All Dried Up: A Reflection on a Dry-ish January 

January 31st…hallelujah!

Come tomorrow normal service will have resumed, and those that took up the Dry challenge will be reunited with their large G&T…and we will feel just ever so smug for going 31 days without alcohol!

I have avoided the Dry Challenge every year, with a myriad of excuses, holding tightly onto my large Sauv Blanc…but this year I did it, and apart from a few wobbles on a Friday evening where the Gin desperately wanted to join my Tonic (but didn’t!),I don’t think I’ve done too bad.  

What’s it all about?

Dry January started here in the UK.  In 2013 Alcohol Change UK (formally Alcohol Concern), launched a public health campaign advocating that people abstain from alcohol during January. Makes me think just how much are us Brits actually drinking that we need a specific month to give the liver a rest? 

What are the benefits?

Everyone knows the benefits…although us ‘drinkers’ put them at the back of our mind whilst we work out who’s round it is.

  • Weight loss
  • Better sleep
  • Improved mood and energy levels
  • Increased physical activity
  • Better diet and fewer empty calories
  • A reduction in liver fat and blood sugar
  • Decreasing factors related to cancer, insulin resistance, and blood pressure

Why do it?

According to Alcohol Change UK, the real magic happens once Dry January is over, and people realise that they don’t need to drink every day, or binge at weekends.  That they don’t need a drink to have fun and fit in with social events, that they are just as happy and confident without the booze!

Research by the University of Sussex has found that six months after Dry January more than 70% of people who take on the challenge are still drinking more healthily.

According to research from Alcohol Change UK, a surprising 16% of UK adults had plans to take on Dry January this year. Interestingly, this percentage is notably higher among Gen Zs compared to older age groups. Could this be the influence of social media?

Over the past few years, the movement has gained traction on various social platforms, with influencers sharing their experiences, challenges, and victories. Dr. Alex George, in a recent Instagram post, highlighted a YouGov survey indicating that 44% of 18–24-year-olds are regularly opting for low or no alcohol drinks. The rise of the “sober curious” seems to be upon us, and for those looking to shift their relationship with alcohol, Dry January is emerging as a promising starting point. 

So who did it?

Here at Critical, January has been a month of different approaches to cutting down. While some of us have unintentionally nailed Dry January – “I did dry January by accident” – others have opted out altogether – “I don’t drink super often anyway, but when I do, I tend to enjoy it, so no reason to give it up really.” 

For one colleague, after a December packed with festivities, she decided to go for a “Damp January.” That meant scaling back on her alcohol intake, only indulging on special occasions, and adding more dry days to the month. It’s been a mental reset button for her, allowing for refocus on health goals while still enjoying socialising. This middle ground has been a game-changer, and she is aiming to carry this balance into 2024. 

For those who aren’t regular drinkers, we’ve seen Dry January morph into “no chocolate January” and “no spend January.” It seems like kicking off the year with a challenge is our way of embarking on a journey of self-discovery and testing our resolve. 

A little bit smug!

It’s undeniable that a month without alcohol brings along mental and physical benefits – better sleep, increased energy, enhanced focus, and reduced anxiety. And after a December filled with over indulgence, it seems like a good time to have a reset, both physically and mentally, and with colleagues taking up the challenge, albeit some slightly tweaked, we supported and spurred each other on to the finish line. Well done us!

No matter the positive changes you’ve embraced this January – whether it’s cutting back on alcohol, consuming less chocolate, or spending less money – we’re rooting for your personal growth to continue throughout the year. Here’s to making 2024 your year!