Feeling pressure to do Dry January? Maybe you should consider Damp January instead. Turns out, it might be the healthier approach.
Woman hand with glass of champagne isolated on a purple background with a no sign being erased over it
Credit: Getty Images / bluebeat76

January is for resolutions—always has been, and always will be. And one that seems to have cemented itself in our list of potential resolutions to choose from is Dry January—aka a month-long hiatus from drinking booze. What first began in the UK in 2013 has taken off. The market research firm Mintel has been tracking the trend for quite a few years, in fact, and reported that social media traction on Dry January grew by more than 1000 percent between 2015 to 2019.

There are some legit perks to drying out: better sleep, more energy, a clearer mind, less irritability and anxiety. And that's just the short list of the immediate benefits. A Dry January could also help kickstart healthier habits around drinking.

But going alcohol-free voluntarily for 31 days could also have some drawbacks. After a month of no drinking, some think your re-entry to drinking is more likely to turn into a night of binge drinking than a moderate cocktail or two. Others argue that complete abstinence for a month is actually easier than drinking in moderation because abstinence doesn't strengthen our skills needed to cut back. There's also the notion that a voluntary alcohol hiatus triggers the scarcity principle: we inherently place a higher value on goods we cannot have (in this case, wine, beer, spirits, etc.) and this leads us to want them even more.

And so, this is the perfect segue to introduce you to Damp January!

What Is Damp January?

It's pretty much exactly what its name implies: not dry, yet not as wet as usual. According to Urban Dictionary, Damp January is "a lesser version of dry January for those of us with less willpower or need to celebrate special events or just want a drink!"

The murky part to Damp January is that there aren't any clear cut rules. Maybe you don't drink on the weekdays, but you imbibe on the weekends. Or perhaps you drink when you want to, but you cap it at one single drink. You could also mix up a cocktail (or whatever your drink of choice is) only on special occasions, or when you're out socializing with friends or family. The options of how to define Damp January are plentiful.

Should You Try Damp January?

However you define Damp January, it's worth trying. And here's why. First, cutting back without going cold turkey has the potential to help you learn healthier drinking habits. Moderation requires a lot of decisions: will I drink today? How much will I drink? Can I turn it off after I've only had one drink? Flexing this muscle and learning how to navigate these decisions will serve you better both throughout the year and for the long-haul.

Second, there are actual health benefits to moderate drinking. Reminder, moderate drinking means one drink a day for people assigned female at birth, and two for those assigned male at birth. Research shows that moderate drinking can boost your mood, bolster your good cholesterol, and may even lower your risk of death (though, yes, we will all die eventually). And for the beer drinkers reading this, beer has been shown to strengthen your bones.

Bottom Line

Whichever wellness experiment you, well, experiment with—Dry or Damp January or Sober or Semi-Sober September—voluntary sobriety is a luxury. In the U.S., more than 14 million people suffer from alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction. If you, or someone you know, needs professional help, contact SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.