If total sobriety this January sounds too intimidating, try a semi-dry version of the annual foray into abstinence known as "Dry January." The new custom called "Damp January" will still improve your relationship with alcohol.
According to The Washington Post, studies show even a modest reduction in drinking can improve blood pressure, mental health, and liver health. It can also reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, while improving sleep, energy levels and the appearance of your skin.
Here are some ways to cut back on alcohol:
- Drink only on special occasions. During the month of January, consume alcohol only on special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, or other celebrations.
- Add more dry days to your routine. Cut back on the number of days you drink.
- Consume fewer drinks in one setting. If you enjoy cocktail hour, imbibe in only one drink. Limit your dinner wine to one glass for a month.
- Use a combination of approaches. Set a goal of specific dry days in January, and when you do consume alcohol, limit the number of drinks in one setting. Choose to drink on special occasions or designate them as dry days. Choose what methods work for you to cut back on alcohol.
"Any reduction in drinking is associated with improvements in health," notes Katie Witkiewitz, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of the Center on alcohol, Substance Abuse and Addiction at the University of Mexico. "As your drinking increases you have increased health risks, and as your drinking decreases, you have decreases health risks. Even if you didn't drink for one day that's still one day less of drinking."
For Damp January, Witkiewitz set a goal of drinking 50% less for the entire month. That means she drinks on 50% fewer days than usual and consumes half as much alcohol on those occasions, according to the Post.
"The holidays are a time when I might drink more than usual, so for me, Damp January is a nice change of pace," she says, adding, we should be kind to our livers and brains by consuming less alcohol.
Studies have shown that participants in Dry January not only reduced alcohol intake but lost weight, slept better, saved money, and had more energy. When they returned to drinking, they consumed considerably less even six months later.
Richard de Visser, one of the authors of Dry January studies, says Damp January is like exercise. It is better than doing nothing and every day you cut back on alcohol is effectively a training session that teaches you skills to better manage your drinking.
"The more training sessions you do the stronger you get," says Visser, a psychologist at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England.
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