If giving up alcohol for 30 days sounds challenging, here's why you should still consider it.

Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D.

You may have some friends doing a Dry January or you may be abstaining from booze yourself. Going without alcohol for a month may sound really challenging, even if you're not a big drinker. Sipping a glass of wine while you make dinner, enjoying a beer (or two) at happy hour and ordering cocktails at dinner-all that booze adds up over time and may push you past the recommended drink amounts. That's just one drink per day for women and two for men.

Learn more: Can Alcohol Be Part of a Healthy Diet?

If you find yourself drinking more than that consistently, Dry January may be a great place to start cutting back. Plus, according to new research there are some unexpected and long-term benefits.

More than 800 people who did Dry January last year filled out surveys as part of research conducted by Richard de Visser, Ph.D., lead study author and psychology professor at the University of Sussex in the U.K. People reported still drinking less, even in August, seven months later.

The number of days that participants drank any alcohol decreased by one day each week, from an average 4.3 days to 3.3 days per week.

They also got drunk fewer times per month (down from 3.4 to 2.1 times per month), and they drank fewer drinks when they did drink.

Other benefits that the people who followed Dry January reported:

  • 88% reported saving money
  • 71% reported sleeping better
  • 58% reported losing weight
  • 80% reported feeling more in control of their drinking
  • 71% reported realizing they didn't need a drink to enjoy themselves

People also felt they had improved concentration, better skin, had more energy and overall felt they had improved their health.

The biggest benefits to a Dry January, according to de Visser, "Discovering that you don't always need to drink in situations when you typically drink. Learning how to resist temptations and pressures to drink and increasing your confidence in managing your alcohol use." He goes on to add, "Dry January allows people to experience benefits relatively immediately across a range of areas including sleep quality, concentration, energy levels and even weight loss."

What surprised de Visser was that those who registered to stay dry all month through the Dry January website or app and made use of the support were more likely to stick with it and see the benefits. Other research around behavior change shows that having support is really important, so try to convince a buddy to join you for a sober month.

Learning more about the benefits of Dry January definitely have me considering starting (albeit a few days late). A moderate amount of wine, and other alcohol, can certainly be a part of a healthy diet (read more about why wine is so good for you) but too much alcohol is detrimental. Plus, there are some health risks associated with any amount of alcohol, like increased breast cancer risk, and certain populations who should avoid alcohol altogether, like those with a history of alcohol abuse and pregnant women.

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