Dry January sounds like a simple proposition: no alcohol. For 31 days. And some enthusiasts get started without much planning – perhaps even a hangover after an eventful New Year’s Eve.
There is no data to suggest that these people will not be able to abstain from drinking, said Dr. David Wolinsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine who specializes in substance abuse. But starting the month with a few strategies in hand – and a clear idea of your goals – can help you make the most of the challenge.
“Most of the benefits of Dry January will likely be related to the intention with which you go into Dry January,” Dr. Wolinsky said. The challenge is not a substitute for treatment for people with alcohol use disorders, he emphasizes, but those looking to make a fresh start in the year can benefit from the mental and physical reset it provides. can offer, and the opportunity to adopt new habits. For example, a 2016 study found that six months after Dry January ended, participants drank less than before.
We spoke with Dr. Wolinsky and other experts about some strategies for a successful month.
Tell people about your project.
One of the simplest steps is to let friends and family know that you plan to take a month off, said Casey McGuire Davidson, sobriety coach and host of “The Hello Someday Podcast.” , which focuses on “sober and curious” topics. .
Research has shown that accountability can play a vital role in helping habits stick, and you might find a friend or partner to join you, Ms Davidson suggested. Even if you don’t, you might be surprised how much people encourage your goal (even though she said you should only share it with people you trust).
“Dry January gives people a time when they can stop drinking with community and support,” she said, “without a lot of questions.” Davidson also recommended reading books that can help you evaluate your relationship with alcohol or listening to podcasts about sobriety.
Identify your triggers.
Habits tend to be influenced by certain environments or situations, said Wendy Wood, professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California and author of “Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick “.
For example, “you’re used to brushing your teeth,” she said. “You put your toothbrush in a certain place. “You usually brush your teeth around the same time in the morning at this location. » Dr Wood said that for many people, drinking habits are shaped in the same way.
“Understanding where you usually drink, who you are with, what you drink and disrupting those cues – disrupting the context in some way – is really key to changing habits,” she said.
It can be helpful to write down observations throughout the month, Dr. Wolinsky said, recommending three columns: In what situation did you want to drink? What do you think about alcohol consumption? And what did you do instead?
Find the sticking points.
Spending extra time or effort on an activity that’s usually just fine for you — like pouring a glass of wine when you walk in the door after a long day at work — significantly reduces the likelihood of engaging in this behavior, said Dr. Wood. Something as simple as moving your wine glasses to the back of the cupboard can create just enough friction to help you reach your abstention goal.
Likewise, Ms. Davidson recommended removing all alcohol from your home before January 1, or at least your favorite drinks.
“I was a red wine girl,” she said. When she took a break from drinking – a break that lasted eight years – Ms. Davidson told her husband: “I can’t have anything in the house.” “If it’s sitting on the counter, I can’t not get a drink.”
Make a plan to take care of yourself.
All experts recommend thinking about what you will do during times when you would otherwise be drinking. So instead of mixing a cocktail to relax you before bed (which can disrupt sleep anyway), you can try deep breathing or making a cup of tea. It may take some trial and error to find satisfactory alternatives.
“Give yourself grace” in the coming weeks, said Khadi Oluwatoyin, founder of the Sober Black Girls Club. Take time to rest whenever you can. And don’t make too many New Year’s resolutions, she suggested; for example, doing Dry January while adopting a new diet can be a recipe for failure. Some people make mistakes just because they are hungry, Ms Oluwatoyin said: “Go get something to eat!
Davidson recommends rewarding yourself, either at the end of each day or at the end of the week. Fun activities or treats can help the month seem less stressful.
“It’s a time of experimentation and curiosity,” she said. “Instead of going to a bar, can you get a pedicure or massage on Friday night? Or buy takeout sushi and plan a movie night with friends or your partner? » These “small changes” can give you something to look forward to.