Dry January: 5 Reasons to Consider Mindful Drinking

I love wine. I live on a vineyard in California wine country and much of my social life revolves around the fruit of the vine. Yet when the idea of Dry January, or Dryuary as some call it, first came onto my radar a few years ago, I had reason to consider giving it a go.

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Not Just for the Sober Curious

My curiosity and interest in Dry January wasn’t that I had a drinking problem or that I was frequently sloshed. For me, it was that drinking had become perfunctory in a way that diminished my appreciation of the fine wines that were so available to me. 

I was also starting to suspect that some mindless habits were taking grip, as mindless habits often do. Certain triggers caused my brain to expect a glass of wine. One such trigger was completing the last bit of business at the end of a long workday. The glass of wine represented moving into me-time and my brain developed a habit loop around the transition.

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Another trigger was entering an airport lounge. For several years, I was a long-distance commuter, flying twice a week between San Francisco and Salt Lake City. Having a glass of wine before boarding a flight slowed down my monkey mind and allowed me to relax during the flight. The connection between airport lounge and wine became so powerful that I’d have to deliberately refrain from seeking a glass prior to a 6:00 AM flight. 

Discovering the Benefits of a New Year Reset

While the intention of my first Dry January was to restore greater appreciation of the wines I enjoy and to break the habit loop of mindless drinking, I ultimately learned much more about how alcohol affected my overall wellbeing and how Dry January had ongoing benefits throughout the year.

1. Better Sleep.

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Wait. What? My husband used to say “two glasses, she is fun; three glasses, she’s asleep.” A glass of wine or two late in the day ensured I would fall asleep the moment my head hit the pillow. 

But the reality is that the quality of sleep is degraded by alcohol’s interference of optimal REM cycles. I’ve found that when I abstain from alcohol, it may take me a little longer to fall asleep, but I feel much more rested when the alarm app chimes in the morning. 

2. Mental Acuity.

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The blood alcohol levels that lead to (often regrettable) decrease in inhibition interfere with the brain’s communication pathways. For me, even a glass or two of wine with dinner affects “lexical fluency,” my ability to produce words and names off the top of my head. Because the effect on sharpness and focus spills over into the next day as a result of poorer quality sleep, there’s a now-and-later blow to brain function. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that mental computing power is inversely proportional to wine consumption. 

3. Reduced Acid Reflux.

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The good news is that as I’ve gotten older, red wine headaches are less of a problem. The bad news is that the headaches have been replaced by acid reflux that wakes me up and makes my voice hoarse … and not in an especially sexy way. The multitude of benefits associated with better sleep and a healthier esophagus are two reasons that leaving the wine corked through January motivates more mindful consumption throughout the rest of the year. 

4. Weight Loss.

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Substituting water for wine with dinner can mean a significant reduction in caloric consumption. Even just one glass of wine per evening meal accounts for 4000 calories over the course of a month. And because they are liquid calories, you don’t necessarily add to feelings of fulness, so the tendency can be to pile on another helping of potatoes. Following the bloat of holiday over-indulgence, Dry January is a jump start to waistline recovery.

5. Brighter Skin.

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As a beauty industry veteran, smoother, brighter, healthier looking skin is the reason I have become an advocate of Dry January. Alcohol is a diuretic that can cause your body to pee out more water faster, leading to dehydration and lack-luster, dry skin. Part of skin’s essential function is to control the loss of water from the body; alcohol consumption makes that more of an uphill battle. In essence, Dry January is a source of beauty from the inside out.

Keys to Success

For me, the most difficult part of Dry January is FOMO: fear of missing out, especially at social events where fine wines flow freely. So I’ll hold a glass with a short pour and enjoy the nose (smell) of the wine without drinking it.  

Some people find that journaling helps them notice the effects of abstaining and encourages them to keep going. Others have found benefit from the Sunnyside App for mindful drinking. My approach is one of healthy substitution. 

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As my body is experiencing the benefits of the alcohol hiatus, it’s a perfect time to introduce an alternative beverage habit. Golden Moment Turmeric Elixir is an ideal happy hour or evening alternative to a glass of wine. The modern take on a traditional Ayurvedic beverage is not only deliciously satisfying, it may help to further support sleep patterns, digestive health and skin radiance from the inside out, further enhancing the benefits of Dry January. 

The Satisfaction of Taking Control

With life feeling so out of control these days, it’s easy to understand why alcohol consumption has spiked since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic; it’s an easy way to self-medicate and release feel good endorphins for a short-term lift. However, for far too many, it can lead to dependency that is difficult to escape.  That’s why it’s a good idea to join the 30 million adults in the US who plan on participating in some version of a dry January to start 2023. There’s meaningful satisfaction in taking control when we can. A small success in January encourages commitment to ongoing healthy change and to brighter months and years ahead.   

Lori Bush is a wellness and beauty industry innovator and thought leader.  She has authored a number of papers dealing with health, beauty and business leadership and is a co-author of a best-selling beauty and wellness book.

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