A new year is coming and a choir of people are gathering to try sobriety, that is for the month of January. Dry January, the month when some people abstain from drinking as part of a New Year’s ritual, has grown in popularity since the term was coined around a decade ago.
About 35% of legal-age adults in the United States participated in Dry January in 2022, a slight increase from 21% in 2019, according to CGA, which provides data for the food and beverage industries.
What was once a simple New Year’s resolution has become trending and even glorified on social media as something to try, whether for health reasons or pure curiosity. The world has caught on, too, as many restaurants and bars are increasingly offering mocktail options for those who want to join in the after-work spritz without feeling out of the loop.
But since overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions are too often broken, some have opted for Dry January’s more lenient cousin: Damp January.
January wet vs dry
Similar to Dry January, Damp January offers participants the opportunity to reflect on their relationship with alcohol.
“It can become a moment of reflection,” says Dr. Akhil Anand, a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Drug and Recovery Center. Fortune. “Any alcohol reduction is really important,” adding that many people who make an effort to limit or quit alcohol tend to find that they don’t need it to enjoy life the way they thought they would. in the old days.
As the name suggests, the wet option doesn’t require you to stop drinking altogether. You decide what limits to set. With Damp January, people set rules about alcohol consumption, ultimately limiting their consumption over 31 days.
For example, if you typically drink 15 drinks a week, you can aim to cut down a handful each week for the month and slowly reduce your alcohol intake. Alternatively, you can choose low-alcohol drinks. Someone can keep their glass of wine with dinner but give up alcohol at work or in society. Others may drink on certain days or at certain times of the week. It’s a personal decision, says Vedant Pradeep, CEO and co-founder of Reframe, an alcohol reduction app. Fortune, which can be empowering.
“You’re making the choice to reduce your expenses and prioritize your health,” he says. “It’s a very good step in the right direction.”
Does Wet or Dry January Improve Health?
Excessive alcohol consumption like binge drinking, which has increased during the pandemic, has long-term health consequences, including the development of alcohol use disorder, addiction to alcohol, heart problems, the development of certain cancers, memory problems, depression and anxiety, and social problems, such as family and work-related issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the United States.
Drinking in moderation for people of legal age, defined as two drinks or less a day for men and one drink or less a day for women, can help reduce these long-term health problems.
Not surprisingly, giving up alcohol completely has its benefits, too. One study found that for moderate to heavy drinkers who abstained from alcohol for a month, longer-term health benefits followed, such as improved insulin resistance, weight, blood pressure and “decreased circulating levels of cancer-linked growth factors”. The people Anand works with have also reported better overall well-being, better sleep and improved mood.
While some people may be able to develop better habits around alcohol and feel more confident about turning down a drink after January after completing a month of sobriety, maintaining this habit isn’t easy for everyone. A study in the UK found that by the end of Dry January, many felt “more free to drink to excess at other times of the year, with excessive alcohol consumption having a greater effect damaging”. The study calls for more research on how to measure the success of alcohol reduction and elimination campaigns. Still, Anand says reflecting on the month you cut back on drinking can help people “get back on track” and that changing drinking habits at New Year’s has its benefits.
Is a wet January for you?
An intention and a Why are important in determining whether you should choose a wet January. Start by observing when you tend to drink alcohol and how you feel, not just at the time, but afterwards.
Some people struggle with anxiety and find alcohol exacerbates their symptoms, Anand says. Others may have trouble sleeping or want to improve their productivity, all of which serve as intentions to limit drinking, especially when overwhelmed by a society that emphasizes alcohol in a myriad of contexts. .
“We live in the culture in which we are involved, whether at work or socially with friends, [and] alcohol is everywhere,” says Anand. Having an invention helps you find ways to substitute alcohol for other activities and even new hobbies.
When Anne Mahlum, fitness entrepreneur and founder of Solidcore, reflected on her drinking, she realized she had picked up a bad habit with alcohol. She drank every day and regularly indulged herself.
“If you start thinking about it, and even wondering if you have a healthy relationship with alcohol, that’s probably telling you something,” she says. “I felt a bit of guilt. I was ashamed. I didn’t like the fact that I sometimes woke up with a bit of a headache. I was like, this is just not in line with who I want to be.
As you identify alcohol’s place in your life, consider finding places where alcohol consumption can be traded in for something else, such as exercise, and monitor how you feel when you create new situations where alcohol does not need to be center stage. All of this can help determine your intention to choose a wet or dry January.
For Mahlum, Damp January was not the answer, given that guidelines can be ambiguous. Abstinence was necessary in his case to assess his consumption. Yet everyone is different, she says.
Going cold turkey may not work for everyone or be sustainable. Some people may experience discomfort that makes it difficult to stay true to their abstinence goal for 31 days. Wet January could be the alternative.
“You can slowly reduce [alcohol consumption] over time,” says Pradeep. “Your body can sort of adapt to it a lot better.”
But for others who experience withdrawal beyond a sense of discomfort, including tremors (the shaking), anxiety, upset stomach, or heartbeat changes, a more serious relationship with alcohol is involved, says Anand. For someone with an alcohol addiction, a wet or dry January is unlikely to be beneficial, he says. Instead, consider talking to a sober family doctor or community member.