Trying Dry January? Here Are 11 Tips for Getting Through It *Swimmingly* in 2024

Photo: Getty Images / Oksana Kiian
The concept of Dry January (aka, abstaining from alcohol for the month) is far from new. But then again: How many of us have actually partaken in the unofficial holiday come the first month of the new year?

Indeed, there are compelling reasons for maintaining (or joining) the tradition. "When giving up alcohol, even just for one month, people tend to experience a variety of benefits of Dry January including clearer skin, better sleep, improved digestion, and financial savings," says Hilary Sheinbaum, author of The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month.

Experts In This Article
  • Hilary Sheinbaum, Hilary Sheinbaum is a lifestyle expert and author of "The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month."
  • Kristin Dahl, Kristin Dahl is a holistic nutritionist and founder of Dahl House Nutrition

Dry January provides an opportunity to level-set as we enter a new (and hopefully better) year, says Sheinbaum. In truth, alcohol likely isn't actually doing you any favors in terms of curing your anxiety, depression, stress, or boredom (more on that below), and going booze-free can help you identify healthier coping mechanisms to lean on throughout the year.

Whether you're plunging headfirst into a dry month or dipping your toes in the water for the first time, here are 11 things to know before you get started.

11 positive Dry January benefits to know, and tips to successfully partake

1. Your overall health will actually improve significantly

While optimal health is always desirable, one could certainly argue that it's more important this time of year (hi, flu season); if you do get sick, you want to give your body the best chance it can get at fighting back, and Dry January can help you to do just that. Even a month-long alcohol fast has been shown to improve sleep, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, blood pressure, and liver fat by an astounding 40 percent—and that's in moderate drinkers, too.

Dry January has also been associated with positive behavioral changes around drinking (aka, drinking less), and has not been linked to "rebound drinking," or drinking more in February to compensate for January's sobriety.

2. Your mood will improve, too

Alcohol is a depressant—if you're looking to improve your mood, drinking is not going to do it, says Sheinbaum. And given that the the last few years as a result of the pandemic has created or exacerbated mental health issues for many, now is a very good time to take a break from the bottle—even when it feels counterintuitive to do so, since alcohol may have potentially been used as a coping mechanism.

“Passing on alcohol for a month has a profound effect on your overall well-being,” says holistic nutritionist Kristin Dahl, founder of Dahl House Nutrition. “Your moods stabilize, you have more energy, and your mindset is more optimistic. This can offer more clarity and motivation to work on your longer-term life goals."

3. You'll get more accomplished

And speaking of those longer-term life goals, Sheinbaum notes that giving up booze can help you to be more productive, too. "There was a UK survey done a couple of years ago that uncovered that the average adult spends two years of their life hungover," she says. "That's two years of time you could be spending doing whatever it is that makes you happy and fills you with joy. When you cut out alcohol, you're automatically freeing up those days, nights, and mornings when you're not productive because you're nursing a hangover."

4. Enlisting a sober buddy will help keep you motivated

To improve your chances of staying the sober course, Sheinbaum recommends enlisting someone close to you to take on the Dry January challenge, too. "By doing so, not only will you have somebody you can plan activities with that don't involve alcohol, but you can also rely on each other if you need to vent, and celebrate each other's wins," she says. And if you really want to dial up the incentives, she suggests throwing a wager into the mix. "I actually made a Dry January bet with a friend [one year] and it kept us both motivated," she says.

“Passing on alcohol for a month has a profound effect on your overall well-being. Your moods stabilize, you have more energy, and your mindset is more optimistic. This can offer more clarity and motivation to work on your longer-term life goals.”
—Kristin Dahl, founder of Dahl House Nutrition

5. Eliminating alcohol within your home is mission critical

If you have alcohol in the house, you're more likely to "give up" Dry January than you are if you actually have to go out and procure it, says Sheinbaum. "Every time you pass your bar cart or open your refrigerator and there are cans of beer or bottles of wine, it's an automatic reminder of it," she says. To remedy this, she suggests either hiding your booze in a spot that's out of your daily sightline, letting a friend babysit it for the month or, if you think you might want to continue sobriety beyond January, disposing of it altogether.

6. Mocktails might help to quench your thirst

If you really love the taste of wine, beer, or a cocktail, it can be easy to fall prey to taking a sip of 'em; however, Sheinbaum points out that these days, there are many non-alcoholic alternatives and beverage brands that can satisfy your thirst for a specific type of drink or even master sommelier tips for embarking on this journey. "I think Dry January is the perfect time to explore [nonalcoholic beverages]," she says. "If you're doing a happy hour with friends and everybody else is still having alcohol, you can enjoy the same taste without a buzz and, more importantly, without the hangover the next day."

7. Replacing your version of happy hour with another mood-boosting activity can help

One of the best ways to rid yourself of an unhealthy habit is to replace it with a potentially healthier one, which is exactly what Sheinbaum recommends that you do with your nightly drink(s). "For example, if you're used to having a glass of wine every night at five o'clock, replace that with something you know is going to boost your mood—perhaps it's a workout or meditation or a new project or learning how to cook or knit," she says. After all, drinking is not necessarily the best use of any spare time we can find. "All of these hours add up," she says. "You can be pursuing things that really inspire you."

8. Journaling through January might be motivational

It can also be helpful, says Sheinbaum, to track your progress over the course of the month. "Keep a journal [to record] things as simple as how you're feeling, how much sleep you're getting, what your skin looks like, how much money you've saved," she says. "It can be really motivating to see that progress as the month goes on, and when you compare February 1 to December 31, I think you'll see a stark difference in at least one category."

9. You don't have to commit to being a shut-in

Nixing booze from your routine doesn't have to equate to sacrificing your social life altogether. Thats said, Sheinbaum acknowledges that some folks may find it difficult to socialize without drinking or with the help of a little liquid courage. So, how can I socialize without feeling the pressure to drink alcohol?

If you're among folks that feel as though socializing and booze go hand in hand, her advice is not to isolate, but rather to try and maintain the same social calendar you had prior to Dry January. One way to set yourself up for success in this booze-free socializing era is to be the one making the plans for your pod (or yourself). "Take the reins," she says. "For example, if you are typically invited to meet for cocktails with your next door neighbor every day at 5 p.m., instead suggest going for a hike or watching a movie." This approach has the added bonus of ensuring you're only participating in activities that bring you joy, she adds.

And if you experience dating-induced nerves it can feel like alcohol is nonnegotiable. Still, Sheinbaum says she's found that non-drinking dates tend to end up being more creative and memorable. Plus, they offer an opportunity to form a more meaningful connection early on. The good news? There are tons of great ways to cope with your feelings, especially if falling in love feels like a scary feat.

10. You shouldn't give up if you slip up

Even if you've accomplished Dry January before, you may find this year to be particularly difficult, and if you fall off the wagon at some point, Sheinbaum says not to despair. "You can certainly just start over the next day and continue along your path," she says. "I wouldn't let one drink deter you."

Besides, she says, there may be things to toast to in January—an engagement, a marriage, a promotion, etc. "If you want to celebrate with one night of drinking, that's fine," she says. "The goal is always to complete the month one hundred percent sober, but if it's not happening, don't beat yourself up over it." What's important is mindful drinking, fam.

With that said, if you're feeling like you *just need one drink* because you're stressed or down, she recommends trying other activities instead. "Maybe it's going for a run to release endorphins, or talking to a friend to vent about a hard day—whatever is going to work for you," says Sheinbaum.

You also don't have to commit to the entire month, if that feels daunting. "You've got to do what's going to motivate you and get you to the finish line successfully," Sheinbaum says. "If you're overwhelmed by the thought of 31 days without alcohol, start small by doing just a weekend or a week or two weeks—have a deadline in mind and go from there." She adds that some people prefer trying Dry February instead of Dry January, simply because the month is slightly shorter.

11. Dry January is not for those looking to recover from addiction

If you think you have a drinking problem or addiction, Sheinbaum emphasizes that Dry January is not the solution for you. "I would not recommend Dry January as a method of recovery," she says. "If you're a heavy drinker, I would urge you to seek professional help."

Short of that caveat, however, just about anybody can benefit from trying a sober month, explains Sheinbaum—even those who only drink once or so a week. "It's for any and everyone who is looking to take on a 30-day challenge or resolution to reset and start their year on the right foot," she says.

If you or someone you know are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for treatment information and support in your area.

This mojito mocktail for liver support is the perfect addition to your next booze-free happy hour:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Ballard, Jackie. “What is Dry January?.” The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners vol. 66,642 (2016): 32. doi:10.3399/bjgp16X683173
  2. de Visser, Richard O et al. “Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during “Dry January” and subsequent alcohol use.” Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association vol. 35,3 (2016): 281-9. doi:10.1037/hea0000297
  3. Verster, Joris C et al. “The Alcohol Hangover Research Group: Ten Years of Progress in Research on the Causes, Consequences, and Treatment of the Alcohol Hangover.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 9,11 3670. 16 Nov. 2020, doi:10.3390/jcm9113670

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