Food For Thought

Dry January: 6 reasons to take a break from alcohol after Christmas and why it’s good for you

Did you have yourself a gin-soaked Christmas?

Three days into the month, how’s your dry January going?

If the term is alien to you, you can file it along with Veganuary (going vegan for January) in that box of “January things”. Essentially, it’s going on “the dry” or without alcohol for the month of January.

I’ll refuse to call it a detox. You’ve got organs that do that for you every day of the week. It’s simply making the decision to not consume alcohol for the 31 days of the month.

For those who don’t drink an awful lot anyway, it’s a pretty simple move. Seasoned wine, beer or gin aficionados might find things a little harder.

Though hard it may seem, there’s plenty of benefits to putting down the glass and leaving the bottle on the shelf this month.

Building up to January

I’m not an excessive drinker by any means. The days of me hitting the pub for a skinful of pints on a Friday and Saturday are long gone.

At best, it’s a bottle of wine at the weekend, maybe a few gin and tonics. Rarely there’s anything during the week.

But at Christmas, it tends to go out the window. We stock up on spirits to have when folks call around. A case or two of beer go into the fridge.

There’s plenty of mixers too, this year including some fancy tonics. There’s Baileys in the coffee. Champagne comes out for the celebratory meetups.

After a few weeks of excess, it’s good to hit pause and roll things back a bit.

Dry January Benefits

All that said, here’s 6 benefits I see to taking a dry January for yourself.

1. Sleep better, sleep longer

Room to sleep. Photo: Annie Spratt
Room to sleep. Photo: Annie Spratt

Maybe it’s something that just starts happening when you hit your thirties, but I sure sleep better when I’ve not had a few pints.

A night on the beer – while enjoyable at the time – leaves me restless, with broken sleep, and creates a pattern I might not break for 2-3 days. Heavy night on a Friday? Expect to recover by Monday or Tuesday.

Your head might feel fine, sure, but your body is a machine that needs to be well tuned and looked after. Imagine how you would feel after a month of solid sleep patterns?

2. Extra cash in your pocket

€10 and €20 bank notes. Photo: Sara Kurfeß
€10 and €20 bank notes. Photo: Sara Kurfeß

Let’s face it – going out isn’t cheap. While I’d love to see non-alcoholic beers come down in price in pubs, the drinking culture is a costly one.

Two gin and tonics on a night out these days and you’re lucky to have change from a twenty.

Out for dinner this month and adding a glass or two or maybe a bottle of wine? Throw an extra €20 or €30 on your tab.

Would you regularly buy a pack of cans or bottles of beer at the weekend. Say, a tenner a twist? That could be an extra €40 in your pocket at the end of the month. It’s not much now, but January is a long month and I know I would benefit from it.

Kate Gunn saved €1,000 in 100 days. Is that your kind of spending?

3. Boost your energy levels

Man riding bike. Photo: Jonny Kennaugh/Unsplash
Man riding bike. Photo: Jonny Kennaugh/Unsplash

If you’re sleeping better, you’re likely to see a boost in your energy levels.

I find those weekends where there’s been no alcohol intake means I’m up earlier, active earlier and ready to go across the day.

Ok, you might not be running up mountains this month, but a week or two of avoiding alcohol and you should notice a spring in your step.

4. Improve your immune system

Oranges in a bowl on green background. Photo: Monika Grabkowska/Unsplash
Oranges. Photo: Monika Grabkowska/Unsplash

One night of binge drinking can have a big impact on your immune system. So imagine what a few weeks of excess can do over Christmas.

Getting a dose of the sniffles now and a bit of a chesty cough? Feeling run down after regular drinking?

Better sleep, better energy all feed into a better immune system. You’re putting less stress on your heart, liver, kidneys, improving body and organ function.

5. Lose a few pounds

Denim jeans on a line. Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash
Denim jeans on a line. Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash

Do you feel bloated after consuming a feed of pints or a few glasses of wine?

Sure, red wine may lower heart disease, but alcohol plays a big role in weight management. If you’ve been thinking on shedding a few pounds, skipping the evening tipple or weekend pints can curb your binge eating.

You might be calorie conscious during the week, but you’ll find plenty of calories in pints of Guinness, glasses of wine or your favourite Jameson and ginger all.

Check out this piece from healthline.com.

6. Assess your relationship with alcohol

Cans of beer on a street. Photo: Camylla Battani/Unsplash
Cans of beer on a street. Photo: Camylla Battani/Unsplash

There’s a benefit to the reflection time you’ll get going off alcohol.

Maybe track your progress in a notebook or using an app – particularly if you’re used to going out every weekend or having a glass of wine with every meal.

How often do you drink? Would you consume a lot? Are you more prone to binge drinking or is your consumption well spread out and managed?

Have you noticed your mood improving come the end of the month? What’s it like inside your head?

If taking the time away from alcohol, even if only until 31 January, helps you take stock of its role in your life, I’d say that’s pretty good going.

It’s getting easier, but the choice is yours

While it might not be getting any cheaper, it’s certainly getting easier to go out to social events, have a few drinks and avoid alcohol.

Non alcoholic offerings from the likes of Heineken, Erdinger, Paulaner, Becks, even Kilkenny’s Highbank Orchards, make things easier for beer drinkers.

The choice though, is yours and sometimes you need to be strict on yourself to see it through. But if you embark on a “dry” January and have one “wet” day, enjoy it and pick up where you left off the next day.

It’s still win-win and you’ll be giving your body – and mind – a break, if only temporarily.

What about you? Will you be partaking in a dry January? Is it all a con? Has it become “the thing to do” or just something to tick a box on for the new year? Have your say in the comments below.


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Ken McGuire

Digital media head now mixing it up in the world of broadcast media. Formerly Any Given Food (2010-2015), calling the food haven that is Kilkenny home. Award-winning podcaster turned broadcaster, find me on air weekdays 3-5.30pm on KCLR Drive.

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