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Alcohol and Health

Health Benefits of Dry(ish) January

December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Reframe Content Team
December 13, 2023
22 min read

The New Year is almost here, and with it comes an opportunity to create new goals, break bad habits, and work toward a healthier, happier life. But here’s the thing: changing any habit or implementing a new routine can be difficult. Whether you’re trying to exercise more, eat healthier, or cut back on drinking, breaking bad habits takes deliberate effort and patience. This is why it’s often best to start small — and why Dryish January can be incredibly beneficial for those of us looking to change our relationship with alcohol.

In this post, we’ll explore what Dryish January is and the physical and mental benefits we can reap from participating in it. Let’s get started!

What Is Dryish January?

As is evidenced by its name, Dryish January is an offshoot of Dry January, a commitment to giving up alcohol for the first month of the new year, which has grown in popularity over the last several years. Dry January began as a movement in the United Kingdom in 2013. Today, a mere decade later, it’s a global phenomenon — supported by mobile apps, websites, and communities where participants share their experiences, tips, and insights.

However, for many people, the idea of eliminating alcohol entirely for a month can seem overwhelming. Some people may want to explore a life of sobriety, but aren’t yet ready to go cold turkey, while others might just be looking to develop healthier drinking habits. This is where Dryish January comes into the picture.

Dryish January is all about making progress toward a healthier relationship with alcohol — whatever that means for you. For instance, some people might try to cut back on their alcohol consumption for the month, while others might try to practice mindful drinking. Still others might challenge themselves to forgo alcohol in social settings, or opt for drinks with a lower alcohol content. 

When it comes down to it, Dryish January isn’t so much about stopping drinking entirely, but about making small changes that help us examine our relationship with alcohol and cut back on our consumption. And here’s the best part: if we happen to slip up, it doesn’t mean we’ve failed the challenge. We can pick ourselves back up and try again!

What Are the Benefits of Dryish January?

There’s a reason that Dry January and Dryish January have taken off in recent years. And that’s because more and more people are realizing the benefits of cutting back on alcohol, or saying goodbye to drinking for good. Indeed, changing our relationship with alcohol can do wonders for nearly every aspect of our well-being, including our physical, mental and emotional health. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of participating in Dryish January:

Physical Health Benefits

Healthier liver. Since alcohol is metabolized in the liver, chronic, heavy consumption of alcohol can significantly damage this vital organ. Every time our liver filters alcohol, some liver cells die; prolonged alcohol misuse over many years can result in permanent liver damage. However, our liver has a remarkable ability to heal. Cutting back on alcohol allows our liver to repair itself. 

  • Healthier heart. Heavy alcohol consumption can do a number on our heart health. It puts extra strain and stress on the heart, leading to high blood pressure (hypertension). Over time, alcohol can increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, increasing our risk of a heart attack and stroke. Limiting our consumption of alcohol helps protect our heart — and our life.
  • Healthier skin. We might not realize it, but alcohol can actually affect our appearance, including our skin. It dehydrates us, leading to dry skin, inflammation, and reduced collagen levels. Over time, alcohol misuse can lead to jaundice, a yellowing of the skin. When we cut back on drinking, one of the first things we’ll notice is that we look healthier — even younger!
  • Healthier weight. It’s no secret that drinking alcohol can lead to weight gain. Alcohol robs our body of nutrients and disrupts our metabolic processes. And a lot of alcoholic beverages are full of added sugar and empty calories. In fact, binge drinking can lead to consuming hundreds of extra calories a day. If we’re looking to lose some weight, cutting back on alcohol is a good place to start.
  • Improved sleep. Sleep is vital to nearly every aspect of our health, from our mood and immune system to our energy and mental clarity. While it’s true that alcohol can help us fall asleep faster, it actually reduces the overall quality of our sleep by limiting the amount of time spent in REM — the most important sleep cycle for our physical and mental restoration. Many people who cut back on drinking report a better, more restful night sleep.
  • Improved immune function. Alcohol takes a toll on our immune system by reducing the number of white blood cells our body needs to fight off germs and bacteria. In fact, people who drink a lot of alcohol frequently are at an increased risk of developing infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis because their immune system isn’t up to snuff. Cutting back on drinking helps strengthen our immune system.
  • Reduces cancer risk. It might be surprising to learn, but alcohol is associated with seven different types of cancers: breast cancer, liver cancer, mouth and throat cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Reducing our consumption of alcohol or eliminating it entirely helps protect us from these conditions.

Mental and Emotional Health Benefits

What about the mental and emotional health benefits of participating in Dryish January? While we often associate drinking with pleasure — thanks to the flood of that “feel good” chemical dopamine in our brain — alcohol is a depressant. It not only slows our central nervous system, but it also impacts our mood, thoughts and behavior. In fact, research shows that regularly misusing alcohol disrupts our brain’s chemical equilibrium, altering mood, behavior, and emotions in the long term. 

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the mental and emotional health benefits of cutting back on drinking: 

  • Improved mood. Alcohol disrupts our brain’s chemical balance and increases depression and anxiety. When we cut back or stop drinking, our brain can return to normal. We likely won’t feel as easily agitated, annoyed, upset, or anxious. Plus there’s the added benefit of better sleep — which does wonders for our mood and energy levels.
  • Enhanced resilience. While many of us turn to alcohol for relaxation and stress management, the relationship between alcohol and stress is complicated. Research indicates that alcohol triggers chemical changes in our brain that lead to short-term relaxation, but long-term stress. Alcohol also changes how our body responds to stress, making it harder to cope without it. 
  • Better mental focus. Alcohol disrupts our thought processes, judgements, and memory. In fact, heavy drinking can actually shrink our hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s critical to memory and learning. Research suggests that we may start to see cognitive improvements (focus, concentration, planning, organization, and memory) as quickly as two to four weeks after we stop drinking.

The bottom line? Cutting back on alcohol can lead to significant improvements in our physical and mental health. Research shows that even a brief break from alcohol for moderate to heavy drinkers can produce health benefits, such as better sleep, weight loss, improved mood and energy levels.

But don’t just take our word for it! Participate in Dry January or Dryish January and experience these benefits yourself!

Who Should Participate in Dryish January?

How do you know if you should give Dryish January a shot? If you’ve been wanting to change your drinking habits, but haven’t known how or where to start, Dryish January is a great place to begin. If you’ve ever wondered if you have a drinking problem — or questioned whether you have a healthy relationship with alcohol — that’s probably an indication that you can benefit from Dryish January. 

Similarly, if you’re looking to improve your health — whether it’s wanting to get better sleep, lose some weight, or feel less anxious — participating in Dryish January can be a great launching pad to enhanced well-being. Remember that we can define Dryish January exactly as we want, whether that means setting a weekly limit of alcoholic beverages or practicing mindfulness while drinking.

Participating in Dryish January doesn’t necessarily mean we’re saying goodbye to alcohol for good. Some of us might not be ready for that — and that’s okay! But using Dryish January to explore our relationship with alcohol and make small changes can put us on the path to a healthier and happier future.

How To Do a Dryish January Challenge: 8 Tips

Let’s say you’re interested in trying Dryish January — how do you get started? A good place to begin is by downloading our app. In fact, we can help you develop a customized plan based on your own goals — whether you want to go 31 days without alcohol or are just looking to cut back a bit. We’ll also equip you with personalized daily activities and a toolkit, and we’ll connect you with a 24/7 community for encouragement along the way. 

In addition to downloading our app, here are eight tips for a embarking on successful Dryish January challenge:

  1. Set realistic goal(s). If you’re not ready to quit alcohol cold turkey, that’s okay — that’s the whole point of Dryish January! Create realistic goals for changing your relationship with alcohol over the course of the next month. For instance, maybe you want to limit yourself to one drink a week. Or maybe you want to avoid going out to bars and limit your consumption to a glass of wine at dinner at home. Again, the most important thing is to start small and be realistic, no matter what your current drinking habits look like.
  2. Identify your why. Take time to think about why you want to cut back on your drinking. A why is an incredibly powerful tool that keeps you motivated and on track. It can also help you rebound if you slip up. Do you want to cut back on drinking because of your health, your happiness, your relationships, your finances, your overall quality of life? Once you recognize your why, write it down and put it somewhere you’ll see every day.
  3. Track your drinks. When we’ve created our goals, it’s important to stick to them and stay within our limits. When we do drink, it can be incredibly helpful to start tracking our drinks so that we don’t exceed our limit. There’s something about counting drinks that encourages us to stay on track. Use a notepad on your phone, or Reframe’s drink tracker.
  4. Try new activities. For many of us, drinking is synonymous with relaxation and socialization. To change our drinking habit during Dryish January, it can be helpful to find new hobbies and interests or re-engage in ones we might have forgotten. Plus, trying new things opens us up to meeting new people and discovering enjoyable activities. Try a new exercise, volunteer in the community, or take a photography class— the possibilities are literally endless.
  5. Practice mindful drinking. Mindfulness and mindful drinking can be incredibly effective tools in helping us stay on track during Dryish January. We can practice mindful drinking by paying attention to why we’re drinking (i.e., what is making us reach for that glass of alcohol) and how we’re feeling as we drink. It’s really about tuning into the experience of drinking, rather than just mindlessly consuming alcohol. Research shows that mindfulness not only helps us better manage stress, but can even help us manage and reduce our cravings for alcohol.
  6. Opt for alcohol-free alternatives. A growing number of various non-alcoholic drinks on the market mimic the taste and experience of alcoholic beverages, including alcohol-free beers and wines. If you’re having a particularly strong craving, try one. Even if you’re trying not to drink in a social setting, you can still enjoy a non-alcoholic alternative. You might also consider one of these DIY mocktail recipes.
  7. Create a support system. We’re not meant to journey through life alone, particularly when we’re trying to make an important life change. Contrary to popular belief, seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of great strength. Consider telling a close friend or family member about your Dryish January goals. They can help keep you on track and encourage you to continue, even if you slip up. You might even consider seeking the support of a therapist or trained mental health provider. There is nothing wrong with that!
  8. Go easy on yourself. You aren’t a failure if you slip up and fall back into old routines during Dryish January. Making any sort of change is hard, particularly when it comes to alcohol. Practice self-compassion and be gentle with yourself. Berating yourself will only make you feel worse and lead you into a vicious cycle of wanting to drink to cope with uncomfortable feelings. Don’t throw in the towel if you get off track! Shake it off and start again the next day. 

The Bottom Line

Dryish January can be a great option for anyone who wants to change their drinking habits without saying goodbye to alcohol altogether. Part of the benefit of participating in Dryish January is that it can be whatever we want it to be, whether by limiting the number of drinks we consume in a week or by practicing mindful drinking. The goal is to make small, sustainable changes. Cutting back on alcohol can lead to significant improvements in our health and well-being, from a healthier weight and heart to better sleep and improved mood. If you’ve wanted to change your relationship with alcohol but haven’t known where to start, Dryish January is a good place to begin!

Reframe can help guide and support you during your Dryish January journey. We’re a science-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Summary FAQs

1. What is Dryish January?

Unlike Dry January’s challenge to give up alcohol completely for a month, Dryish January is all about making progress toward a healthier relationship with alcohol — whatever that means for you. For instance, some people might try to cut back on their alcohol consumption for the month, while others might try to practice mindful drinking. Still others might challenge themselves to forgo alcohol in social settings, or opt for drinks with a lower alcohol content. 

2. What are the benefits of Dryish January?

Dryish January offers a number of physical and mental health benefits, such as a healthier heart, liver, and skin, improved sleep and immune function, better mood, and greater mental focus. 

3. Who should participate in Dryish January?

Dryish January can be beneficial for anyone looking to change their drinking habits, cut back on alcohol, or become healthier. It can be based on your own personal goals and circumstances. 

4. How can you participate in Dryish January?

Downloading the Reframe app is a good place to start. We can help you develop a customized plan based on your own goals — whether it’s going 31 days without alcohol or cutting back on consumption. We’ll also equip you with personalized daily activities, a toolkit, and connect you with a 24/7 community to help encourage you along the way. 

5. What are some tips for participating in Dryish January? 

To get the most out of Dryish January, it can be helpful to set realistic goals, identify your why, track your drinks, try new activities, practice mindful drinking, opt for alcohol-free alternatives, create a support system, and practice self-compassion.

Join the Dryish January Challenge With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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