So you’re doing Dry January this year … or at least considering it. Congratulations! No matter how the month turns out, cutting back on your drinking for a little while can help you learn a lot about your relationship with alcohol. But if you really want to make your Dry January a success, we have some tips to help you overcome many of the common pitfalls.
Dry January Pitfall 1: Creature of habit
If you’re spending this month doing the exact same activities you used to do with alcohol, only dry, you’ll probably feel deprived. You look around at your usual football viewing party, seeing all your friends with their usual beer, and your glass of water doesn’t seem so appealing. You hang out at your normal bar with a diet soda instead of a cocktail, and you find you’re not having as much fun. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s the lack of alcohol that’s the problem, which can lead to quitting Dry January early.
Tip: Try mixing up your activities, and doing things you don’t associate with drinking. This could be as small as going to a different place to watch the football game (someone else’s house, out for wings, etc.) or as big as changing to a whole new activity (going ice skating or to the movies instead of to the bar).
Dry January Pitfall 2: Losing motivation
This happens with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions all the time! We start off full of enthusiasm, but after a few days or weeks, it starts to wane. It becomes hard to remember why we’re doing this in the first place.
Tip: Get really clear on your “Why.” Are you trying Dry January because you want to see if you feel healthier and more energetic without alcohol? Because you want to save the money you would usually spend on booze? Because you promised a loved one you would give it a try? Clearly verbalize what your reason is, and write it down. When you start to feel tempted or unmotivated, look at that Why to help you stay on track. You can even set a reminder on your phone to keep it at the top of your mind.
Dry January Pitfall 3: Going it alone
Depending on your workplace, family, and friend group, not drinking can make you feel like an outsider. Often we don’t even realize how pervasive the drinking culture around us is until we cut off the alcohol for a bit. When I stopped drinking, I was shocked at how many wine memes and drinking jokes surrounded me on a daily basis! This can make not drinking feel really lonely.
Tip: If Dry January is making you feel alone, be sure to connect with others who are also abstaining. Some people do the buddy system on Dry January, but that can sabotage you if your buddy quits halfway through the month. Instead, consider signing up for support, like Workit Health’s 30-day Kickstart Your Quit text messages. Or join the U.K.-based Dry January campaign, which will email you support or provide an app.
Dry January Pitfall 4: Not filling the gap
We often don’t think much about the role alcohol plays in our lives, but it’s different for everyone. Is alcohol just a beverage for you, or are you using it as a form of stress relief? Is it a social activity in and of itself? Whatever role alcohol fills, once you remove the alcohol, you’re left with a gap.
Tip: Figure out the role alcohol plays in your life and brainstorm non-intoxicating things that can take its place. We have a blog post, “Replacements for Alcohol,” about this specific topic, but you can also think of your own.
Dry January Pitfall 5: Giving up too much
Some people figure, if they’re going to quit drinking for a month, they might as well quit everything else they do that’s unhealthy. Smoking, eating junk food, playing video games … you name it! This can lead to a short period of time in which they feel very virtuous and healthy, but it’s often followed by a binge.
Tip: Quit drinking for the month of January, but don’t try to give up everything that brings you pleasure. Yes, even if some of those things aren’t really good for you! Cutting everything out at once will most likely make you feel deprived and unhappy, and you’ll be less likely to stick with it. So set yourself up for success by only cutting out alcohol this month.
Dry January can boost your health, save a surprising amount of cash, and provide a lot of insight into your relationship with alcohol. Hopefully, the tips above will help you overcome the pitfalls so you can accomplish the full month without drinking.