Let’s be honest: 2021 was not a year that most of us will look back on with a wistful sigh of nostalgia. I’ve heard words like stressful, overwhelming, awful, endless, depressing, and devastating. And, if the Facebook newsfeed is any indicator, many of us have turned to an extra glass of wine or bottle of beer to calm our frayed nerves.
“Dry January” offers an option to hit the reset button on our health or even on habits that might have snuck up on us. This annual observance has risen in popularity since its start in Great Britain about eight years ago.
This year, approximately 15 percent of the United States population will choose to not consume any alcoholic beverages for the entire month. That’s on top of the nearly one-third who already are teetotalers for one reason or another. I realize that we are already a couple of days into January, but it’s not too late to get started.
Why in the world would anyone want to give up alcohol for a month? Well, it’s an individual thing.
Here are some reasons that people make the Dry January choice:
1) After a month of buffets, feasts, and sweets, avoiding alcohol is a way to carve out a few empty calories.
Avoiding calories in alcohol can be an easy win for the diet, especially since alcohol offers no proven nutritional benefit. Even the cardio-protective aspects of some wines have been far overstated. Eat dark chocolate and blueberries instead. They carry the same cardio-protective ingredient with fewer calories per serving.
2) People report just feeling better while taking a break from alcohol. That may seem counterintuitive since we use alcohol to celebrate or just relax. It’s supposed to make us feel good. However, ethanol, the chemical name for alcohol, is toxic to our systems and is the root of the term “intoxication.” It impairs immunity for at least 24 hours, disturbs sleep patterns for several days, and creates a hydration deficit for our bodies. Most people simply feel better after about a week of abstaining.
3) Some report that they have decided to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. A drinking-related incident may have gotten their attention; an injury, a regrettable argument, or maybe a DUI. A person may reach an awareness that alcohol has become an easy response to stress, anger, or anxiety. Some may notice that their Facebook or Instagram posts are frequently focused on what they are drinking or will be drinking. Some just decide that they might be drinking more than they wanted or more than their comfort level allows. A month-long period of evaluation is reasonable. If you do this self-evaluation and wish to talk it over with someone, give us a call.
4) Finally, there are those who take a break from alcohol for their own peace of mind and a mental health check. After the year we’ve been through, this seems entirely reasonable. Alcohol is a depressant. Although it may relax us or de-stress us in the moment, the longer-term impacts can either mask or exacerbate an underlying mental health issue. Healthcare has come a long way and there are wonderful treatments that can restore people to good mental health. Those treatments do a far better job than alcohol.
If you would like to talk to someone about concerns related to alcohol, please give us a call at 607-432-0090. It’s confidential, and we’re judgment-free.
From the staff at LEAF, we wish you a happy, healthy new year!