Here’s why you may want to give Dry January a try (take it from an expert)

We’ve all set our own fair share of New Year’s resolutions and health-related challenges and goals come January 1 but as Dry January continues to shift from being a trendy term to a tried-and-true way to kickstart the beginning of the year on a clean and energized note, it might be worth considering making the commitment to kick the booze for the next 31 days—especially as most bars and social gatherings have been halted due to the lingering coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, according to research from the British Journal of General Practice, over 2 million people in the UK alone participated in Dry January in 2015 and that number has steadily increased over the past five years; with nearly one in five adults choosing to participate last year.

Considering putting the cap on drinking for the month of January? We spoke to Hilary Sheinbaum, author of The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month to get her insights on exactly what you can expect while embarking on your first attempt at Dry January.

“I committed to a Dry January on a whim and didn’t have a playbook or any idea about how to conquer a sober month,” Sheinbaum told Ladders. “Everything in the book, I drew from personal experience and research. It covers everything from how to respond to naysayers, what to order at the bar, how to date without drinking and the benefits you’ll likely experience when doing so.”

While Sheinbaum, a three-time Dry January participant went at it without much guidance or expectations, if you’re considering going dry, The Dry Challenge will act as a guide to help you figure out different ways to keep yourself motivated while also shining light on the amazing benefits of forgoing alcohol for a month.

Rather than seeing it as a month of lack or deprivation, this handy guide will help shift your mindset to see it as a very positive and motivating challenge that will only foster good results and a healthier start to the new year.

From drawing inspiration to get you through your month sans booze to the benefits of cutting out cocktails for a 31-day period, here’s how to get started, what to expect, and how to use The Dry Challenge to put yourself ahead both health-wise and professionally.

Ladders: What motivated you to try Dry January for the first time?

Sheinbaum: In 2016, I went to dinner with my friend Al (Alejandro) to catch up about life, dating, work, family and all the usual things friends talk about. It was the week before New Years, so naturally, the topic of New Year’s resolutions made its way into our conversation.

Al mentioned this thing called Dry January: giving up all forms of alcohol—meaning wine, beer, spirits, cocktails—for 31 days. I didn’t think anything of it and basically forgot about it moments later, because it didn’t seem like something I could plausibly do at the time.

Back then, as a freelance writer, I was writing about food & beverage and doing red carpets and attending after parties. I was also single at the time, so many dates involved grabbing a drink. 

In short: a week later, on New Year’s Eve, a moment before the ball dropped: I texted Al and initiated a Dry January bet. The premise was that the winner would win dinner paid for by the person who did not make it alcohol-free for 31 days. 

I won. Al lost. And in addition to getting an amazing fancy meal, I gained better sleep, clearer skin and so much more energy. I saved money, too! I’ve done Dry January, and a ton of other sober months in between, since 2017.

Ladders: How do you suggest treating other substances? Is it best to forego things like CBD, non-alcoholic alternatives, etc?

Sheinbaum: There are so many nonalcoholic beverages on the market today, including nonalcoholic wines, beers and spirits, and even premixed nonalcoholic cocktails. They have the same ingredients, minus the booze. And, they taste great! I think these options are worth exploring during a Dry Month… you might even prefer these products to a traditional beer, so I highly suggest giving it a try.

Ladders: What can participants expect in terms of their productivity levels Did you notice a major difference?

Sheinbaum: I have so much more energy when I do a dry month, and I sleep better too. Both of these things, along with the fact participants won’t experience hangovers or have to nurse feelings of nausea can contribute to more productivity.

Also, according to a survey in the UK, the average adult spends nearly two years hungover. In that time, you could start and run a business, go to grad school or find time for anything else in your life that doesn’t have to do with drinking or recovering from a night of boozing.

Ladders: In your opinion, what is the greatest benefit of a month without booze?

Sheinbaum: It’s hard to choose one! I think better sleep is one of my benefits of going through a dry month. While alcohol can initially sedate you, when your body metabolizes it, it can cause awakenings and fragmented sleep. When I get a great night of sleep—without alcohol—I’m really upbeat, energetic, my mood is elevated, I get more done in a day, and I also can think more clearly.