Each year millions of us participate in new year charity campaigns or make a personal resolution to lay off the tipples for a month at the start of the year, with an estimated 4.2 million people planning to take part in Dry January, a campaign set up by Alcohol Change UK, this month.
At first, you might feel you are ‘missing out’ - after a festive period of excess, when we have been used to eating, drinking and sleeping much more that we usually would, sudden abstinence can come as a shock. But let’s reframe this, if ‘wine o’clock’ has become a habit rather than a treat, taking a month off really can bring a plethora of health benefits. Participants regularly report better sleep patterns, healthier, brighter looking skin, higher energy levels and less snacking. The combination leading to steady weight loss and a better sense of wellbeing.
Come February, although it is lovely to pour that first drink for a month, you are noticeably more aware of your actions. They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit so going ‘cold turkey’ for a solid 21 days, the act of concentrating on NOT doing the activity, means that when we do decide to relax our self-restraint, it becomes a conscious act and one which we savour, enjoy and appreciate.
Research suggests that this month off can result in longer term changes in drinking behaviours, and Dr Mehta’s says “at six to eight months after Dry January, the proportion of participants drinking at harmful levels decreased by about 50%. It may be that participating in Dry January allows individuals to ‘reset’ their relationship with alcohol.” Additionally, Ian Hamilton, Lecturer in Addiction at the University of York states that “overall, Dry January is a good initiative as it prompts people to think about not just how much they drink but what their individual relationship with alcohol is. For example, if you often drink to relax, it might get people to think about alternative ways to relax rather than relying on alcohol.”
Taking Dry January as inspiration, how can we apply this month of restraint to create better habits and mindfulness towards our countryside?
Maybe you can commit to buying only plastic-free veg for one month, or source your meat from the local butcher, taking along your own containers. Can you vow to walk to work via the scenic route every day, or visit a local independent coffee shop each weekend instead of your regular chain? It’s not a matter of giving things up forever - just like Dry January, we don’t intend to never drink again! We are simply embracing a period of habit forming activities, to create more mindful patterns.
By promising to break a habit, we are also committing to creating a new one. One which will ultimately enrich our lives through healthy living, ecological benefits on local industry and community.
I would love to know - what are your resolutions this month, are you making or breaking a habit?