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Getting through Dry January

Updated: Feb 11

by Denise Hamilton-Mace


There's a lot of talk of Dry January at the moment, and rightly so; it's a great campaign which has grown in popularity exponentially since it started 11 years ago. But that doesn't mean that it's easy.


We're a few days in now, and if you're finding it more challenging than you expected, then give some of these tips a go:


A wood blook calendar showing 01 January

Sleep! 

There's a reason I've put this at the top of the list. From my own personal experience, I can attest that the research is correct: everything starts with how well you sleep. 

Why? 

Because the duration and quality of your sleep directly impact your decision-making powers, and successfully completing the Dry January challenge you set for yourself (whether that be to go completely dry or to moderate) all stems from being able to make the right choices.



Eat Well

Vegan, pescatarian, omnivore, gluten-free, keto... The list of diet trends is extensive, but whichever you choose, ensure you eat the healthiest version you can. 

We need protein to build and maintain muscles, we need carbs to give us energy and keep our brain functioning at its best, and we need fat (yes, we do NEED fats) to keep our organs protected, generate cell growth and absorb nutrients.


If you're attempting Dry January, don't mix it with trying a new diet where you cut out major food groups; this will only add more stress to your body. Instead, make sure you ingest a healthy mix of lots of food types. Not sure how to do this? My top tip is to go for as many different NATURALLY coloured foods as you can. The more colours on your plate, the more varying nutrients across the food groups.



Move

Lethargy is an often-cited side-effect of cutting out or cutting back on the booze. But after a couple of days, when your body starts to adapt, the next best thing you can do for it is keep it moving. 

 

We've all heard that we should get in 10,000 steps a day, and while it turns out this is just an arbitrary number created as a marketing ploy for the first step counter in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics (true story), it's actually not a terrible goal to aim for.

The average Brit walks just 3,000 – 4,000 steps a day; to put that into context, that's approximately just 30-40 minutes of brisk walking per day. I know you can do better than that, and now is the perfect time to start.


Find a class, go for a jog, walk more, play with the kids, clear out the attic. There are lots of ways to get your body moving, and once you get started, you might find that it's a new and positive habit to replace the old ones you're trying to break.



Be Kind to yourself

Yes, I did just tell you to get up and move more, to eat better and to prioritise your sleep, BUT if you don't manage to do that today, then please be kind to yourself about it.

There's no point in beating yourself up for not achieving a new target and then falling off of all wagons as a result. 

 Use kind language when you talk to yourself, be forgiving and offer yourself some support and encouragement. If it helps, try talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend. You may tease them a bit, but you would always be there with the right support when they need you the most.



Phone a friend

Speaking of friends. Try not to go this journey alone. Now, that doesn't mean that if none of your friends want to do Dry January, or they do, but they all give up on day 10 that you should too. It means that you should find someone who understands and supports your mission and can act as your own personal cheerleader for the month. 

Hopefully, that's someone that you already have an existing relationship with, a partner, your bestie, your mum. But if those people aren't available, then reach out to other places. Join groups on Facebook, follow and engage with sober accounts on Instagram. Join forums and meet-ups and find some new friends who share and understand this part of your life.



Write it down

If the idea of talking to other people about your relationship with booze and why you're taking a month fills you with dread for now, then try writing it down instead. Journaling can be a great way of connecting with yourself and thinking through your life choices without fear of judgment or ridicule from anyone else.

Check out my interview with journaling aficionado Kirsty Mulcahy as part of the Dry January Advent Calendar for some great tips and guidance on how to get started with journaling if it's new to you.



Let's go outside

Related to the tip about moving more, getting outside is a 'must' for the body and brain. It's easy to think that it is safer to stay home away from temptation, but staying cooped up indoors will eventually send you stir-crazy! Fresh air in your lungs and vitamin D on your skin are two great and free resources to help add some positivity back into your day.

Grab a friend that you would usually go to the pub with and see if they'd like to join you for a coffee and a walk instead. If you normally drive the kids to school, leave a few minutes earlier and walk instead (ok, maybe more than a few minutes. I've got two kids myself, so I know it's not easy, but you can do it, and all of you will reap the benefits).


If you're missing the nightlife, there are alcohol-free bars popping up all over the country now. Why not put your glad-rags on and go and visit one of those, or head out for a nice meal in a restaurant that has great low/no alcohol options available?


Morning, noon or night just get out of the house!



Watch the sugar

Depending on what you drink, alcohol can have a lot of sugar in it. Prosecco, rum & coke, Pornstar Martini, cider - they can all contain far more sugar than you would have thought, and when you cut back on the drinking, it's perfectly natural to start craving sweet treats instead. 


By all means, indulge in the odd Jaffa Cake Jonut (OMG!!), but beware of the repeat appearance of the sugar monster and try to stock up on some healthier snack alternatives. If losing weight was one of your motivators for doing Dry January, you don't want to undo all your hard work at the end because you passed out from a sugar crash every night.



Find a hobby

The worst thing you can do is sit around waiting for Dry January to be over so that you can go and get smashed on Feb 1st. 

Hangovers suck up more than just the next morning; they can have a negative impact on your brain for days after the night before, so by cutting out the booze, you're going to have a lot more free time on your hands – go do something with it.

What have you always wanted to do? Learn a language? Play the guitar? Visit a museum and stare thoughtfully at some dots on a canvas until you have an epiphany? Go for it!

From Salsa dancing classes to escape rooms, this is the perfect time to find something new to do.

Don't get me wrong, it's fine to finally have time to watch that series on Netflix, but you can do that later. Use your newfound energy and enthusiasm for life to a positive end, and you'll thank yourself for it later.



Drink!

What? Huh? I thought the point was not to drink?

No, the point is not to drink alcohol. But there is a wealth of amazing low-and-no-alcohol drinks available now, and this is when you should be trying them. All of them! Beers, ciders, wines, spirits, functional drinks, the list is endless and the quality is so far removed from the poor cousins of yesteryear that you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't give them a try.


The low/no market now is full of adult beverages for those who chose not to drink, so if you are trying Dry January but don't want to feel like you're missing out, then go and explore all the amazing drinks that have been made now just for you.


And if you want them for exceptional value, then get your hands on the first official Dry Advent Calendar, which is packed full of interviews, tips, recipes and lots (and I mean LOTS) of low/no brand discounts. 

All it costs is a donation of your choosing to Alcohol Change UK, and you can get your hands on a whole month's worth of low/no goodies instantly (even if you don't see this post until the end of January).




 


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