Expert Advice on How to Do Dry January (and Make It Easier)

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Gone are the days when New Year’s resolutions solely focused on fitness or dietary changes. Nowadays, taking part in Dry January, a challenge that involves abstaining from alcohol for the entire month, has become a popular way to kickstart the year with various physical and mental health benefits. Supported by research, the anecdotes of countless individuals demonstrate that avoiding alcohol consumption, whether it be through a month of sobriety in Dry January or Sober October, can lead to improved sleep, financial savings, a reassessment of one’s relationship with alcohol, increased energy levels, and other positive outcomes.

Regardless of whether you’re curious about sobriety, aiming to reduce alcohol intake, or simply interested in experiencing the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol, undertaking Dry January requires making significant changes. By approaching this challenge in the right way, you can increase your chances of success and make the journey more manageable. To help you navigate Dry January effectively, we’ve compiled the top tips, tricks, and advice from experts in sobriety. Implementing these strategies can set you on the right path and make your Dry January experience more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Identify your motivator for doing Dry January

Before embarking on the Dry January challenge, it is crucial to understand the underlying reasons that motivate your participation. According to Elisa Hallerman, PhD, a recovery specialist and the founder of the Recovery Management Agency in Los Angeles, it is essential to delve deeper into your motivation for cutting back on alcohol. Rather than simply viewing it as a common New Year’s resolution or being influenced by social media posts, Hallerman advises engaging your curiosity to understand the “why” behind your decision. This introspection allows you to not only stay committed to your goals but also personalize them based on your individual needs and circumstances. By having a clear understanding of what drives you to take part in Dry January, you can enhance your chances of success and make the experience more meaningful and tailored to your specific aspirations.

Make a list of activities that involve drinking

If your usual hobbies and activities revolve around or encourage drinking, such as going to happy hour with friends, dancing at clubs, or enjoying daytime drinks at the beach, these may pose challenges during a sobriety challenge. To stay focused, it’s important to identify alternative activities that align with your goals. Molly Desch, a certified sober life coach, suggests that if drinking is a significant part of your regular routine and you want to abstain, you need to approach things differently. She advises her clients to create a personalized list of 30 interests, hobbies, and activities as a first step when working together. This way, they have a readily available list of alternatives to drinking that are tailored to their individual preferences. By proactively identifying alternative activities, you can more effectively navigate social situations and find fulfilling alternatives to drinking that align with your sobriety goals.

Commit to your decision with tangible actions

When making any significant life decision or undertaking a habit shift, it is essential to dedicate time to thoughtful consideration. This applies to choices both big and small, including the commitment to go sober for the entirety of Dry January or even beyond. Molly Desch emphasizes the importance of not wavering or being indecisive in this process. She advises writing down your commitment, sharing it on social media, informing your family, friends, and colleagues, or utilizing tools like the Try Dry app. By consciously making a commitment and communicating your intentions to those around you, you solidify your determination in your own mind. This external reinforcement reinforces your dedication and serves as a reminder that this is something you genuinely intend to follow through on.

Clear out the booze

Committing to a dry month can become significantly more challenging if your home is stocked with alcohol, such as a leftover six-pack of hard seltzers in the fridge or bottles of your favorite merlot neatly arranged on the wine rack. To set yourself up for success, it’s advisable to remove alcohol from your living space before the abstinence period begins. Zach Ludwig, Vice President of Clinical Services and Accreditation at Bradford Health Services, which specializes in addiction treatment, emphasizes the importance of eliminating easy access to alcohol. This proactive step helps prevent cravings or thoughts from turning into actions.

In the spirit of the holiday season, consider giving away any remaining alcohol to friends who will appreciate it, or inquire if they would be willing to hold onto it for the month (assuming they are not participating in Dry January themselves, of course). By removing alcohol from your immediate environment, you reduce the temptation and make it easier to stay committed to your sobriety goals throughout the month.

Track your feelings, progress, and setbacks

Practicing mindful drinking is a valuable exercise that involves observing your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors surrounding alcohol without judgment. One effective way to enhance your mindfulness is through writing things down. During your Dry January journey, whenever you experience the urge or desire to consume alcohol, Elisa Hallerman suggests using a diary or a digital notes app to document, process, and understand your feelings in those moments. By keeping track of what you’re experiencing when the urge arises, you can gain valuable insights.

For example, you may discover that boredom or the attempt to escape an uncomfortable emotion triggers the desire for a drink. On the other hand, you may associate drinking with happiness and fun, considering it a traditional way to let loose. Instead of immediately acting on these urges, take a few minutes to sit with the feeling that arises. Hallerman encourages you to explore what is happening within yourself. By identifying and acknowledging these inner experiences, you take the first step towards self-understanding, practicing compassionate self-control, and steering yourself towards greater health and happiness.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings allows you to cultivate a deeper awareness of your relationship with alcohol and provides an opportunity to make conscious choices aligned with your well-being. It enables you to exercise self-reflection, develop a better understanding of yourself, and navigate the challenges of Dry January with mindfulness and intention.


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