Going just two weeks without alcohol brings multiple benefits, from having more money to visibly healthier skin. If you’re not experiencing these yet, it’s only a matter of time.
“We’ll all experience benefits of Dry January at different stages depending on how much we were drinking before, what our habits are now and just because our bodies are different,” Dr Richard Piper, CEO for Alcohol Concern, told HuffPost UK.
To motivate you to continue with your alcohol-free lifestyle this month (hurrah for mocktails!), we spoke to Dr Piper and Dr Luke James, from Bupa, about the effects you might have noticed so far.
1. Zero Hangovers
The most obvious benefit of giving up booze is that you spare yourself those hangovers. Who wants to be in bed feeling sick all day, anyway?
2. More Money
It’s no secret that cutting down on your booze intake will have saved you some cash. In the UK in 2016, the average weekly household spent £7.80 on alcohol consumed in the home, while £7.50 was spent on alcohol consumed outside of the home. Tot that up and you’ve got a solid £30 saving so far, and £60 by the end of the month.
While we’re spending less money at the moment due to the pandemic, there’s no denying cutting booze out your weekly shop will save you cash.
3. Better Sleep
While alcohol helps you drop off to sleep easily, it wreaks havoc on your sleep quality in the long-run. Getting your full six to seven cycles of REM sleep per night is the key to waking up and feeling refreshed. “If you’ve been drinking you’ll typically only have one to two cycles meaning you can wake feeling exhausted and irritable,” Professor Paul Wallace, chief medical adviser to alcohol education charity Drinkaware, told HuffPost UK.
Immediately after quitting drinking, it’s likely you’ll experience a few nights of bad sleep but this doesn’t last long – two weeks in, most people will be sleeping better. “That’s because, while alcohol can help us get to sleep, we sleep less deeply when we’ve been drinking so feel less well-rested,” Dr Piper added.
4. Healthier Skin
Some people taking part in Dry January might already be experiencing clearer, less dry skin, according to Dr Piper.
Drinking booze typically leads to dehydrated skin, and heavy drinking has been linked to skin disorders like rosacea, which can lead to facial swelling, puffiness and weight gain.
Dr Luke James, medical director for Health Clinics at Bupa UK, said drinking a lot is also thought to stop your skin getting the vitamins and nutrients it needs. “If you stop drinking and keep yourself hydrated, your skin will likely thank you for it,” he said.
5. A Better Workout
Alcohol has a negative effect on your performance in sport, so if you’re hitting the gym and going out drinking, they’re probably counteracting one another.
“This is because alcohol dehydrates you and reduces how much blood sugar your liver produces (which is important for exercise),” explained Dr James. “So it follows that an alcohol-free body will allow your body to perform at its best when exercising and you’ll get the most from your workout.”
He added that giving up alcohol, even for a short amount of time, may allow your body to recover more quickly.
6. Liver Recovery
Amazingly, in as little as two weeks, your liver will start to repair itself and get rid of the excess fat caused by regularly drinking too much, according to Dr James.
It’s really important to give your liver a break as the fat build-up can lead to more serious health problems in the future. For more on how giving up alcohol benefits your organs, click here.
7. Weight Loss
Alcohol can be pretty calorific – the more you drink, the bigger the impact on your waistline. “Embracing an alcohol-free existence may be all you need to do to shed unwanted pounds,” explained Dr James. “The most obvious reason for this is the high amount of sugar in alcoholic drinks.
“For example, in terms of calories, a large glass of wine is the same as eating an ice cream. A pint of cider has the same amount of calories as a doughnut. And, as many people tend to drink a few pints per sitting, the calories soon tally up.”
Additionally, if you’re not spending January drunk, you’ll be more likely to make better food choices. It all adds up.
8. Better Relationship With Booze
Ultimately, the biggest benefit of Dry January comes from resetting your relationship with alcohol, said Alcohol Concern’s Dr Piper. “Dry January is your bootcamp to learn the skills you need to be able to say no when you don’t fancy a drink, so you can make healthier, happier choices all year round,” he said.
We’ll drink (a hot tea) to that.