One of the most popular new year's resolutions is to give up alcohol for the entire month of January, commonly known as 'Dry January'. Over 3 million people in the UK take part in Dry January each year, but what are the benefits of giving up alcohol?
The 20th of January is said to be the day when most people give up on their pledge to go dry for January, caving in by having a pint with friends or reaching for that glass of wine at the end of a tough day. A study found that people who do stay dry for the whole of January end up drinking less for the rest of the year than they would otherwise. So is it beneficial to stick at it and keep alcohol at bay?
Benefits of giving up alcohol
1. No hangovers
Possibly the most obvious, but hangovers can completely ruin your day and it's doubtful there's anyone out there that likes getting them! They are the bane of any drinker's life and they can have you out of action for a few hours or even a few days. Spending your weekend suffering from a hangover means you can't get other more productive things done, so by reducing your drinking and not being hungover so much, you will increase your productivity and overall quality of life.
2. Reduced risk of getting cancer
Drinking alcohol is linked to many forms of cancer, including mouth cancer. By reducing your intake, you are reducing your risk of developing these life-threatening illnesses. Cancer is the second most common cause of death behind heart disease, so it makes sense to cut down on your drinking in order to improve your chances of living a long and healthy life.
3. Better athletic performance
You're unlikely to find a professional athlete who is a heavy drinker. Alcohol slows your reaction times and can slow the recovery of your muscles. Alcohol is also a powerful diuretic meaning you're more likely to be severely dehydrated which in turn leads to muscle cramps and increased risk of injury. If you want to perform well at the gym or partake in a marathon or Ironman, you will definitely benefit from not drinking.
4. Better appearance
Another side effect of the diuretic properties of alcohol is that the dehydration can lead to dull, lifeless skin and sunken or swollen eyes. If you want bright, healthy-looking skin and an attractive appearance, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can make a huge difference. There are lots of benefits of staying hydrated on a daily basis, so make sure you always have a water bottle with you as a reminder to drink more water.
Tips for giving up alcohol
There are lots of practical ways you can give up alcohol or drink less without feeling deprived or completely changing your lifestyle. It can feel like the lives of everyone around you revolves around alcohol and that if you don't drink, you'll become a social pariah, but this needn't be the case. Here are some top tips for giving up alcohol in a practical and sustainable way.
1. Stop having alcohol with food
It's very common to have a pint of beer or glass (or bottle) of wine with dinner, especially when dining out with friends. Drinking too much red wine can lead to depression, addiction, and even stroke. When having dinner out with friends, order a glass of tap water instead of your usual tipple, or if cocktails are usually your thing, many restaurants now offer refreshing and appetising mocktails which will satisfy the craving and can be just as fun.
2. Tell your friends what you're doing
By enlisting the help of your friends and having them on your side, giving up alcohol will be much easier. How many times have you had a drink simply because a friend bought it for you or because you were coerced into it? By telling your friends that you intend to drink less or give it up completely, they can help you by reducing temptation and supporting you when you feel like caving in.
3. Set realistic, achievable goals
Setting goals is a great way of achieving something you want, whether it's at work, in your personal life, or to do with fitness. By setting a SMART goal you are far more likely to succeed. A SMART goal is a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and has a time frame. A good SMART goal for giving up alcohol would be: "I will not drink any alcohol for four weeks and if I achieve this, will reward myself with a spa day." This goal is specific as it gives detail, measurable as you can keep a note of any alcohol you do drink, realistic as it is not too extreme, and has a time frame of four weeks. It even includes a reward at the end which is another great way to stay motivated.