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Key Benefits of Trying the Damp January Challenge

December 22, 2023
18 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
December 22, 2023
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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.
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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 22, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
December 22, 2023
18 min read

With the New Year right around the corner, many people are gearing up to participate in Dry January — a commitment to giving up alcohol for the first month of the new year. While this can be a great challenge for some, for others the idea of not drinking alcohol for an entire month can seem intimidating, overwhelming, or simply unattainable. This is where Damp January comes into the picture; it’s a semi-Dry January, not as restrictive as Dry January, but it still offers a number of benefits.

In this post, we’ll explore what Damp January is and how we can benefit from participating in the Damp January challenge. Let’s get started!

What Is Damp January?

As the name suggests, Damp January is an offshoot of Dry January. Dry January originated in January 2013 by Alcohol Change UK, a British charity that works to reduce alcohol-related harm. Today, a mere decade later, it’s a global phenomenon with millions of participants each year. 

However, for many people, the idea of not drinking any alcohol for a month can seem too extreme. Some people may want to cut back on drinking or make changes to their relationship with alcohol rather than saying goodbye to alcohol for good. This is where Damp January comes into the picture.

Instead of giving up alcohol for a month, Damp January is geared toward cultivating healthier drinking habits. It’s all about making progress toward a healthier relationship with alcohol — whatever that looks like for you. 

For instance, as our CEO and co-founder Vedant Pradeep explained, “If you typically drink 15 drinks a week, you may aim to cut out a handful of those each week during the month and slowly curb your alcohol consumption. Alternatively, you may choose drinks with lower alcohol content. Someone may keep their glass of wine with dinner but forgo alcohol in work or social settings. Others may drink on certain days or times of the week. It’s a personal decision, which can be empowering.”

In essence, as Pradeep noted, “Damp January is a less extreme and potentially much more sustainable version of the challenge that is focused on reducing our alcohol intake during the month of January.”

Health Benefits of Damp January

So does Damp January really work? Simply put, yes! Many people who participate in the Damp January challenge experience a number of benefits — from improved sleep to better mental health. Indeed, cutting back on alcohol can do wonders for nearly every aspect of our well-being. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of participating in Damp January:

Physical Health Benefits

  • Healthier liver. Since alcohol is metabolized in the liver, chronic, heavy consumption of alcohol can cause significant damage. Every time our liver filters alcohol, some liver cells die, and 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. 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 our overall sleep quality by limiting the amount of time spent in REM sleep — the most important stage 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 often drink heavily 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, liver, mouth and throat, esophageal, stomach, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. 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 Damp January? While we often associate drinking with pleasure — thanks to the flood of dopamine, that “feel good” chemical, 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 will feel less easily agitated, annoyed, upset, or anxious. Plus there’s the added benefit of better sleep, which does wonders for our mood and energy levels.
  • Greater 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 also long-term stress. Alcohol also changes how our body responds to stress, making it harder to cope without it. 
  • Enhanced 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 our last drink.

The bottom line? Cutting back on alcohol can lead to significant improvements in our physical and mental health. One study observed that those with alcohol use disorders who significantly reduced their alcohol intake had a reduced mortality risk. Furthermore, 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 higher energy levels. 

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

Who Should Really Try Damp January?

So who would benefit most from Damp January or who should try it? If you’re not quite ready to completely quit drinking or are curious about cultivating a healthier relationship with alcohol, Damp January is a great place to begin. Or if you’re looking to take “new year, new me” to a whole new level, the Damp January challenge is a great way to get your health on track after the holiday season. 

Indeed, as our CEO and co-founder Vedant Pradeep said, Damp January can be beneficial for “pretty much anyone that wants to make positive adjustments and experience all the health and emotional benefits of drinking less, while not eliminating alcohol completely from their lives.”

Plus, those who try Damp January and start noticing its benefits might be inclined to continue changing their relationship with alcohol. For some, Damp January is more convenient than Dry January. As Pradeep explained, “By not cutting out alcohol completely, but instead being mindful about consumption, those who attempt Damp January may find that it’s easier to continue the trend beyond the first month of the year, and increase the possibility of a meaningful life change."

In fact, according to our survey results from last year’s Damp January challenge, 78.8% of participants planned to continue working on staying “damp” or moderate after the challenge. And 21.2% planned on trying out a “dry” or alcohol-free period in the future.

When it comes down to it, participating in the Damp January challenge can be a great launching pad to feeling, looking, and living healthier. It also serves as a great confidence and resilience-building tool. By successfully completing the challenge, we realize we have the ability to make changes and incorporate healthier habits into our life.

How Can You Participate in a Damp January Challenge?

If you’re thinking about cutting back on alcohol or curious about drinking less, our Damp January Challenge is a great place to start. We can help you develop a customized plan to help you reach your drinking goals — whatever they are. 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.

It’s worth noting that being part of a community can be incredibly helpful for participating in this challenge. It not only allows you a safe space to share your struggles, but it also can help provide you with encouragement and support as you work toward healthier habits. Furthermore, a group can help keep you accountable throughout the challenge. 

The Bottom Line

The Damp January challenge is a great opportunity to make small changes to our personal drinking habits. It’s a more relaxed approach to Dry January for those who don’t want to completely remove alcohol from their lives. Participating in the Damp January challenge can offer a number of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits — from a healthier weight and heart to better sleep and improved mood. Keep in mind that Damp January doesn’t mean we’re saying goodbye to alcohol entirely — or forever. But using Damp January to build a healthier relationship with alcohol can put us on the path to a healthier and happier future.

Reframe can help guide and support you during the Damp January challenge. 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 Damp January?

Unlike Dry January’s challenge to give up alcohol completely for a month, Damp 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 Damp January?

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

3. Who should participate in Damp January?

Damp January can be beneficial for anyone looking to change their drinking habits, cut back on alcohol, or become healthier generally. You can base it on your own personal goals and circumstances. 

4. How can you participate in Damp January?

Our Damp January Challenge is a great place to start. We can help you develop a customized plan to help you reach your drinking goals — whatever those may be. We’ll also equip you with a comprehensive toolkit, personalized drink tracker, and connect you with a 24/7 global community to help encourage you along the way.

Join the Damp 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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