It feels so good to have finished your first Dry January! You made it through 31 days alcohol-free. Now that you’ve gotten used to enjoying life without a buzz, you’re a bit worried about how to incorporate drinking back into your life without overindulging.

An estimated 15 percent of all Americans and Britons are expected to try “Dry January” this year, meaning quitting alcohol for the month. This can be quite a challenge for those who are used to having a drink habitually. Being aware of how hard it may be to abstain from alcohol is the first step, but you should also know also how greatly your physical and mental functioning could improve.

Those who have attempted Dry January particularly note how much better their sleep, mood and athletic performance were by the end of the month. The aim of Dry January is ultimately to become more mindful about how often you drink in general - so that you don't need dry months as reminders to stay sober.

Set goals

Quitting alcohol can be a very difficult journey. Setting realistic goals can help you make that journey a bit easier. Deciding how many days per week you want to drink is an important first step. Having at least two sober days each week has been proven to be beneficial in reducing symptoms when quitting drinking. Making such small changes can have tremendous positive impacts on your life before and after quitting alcohol.

Keep track

Accurately tracking how much alcohol you are consuming goes a long way in helping you quit. Knowing how hard quitting can be, it is essential to have an accurate understanding ahead of time regarding how many drinks you have been having and how much each unit of alcohol contains. Comparing your alcohol intake before and after quitting can serve as a powerful reminder of how far you have come. This helps establish positive reinforcement as well as providing additional motivation to keep going strong and hit those long-term goals.

Eat food

Eating food before and while you drink can certainly help to slow down absorption of  the alcohol into your system. However, how hard it is to quit drinking alcohol depends largely on how much alcohol you were consuming prior to quitting - be it one drink a day or an entire bottle of vodka at once. On average, it takes about two weeks for the body to become accustomed to a lower amount of alcohol in its system after someone quits or decreases drinking. Withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and cravings may be experienced in this time, but these often subside over time. Ultimately, it depends on the individual how hard or easy they find it to stop drinking - yet, the benefits of doing so cannot be overstated!

Find alternatives

Quitting alcohol can be incredibly hard, both before and after actually stopping. As part of your plan for ending the unhealthy habit, it is important to find alternatives that fill the time you once spent drinking. Think about activities that you used to enjoy such as reading, sports, or anything else that you are interested in and make sure to pursue these things with enthusiasm.

It is best to stay away from people and places that will encourage drinking; this helps keep recovery progress going in the right direction. Making a plan on how to spend free time when quitting drinking can give you more control over how much its affects your life, setting you up for success.