol also contains seven calories per gram - almost the same as pure fat. However, unlike fat, it said these calories carried no nutritional benefit.

So, if you’re concerned about your waistline, cutting alcohol from your diet could well help you make some changes to your body.

Longer-term health benefits

An alcohol-free month could also put you on a path to improving your future health prospects, a 2018 study has shown.

The research, conducted by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal, found cutting down on booze for a month: lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced the risk of diabetes and cut the risk of cancer.

But the research added a caveat - while taking a month off from drinking improved health, these benefits were likely to be lost should people revert to their old habits.

So, if you’re seriously considering your relationship with alcohol, it might be worth abstaining beyond the month of January.

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