Sober curious? Discover the health benefits of dry January


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Dec 12, 2023

As we move into a new year, many of us look at simple changes we can make to improve our health and wellness. Small adjustments to our routine can have a big impact on our lives, in particular, our alcohol consumption.

To be “sober curious” is to start to question your relationship with alcohol. As it’s common to overindulge during the festive season, in recent years, a trend of “dry” January—where you give up alcohol for the whole month—has grown in popularity. There are also other ways to evolve your relationship with alcohol in January and implement more positive habits throughout the entire year.

If you feel like January is a good time to shake up your drinking habits, discover these strategies to take a break and reduce your alcohol intake—your physical and mental health may thank you.

What is dry January?

The goal of dry January is to not consume alcohol for the entire month. If you’re a social drinker or enjoy a glass of wine at the weekend, it may initially seem like a challenge, but you’ll quickly see the health benefits of taking a break from alcohol for a short time.

What are the benefits of dry January?

With dry January, you're giving yourself a refreshing restart and allowing your body to detoxify and reset after the busy festive season. You may notice that not drinking will improve both your mental clarity and your energy levels.

The less-than-positive impacts of alcohol on your body are well-known. Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of liver diseases such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Chronic alcohol use is also associated with an increased risk of various cancers and can negatively impact your mental health. During dry January, your liver gets a well-deserved break. You may experience weight loss, a brighter skin complexion and a general improved sense of well-being each day.

Another common effect of dry January is better sleep. Alcohol disrupts your sleeping patterns, which is one of the reasons you feel a little foggy in the mornings after drinking a few cocktails. Without the interference of alcohol disrupting your sleep patterns, you'll find yourself enjoying more restful nights and wake up feeling truly rejuvenated.

How to reduce your alcohol consumption in January

If you’re looking to reduce your alcohol intake but aren’t quite ready to commit to a full month of sobriety, “damp” January is an alternative option. Rather than cutting out your favorite beverage or beer entirely, consider just reducing the amount you drink. Limit it to special occasions with friends or enjoy just one glass of wine at happy hour. Small changes like this can have a positive impact on your health and well-being, as well as making you much more aware of your relationship with alcohol.

Sober curious? How to extend the benefits of dry January

Once you reach the end of January, you may have newfound interest in reducing your alcohol intake throughout the year. Consider this: One week of not drinking each month translates to three alcohol-free months in a year. Moderating your alcohol is much less daunting than giving it up entirely. It’s a simple habit that can have a powerful impact on your overall well-being. You can still enjoy the social activities that involve drinking, such as wine nights with friends or a cocktail hour with colleagues, and abstaining just a week of each month feels much more achievable than cutting out all alcohol cold turkey.

Speak to your primary care provider about other mindful changes you can make to improve your health.

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