A bar in Baiting Hollow in 2019. A survey found about...

A bar in Baiting Hollow in 2019. A survey found about 15% of adults planned to participate in Dry January, down from 2022. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

If your holiday season was a little more spirited than usual this year, you might be one of the people trying to make up for it with "Dry January" — a one-month abstention from alcohol.

While some dismiss it as an annual fad, experts said there are physical and emotional benefits to giving your body a break from alcohol, even in the short term. It also might prompt more people to think about their overall health.

“To pause and reflect and begin the process of even temporarily changing how we use alcohol is a great thing,” said Bruce Goldman, a licensed clinical social worker and addiction specialist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens.

Within just one or two weeks, participants could experience better sleep and better hydration, doctors said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • People who may have partied too much during the holiday season abstain from alcohol during a time known as Dry January.
  • Doctors say not drinking alcohol for a month has numerous benefits, such as better mood, sleep and even lowered blood pressure.
  • Dry January may be a time for people to pause and look at how much alcohol they consume and make more healthy changes, experts said.

About 15% of adults nationally planned to participate in Dry January, according to a survey by Morning Consult released in 2023. The percentage was lower than in 2022, when 19% planned to participate, partly due to the increase in alcohol consumption during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If January is a time where people want to evaluate their overall health and live healthier, then I am all for it,” said Dr. Jarid Pachter, a Southold-based Stony Brook Medicine physician who specializes in family medicine and addiction medicine.

He also offered a warning: “It’s only going to make a meaningful difference in somebody's health if the changes in their alcohol consumption are sustained past that one-month period.”

Waking up 'fresh'

Too much COVID-19 pandemic drinking and anxiety led fitness entrepreneur Rachel Goodale of Riverhead to try a Dry January in 2021.

“I saw an immediate difference in my mood and I didn’t feel bloated,” said Goodale, 39, who founded Stroller Strong Mamas. “I would wake up in the morning feeling fresh and not anxious.”

For another six months, she dabbled with the idea of drinking less and found she just lost her taste for wine, beer and tequila. Since July of that year, Goodale said she has had probably two drinks and instead has focused on alcohol-free mocktails.

When people stop drinking alcohol, their body responds almost immediately. Depending on how much they are used to drinking, the road could be rough at the start, said Dr. Mark Solomon, medical director of the chemical dependency rehabilitation program at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.

For the first 24 to 72 hours, people who are used to drinking on a daily basis or even five times a week could experience symptoms of withdrawal, which range from anxiety, depression and fatigue to headaches and sweating. Experts recommend people with serious drinking problems to first consult a medical professional.

“After about a week of alcohol cessation, people are going to usually notice an improved sleep pattern,” Solomon said. “That can lead to better problem solving and better decision making as well as better eating patterns.”

Solomon said some people also will have more energy and fewer headaches in the first two weeks because they won’t experience the dehydration that comes from consuming alcohol.

By the third week, they could see an improvement in blood pressure and the benefits of taking in fewer calories. Their skin might look healthier because it is more hydrated.

“At week four, the liver now starts to recover,” Solomon said. “This is one of the most important organs in the body. It removes toxins, converts food to nutrients and stores minerals and vitamins.”

Low-pressure break from drinking

Around for at least a decade and sparking supportive social media posts and recipes for “mocktails,” Dry January has become a low-pressure method for people to cut back on their drinking, experts said.

“This is a socially acceptable way for someone to take a break from drinking without saying ‘I have a problem’ or it’s a big issue,” Solomon said.

He said the notion of a “drier January,” where people reduce but don’t completely eliminate alcohol from their diet, is helpful because it can include more people.

“You may not be ready or willing or motivated to commit to not drinking at all,” Solomon said. “But this is much more doable, either reducing the frequency and/or quantity when you do drink … what happens is most people feel better.”

A 2022 review of published studies examining one-month alcohol abstinence campaigns in the Harm Reduction Journal found that people who completed them were “associated with lower drinking patterns and better psychosocial functioning.” Many of the participants also reported improved sleep, weight loss and increased energy.

People who participated in challenges such as Dry January were “associated with changes toward healthier drinking” and were unlikely to have a rebound where they would drink more when the month was up, according to a 2016 study in the journal Health Psychology.

Goodall said she would recommend people who are interested to try Dry January and take note of how they feel mentally and physically.

“Better sleep is a huge thing,” she said.

    Santos drops bid for Congress … Trump trial latest … Lego camp Credit: Newsday

    Man who drove off North Fork cliff indicted ... Santos drops bid for Congress ... NTSB: 'No gas' in plane ... Knicks look ahead

    Santos drops bid for Congress … Trump trial latest … Lego camp Credit: Newsday

    Man who drove off North Fork cliff indicted ... Santos drops bid for Congress ... NTSB: 'No gas' in plane ... Knicks look ahead

    Latest videos

    Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
    ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME