For most of us, the pandemic has shown the sobering reality of our alcohol consumption. From quarantine spirit measures to transforming the garden shed into a bar and spending your furlough drunk in the garden, many are wondering how to drink less alcohol.  

More UK citizens than ever before have opted into Dry January, going cold turkey in a bid to drink less. Whether you’re looking to cut down or just looking for an excuse the group chat can’t reject when the Friday pub invite comes in, Dry January could be an option. But does dry January work and will it fix your relationship with alcohol, or would it be better to adopt mindful drinking? 

Dry January is a public health campaign that was launched by Alcohol Change UK to encourage the public to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol by completely cutting it out. According to their research, almost three in ten drinkers found themselves drinking more in 2021 as a direct result of the pandemic. This has contributed to the biggest Dry January turnout ever with 130,000 people signed up so far. 

Their app ‘Try Dry’ also offers support to those undertaking the challenge and makes users twice as likely to go the whole month without drinking. By ditching the booze, participants in Dry January can experience instant benefits such as better sleep and concentration levels and don’t forget the calories and money saved. 

Just one month without alcohol can also lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes and lower cancer-related proteins in the blood, resulting in potential long-term health benefits. The community aspect of the challenge and sense of achievement, coupled with the health benefits is extremely attractive to those who have otherwise struggled to reign their drinking in. 

Some are wary about the month-long challenge though, arguing that going from alcohol-fuelled festivities to stone-cold sober is comparable to a crash diet. Plummeting from one extreme to the other doesn’t develop sustainable habits. They recommend mindful drinking instead, where people are encouraged to pause and assess their relationship with the things that we do on autopilot. This could be anything from eating and using social media, to drinking alcohol. 

Instead of completely cutting alcohol out, you can consider each drink that you have, why you’re drinking it, and how it makes you feel. It’s not necessary to demonise alcohol as long as you know that you’re in control of your drinking. This can be a great option for those who are concerned about cutting alcohol out completely but still want to address their use of alcohol in day-to-day life. 

“It’s very much a personal matter. Some people benefit from zero, some people benefit more from being more aware of how much and how frequently they’re drinking and just reigning it in a little. The physical health benefits of cutting alcohol from the diet completely are unquestionable, but what’s important to consider is that Dry January doesn’t become an added stress. Regardless of your decision, there is no doubt from a liver health point of view that everyone would benefit from taking 2 or more days off drinking every week.” Caroline Drewe, Clinical Director, Latus Health 

Self-awareness is the key idea behind Dry January and mindful drinking practices and encourages drinkers to be more conscious of why they drink instead of drinking on autopilot. Alcohol Change UK highlights the challenge as an opportunity to take a month of reflection, particularly concerning social situations and the role alcohol plays.

 Many see abstaining from alcohol as self-punishment, but it’s actually a great opportunity to try something new. You can also finally say goodbye to the Sunday morning socials dash to delete any evidence of last night’s wrongdoings. 

Ruby Warrington, the author of ‘Sober Curious’ and advocate for cutting out booze, highlights alcohol as our social drug of choice. She also claims that we can generate the same effect from within. Publishing Sober Curious in 2018 led to a global movement to reassess what our lives would look like without alcohol, showing that we no longer have to normalise excessive social drinking. Whether you completed Dry January, missed it completely, or slipped up, becoming more intentional and aware of your drinking habits is the most important outcome.