Thinking of doing Dry January? Here’s 10 ways to make it fun
Are you considering doing Dry January this year, but worried it will be hard and joy-less? Here are 10 ways you can be healthy and still have fun.
Research from no-alcohol spirits brand Caleño carried out in July revealed that one in four UK adults had recently chosen a low or non-alcoholic drink on a night out, and this rose to two in five (40%) among millennials. This tallies with research by the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) which found that almost a quarter of young adults have decided to completely forgo alcohol.
In general it seems like we’re seeing more and more people thinking about changing their drinking habits – either cutting alcohol out completely, or reducing their consumption and adopting healthier drinking habits.
If you’re wondering whether it might be time for you to make changes to your relationship with alcohol, Dry January can be a good time to start. Find out why and when Dry January started, some of the benefits you may see from cutting down, and even how to make Dry January fun.
What’s the history behind Dry January?
Dry January was launched by Alcohol Change UK in 2013. It was inspired by the experience of Emily Robinson who signed up for her first half marathon in February 2011. To make the training easier, she gave up drinking in January, and found that shoe lost weight, slept better and felt like she had more energy to run.
In January 2012, Emily joined Alcohol Change UK and decided to give up drinking again that month January. More and more people were asking her about what it was like, and the benefits. This apparently got Alcohol Change UK thinking: if more people took a break from drinking, would it help them to think about their consumption, and maybe even reduce their alcohol intake after the month ended?
And so the idea for Dry January was born. And it’s come a long way since – from 4,000 people taking part in the first Dry January in 2013, to 130,000 people in 2021.
What’s the purpose of Dry January?
Dry January is a month when people choose to stop drinking alcohol after the excesses of Christmas, and start the new year feeling sober, clearer-headed, more refreshed and healthier.
It’s also, as intended by Alcohol Change UK, an opportunity for people to break their usual drinking habits and consider how much they usually consume. After January has ended, you can choose to return to your old drinking habits if you wish, or you may decide to actively choose a new relationship with alcohol. This may be giving it up completely, or drinking less than before you embarked on your alcohol-free month.
You might choose to do Dry January if you are concerned that your drinking habits aren’t helping you, or just want to adopt healthier ones. Or you may simply be curious as to whether you can do it, what it will feel like, and what benefits you may see.
What are some of the benefits of Dry January?
There can be many benefits of cutting out or reducing your alcohol intake for a month. Here are some of the benefits of Dry January that are recognised by experts:
- Your mood will improve – Alcohol is a depressant so cutting it down or out of your diet can have a positive effect on your mood.
- You can stop avoiding problems – Many people use drink to mask or escape problems. Giving up drinking can help you to recognise and seek solutions or treatments for problems you may have been avoiding or managing with drink.
- You’ll sleep better – While alcohol may help you to fall asleep, it’s widely known that drinking affects your ability to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Indeed, as many as 50% of alcohol-dependent patients suffer from insomnia.
- You’ll lose weight – Obviously this depends on how much you usually drink, but it’s possible to lose up to two pounds a week by giving up alcohol. People also find they make healthier food choices when they’re not drinking.
- You’ll save money – This one is a no-brainer! Think how much money you’ll save on your weekly wine bill when shopping, or on cocktails at bars.
- Your skin will look better – Alcohol is a known diuretic, making it harder for your body to stay hydrated. This can lead to dry, lustreless skin as well as increased redness, puffiness and blotchiness. And the sugar in drink can lead to breakouts, if you are prone to them.
- You’ll have a stronger immune system – Again this will depend on your normal drinking habits. Research shows that when we binge drink (if you’re a woman this means consuming more than four drinks on a single occasion) our immune system is weakened.
- You’ll wake up clear-headed every day – The price we pay for a fun, drink-fuelled evening is feeling rough the next day. No drink for 31 days means an entire month free of hangovers!
- You can reset your relationship with alcohol – It’s all to easy to find bad habits creeping up on us. And before we know it, it feels normal to reach for a glass of wine when we get in from work each day, or when the kids are in bed. Dry January is an opportunity to break those habits and create healthier new habits that we actively choose.
How to do Dry January
On the face of it, doing Dry January is easy: you just stop drinking! But there are some things you can do to help make it easier for you. Here’s what Alcohol Change UK recommends you do to make your Dry January a success:
- Decide why you’re doing it – Make a list of the benefits you are looking forward to.
- Tell people – Let friends and family know what you are doing and why so they can support you.
- Plan for tricky situations – Know how to handle situations where you know drink will be served or times you may be tempted.
- Practise your “no” – Have a response ready for when you turn down a drink. It might just be: “No thanks, I’m doing Dry January”.
- Get help if you need it – You don’t need to do Dry January alone. See if any friends or family want to join you if you think you’ll find it hard. You can also get help here.
10 ways to have more fun in Dry January
if you’re thinking about doing Dry January but are worried you may not last the full 31 days, or that it’s going to be a long, miserable month, don’t worry! Ellie Webb, founder and CEO of Caleño, is here with some helpful tips for you.
Ellie had worked in the drinks industry for years when, in January 2019 at the age of just 28, she launched Caleño with a mission to challenge the stereotype that swapping out booze is boring. The award-winning brand has gone from strength to strength since its inception and is now stocked in supermarkets across Britain as well as internationally and on Amazon.
Ellie says that she’s always read articles about ‘surviving’ Dry January, or stories that suggest balanced and no drinking are challenges to endure. She’s passionate about showing people that avoiding alcohol isn’t a sacrifice, and in fact it can be really positive for so many reasons.
So, to help you not just make it through Dry January, but embrace the experience (and maybe even love it), she’s put together 10 tips to help you bring joy to your Dry January.
1) Plan your month carefully
You don’t have to say yes to every party invitation or feel pressure to attend every gathering if you don’t want to, especially if you know some events will test your willpower. So plan which invitations you want to accept for January, and which you want to decline.
Good friends will understand why you might not be able to or want to come out as often and will support your decision to look after your health (mental or physical) – especially if you explain to them what you are doing.
2) Think ‘balance’ rather than ‘abstinence’
Being ‘balanced’ with your drinking doesn’t mean cutting out alcohol completely. Think about why you are drinking and prioritise when you might want to drink. Decide what’s right for you and go from there.
It may be that you don’t feel you need or want to go 100% dry. Or you may decide that you’ll find it easier (or more realistic) to cut down rather than give up completely. The important thing is to make a decision that is right for you and your Dry January goals.
3) Choose to have fun
Get into the right mindset if you decide to have an alcohol-free evening – you can have just as much fun and joy and remember everything the next day. You don’t need to drink to have a good time.
It can also help to plan some fun, non-drinking based activities for January with your friends, so you have something to look forward to. What do you love doing? Make a wish list of things you want to do but never get around to, and invite friends to join you. It can help to keep busy, and it also switches your mindset from what you’re missing out on, to what you are gaining instead.
4) Choose low alcohol drinks or alternate
If you are cutting down on your drinking rather than giving it up completely, consider switching to drinks with a lower alcohol percentage or for each alcoholic drink you have, have one or two alcohol free drinks in-between drinks.
There are so many great alcohol-free options available now that taste delicious. You will still feel like you are enjoying all the fun – without the terrible hangover and regrets the next day!
5) Change your language
Change your vocabulary around not drinking for an instant change of mindset. So instead of “giving up alcohol”, tell yourself you’re going “alcohol free” for the night. It can be surprising the difference this mindset switch can make to how you feel about your decision. Rather than seeing it as a restriction or ‘loss’ you can see it as a positive choice.
6) Give your body an alcohol break
Remember: you don’t need to go 100% dry to embrace Dry January. If you don’t fancy going an entire 31 days without a drink, consider instead having a run of two to three consecutive alcohol-free days as it really helps your system to recover and reset your tolerance.
7) Find a rule that works for you
Another approach is to find a way to reduce your alcohol intake that works for you. For example, you may decide not to drink Monday to Thursday, but allow yourself the choice to have a drink at the weekend if you wish. This can help if the idea of ‘going without’ for an entire month is just too much, or you miss the idea of having something to look forward to at the end of the working week.
It’s better to aim for a realistic plan, like cutting down, and succeeding, than it is to be determined to do Dry January ‘properly’ and either being miserable for 31 days or giving up because you found it just too hard.
And if you do slip up, go easy on yourself. Falling off the Dry January wagon for one night doesn’t mean you’ve failed and need to give up. You can simply redouble your efforts the next day and continue enjoying the benefits for the rest of the month.
8) Appreciate the benefits
Rather than focus on what you’re missing out on by cutting out alcohol, instead research some of the positive benefits you can look forward to. For example, think about the money you’ll save, and the hangovers you’ll avoid. (We’ve listed some of the health benefits above if you need inspiration!)
9) Be a good friend
Your friends may find your decision to do Dry January difficult if they’re used to having you as a drinking buddy. They may even worry that you won’t be as much ‘fun’ any more, or that you may judge them for not giving up drinking. So show then you can be just as much a good friend (and fun) without alcohol.
You can even win brownie points by offering to be the designated driver on nights out. And whatever you do, don’t abuse your sober status by reminding them of all the embarrassing things they may have said or done when drink – they won’t thank you for that.
10) Invite friends round for a ‘dry’ evening
Finally, why not invite some friends over for an evening of making alcohol-free cocktails, and show them just how much fun you can have without drinking? Alcohol-free drinks have improved significantly over the past few years, and your friends may be surprised at how delicious cocktails made with them can be.
You can find some delicious cocktail ideas here, and we have included one below to try.
Try a delicious, alcohol-free cocktail
Ellie Webb from Caleño has kindly shared her recipe for the Cacao-leno cocktail with us. The Cacao-leno is a rich cacao, coconut colada that’s incredibly simple and quick to make and was created exclusively for Caleño by food blogger and mixologist Tristan Fisher.
The ingredients have been selected for their health benefits making the Cacao-leno a cocktail that’s not only delicious, but good for you.
Superfood cacao is a healthy alternative to chocolate packed with antioxidant-rich flavonoids that help lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk and inflammation. Cacao is also a good source of fibre that promotes healthy digestion. Coconut milk and coconut cream are rich sources of minerals including iron, potassium, sodium, niacin and folate. Agave Nectar contains less glucose than sugar so has a lower glycaemic index value.
How to make the Cacao-leno
- 50ml Caleño Dark & Spicy
- 1 tsp of cacao powder
- 75ml coconut milk drink
- 10ml of single cream (this can be dairy free if you are vegan – you can use coconut cream as a vegan-alternative)
- 1 tbsp of agave nectar
Calories: Approximately 97kcal per serving.
- In a shaker, add the cacao powder and pour over the Caleño Dark & Spicy, coconut milk, single cream or coconut cream and agave nectar and stir well.
- Pour into a shallow glass over ice with a piece of dark chocolate.
- Serve and enjoy!
Photo by Annie Spratt