By Martin Ebner
The new year is an exciting prospect. It's a ideal opportunity to try something new, to better oneself and for many, to take on the daunting challenge of 31 days of abstinence.
After weeks of booze-driven social events and overindulgence in all that the festive season throws at you. There's actually no better time or opportunity to give sobriety a shot.
Now, If you drink like Lindsey Lohan on any given day, dry January may seem somewhat hopeless. However, it's not impossible by any means. It's important to know the pros, cons and side-effects associated with sobriety so that you can mentally prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
Should you partake in dry January?
Whether you're on 10 pints a night or are a social Saturday night dabbler, we can all benefit from 31 days of abstinence.
What are the pros?
The benefits of taking a month of alcohol are vast and in my opinion, heavily outweigh the negatives. Here's what to expect:
A thiner waistline
It's not called a beer belly without good reason. Alcohol is jam-packed-full of empty calories, meaning that as soon as you stop, you create a natural calorie deficit that results in near enough effortless weight-loss.
To see exactly how calories you consume from alcohol on a monthly basis, check out the cancer research Alcohol calculator.
A fatter wallet
Not only is alcohol calorie dense (7 calories per gram to be precise) it's also one of the world's more overpriced commodities. Take what you might normally spend on a week's boozing and put it towards something special.
Can you honestly say that you've ever felt truly rested after a night of heavy drinking? Sure, you'll pass out faster after a night cap due to the sedative effects of alcohol but you'll also struggle to fall into the restorative, deep stages of sleep thanks to a spike in epinephrine, a stress hormone that increases the heart rate.
DEEPER sleep = More energy
It's not the amount we sleep, it's quality of the sleep that dictates how rested we feel. By cutting out booze you allow your body to fall into a deep sleep (REM) allowing you to rise and shine!
Sure, you're have more confidence to ask for her phone number after a pint or two but under the influence of alcohol, your mood yo-yos and your sexual desire decreases, making it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection. Just 31 dry days of abstinence can decrease your risk of erectile dysfunction.
Alcohol is a depressant and can slow down the messages to and from the brain and body. The result of alcohol abuse is decreased problem solving ability, poor judgement, concentration, coordination and reaction times.
You will experience clarity and unclouded judgement allowing you make smarter decisions from an unaltered state of mind.
Sundays (Yes it's a day).
Sunday will take on a whole new meaning. No longer is it a day of recovery, It's a day pro-activeness, a day of rest before a tough work week, a day of pleasure. It's whatever you want it to be!!
What are the cons / challenges?
Awkward / Uncomfortable Social situations
If you rely heavily on alcohol to get you through most social situations, this will probably be the most challenging part of dry January.
What to do:
Continue to go out as normal or don't, your choice! Make sure that everyone that needs to know your off the juice knows in advance. This will avoid the all too often and dreaded question, "why aren't you drinking?"
Order a non-alcoholic version of your favourite drink. Believe it or not, just having a drink in your hand will put you at ease. One of the troubling aspects of not drinking alcohol when everyone else around you is, is that you may become the elephant in the room. Fear not Dumbo, it's only temporary!
If you're toiling over whether or not the temptation of those around you drinking will push you over the edge, avoid situations involving alcohol for the first couple of weeks. It gets easier over time!
If you are somebody that uses alcohol to help relax at the end of the day, you may feel some anxiety. Don't panic, it's perfectly normal. The benefit of taking on this challenge is that after just 31 days, you will be better prepared to handle anxiety without reaching for the nearest bottle.
What to do:
If you do feel anxious, get out for a walk, take 10 deep breaths, read a book, have sex or use some of what you aren't spending on alcohol and splurge on a massage or a trip to the spa.
Like anxiety, if you use alcohol to blow of steam, you're going to have to find an alternative. Exercise is great for tension relief. If you're not already a regular exerciser, use some of that excess energy you will no doubt be experiencing and try out a boxing or yoga class at the local gym.
Despite some of the side effects associated with alcohol withdrawal, just 31 days of sobriety can positively change the way we look and feel and enhance our ability to deal with everyday situations. It's important to remember why you're doing dry January. Try to make the most of it, good luck and happy 2017.
For added support, download the Dry January App