Better sleep, an elevated mood and more money in your pocket are just some benefits of starting the new year alcohol-free, according to a dry January advocate.
Dry Challenge author Hilary Sheinbaum says the concept isn’t always so easy in practice but year over year, it could reduce habits for a heavy drinker looking to cut down.
“Eight years into my dry January experience, I barely drink anymore,” Sheinbaum boasts.
“It wasn’t always that way … it’s definitely been an evolution.”
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) researcher Dr. Peter Selby says depending on how much one drinks, the immediate health benefit to taking a month off is an improvement in mood, since alcohol is a known depressant.
“It may (temporarily) numb your emotions, but over time it makes you more depressed,” Selby explained.
“Clearly, we see depression lifting and also we see improvement in sleep over time.”
He goes on to say blood pressure typically returns to normal levels over a few weeks with long-term effects potentially reducing ailments tied to the liver and pancreas.
Less drinking could also decrease cancer risks.
“People don’t realize that actually alcohol by itself is a class one carcinogen, which means it is associated with and can cause cancer,” Selby said.
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“But quitting for a month will not reduce your cancer risk unless you maintain sobriety after that.”
Sheinbaum says the savings part comes by not having to spend on those “very pricey” cocktails.
Recruiting a friend is the best way to start, according to the author, particularly a partner one can have outings with that don’t involve going to the bar and drinking.
Non-alcoholic beverages can also play a part since so many reputable alcohol manufacturers are also offering such options in the form of beer, wines and spirits.
Sarah Kate, founder of Some Good Clean Fun, says a night with friends doesn’t have to be one with just soda pop.
She says innovation has been “really pushing the boundaries” with many notable Canadian brewers now having a non-alcoholic beer brand that “actually tastes good.”
“There’s a Canadian brand, Libra, and they just they make a hazy IPA that’s just the bomb,” according to Kate.
“And there’s all these great breweries out in the West Coast in Vancouver and Victoria that are making one-off nonalcoholic IPAs.”
Kate says even tequila can come without alcohol, like Lyre’s Agave Blanco and Monday Mezcal which can give a burn through chili peppers and not alcohol.
Sheinbaum also recommends “dry dating” which she says not only shows what a potential partner enjoys outside of work and drinking but keeps “red flags” from being blurred during a first meeting.
“I think that there are other opportunities to really bond with someone over the things that you enjoy. So I definitely recommend it,” she suggests.
“I personally just got engaged so I can attest that it works.”
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