10 tools for a brilliant Dry January

Lauren Booker | December 2020 | 9 minutes

A month without alcohol is going to do wonders for your health - here we offer some hints and tips to make it the best possible experience for January and beyond!

1. Remind yourself of your motivations

Why are you doing this? Make a list of all the things you hope to gain. Then rank them in order of importance - give them a score out of 10. Take a look at your list and focus on how you'll achieve all these wonderful things. Yes, you'll probably save a bit of cash but what has really inspired you to take this journey? How will you feel when you succeed? Put it all down on paper and stick it somewhere visible as a reminder throughout the month. This will help you take your Dry January seriously, and keep going if things get tough.

2. Tell people

It can be tempting to keep your Dry January to yourself, especially if you're worried you won't make it through the month, but telling others is a good way to keep you on track. Post your intention on social media. If you're going out, let your people know in advance that you won't be drinking. You might find that lots of others are doing Dry January too!

3. Make a plan for situations where alcohol is on offer

You’re probably going to be invited somewhere where there will be alcohol on offer at some point in January, so you need to be prepared. Deciding beforehand what you’re going to do in those situations will really help you when the time comes. Whether it’s sticking to alcohol-free alternatives (that still look like the real deal – if your local doesn’t stock alcohol-free beer and wine you could try a soda and lime), suggesting everyone buys their own drinks or practising saying no, make sure you have a plan at the ready!

4. Practise saying no

You don't need to justify your choice to stay dry in January of course, but sometimes it helps to have a ready-made reason if someone gets pushy and insists you join them in a tipple. Maybe "I'm doing Dry January" won't always be your go-to reason, so what else would work for you? I'm driving/looking after my mental health/running a virtual marathon tomorrow/looking after the kids in the morning? Just make sure if someone offers you a drink out of the blue, you've got your answer ready. It's oh, so much easier than trying to think of a reason when someone puts you on the spot. If you stay firm, people are less likely to try to convince you to change your mind.

5. Plan some activities to look forward to

After the year we’ve had, goodness knows we could all do with something to look forward to. Planning some fun things to do during January will make it a whole lot better, and give you a little pick-me-up if 2021 throws us more curveballs.

Moreover, not drinking will save you money – so use some of it to treat yourself! Just a few potential activities include: going on a walk with a friend, attending a virtual life drawing class, teaching yourself a new instrument, trying a different takeaway restaurant or cooking yourself an elaborate meal every week, going on a day trip somewhere, buying yourself some really fancy tea/coffee/hot chocolate/soft drinks… and most, if not all, of these activities can be done even with COVID-19 restrictions in place!

Showing yourself that you don’t need alcohol to have fun will stand you in brilliant stead going forward.

6. Be prepared for slip-ups

Being prepared for slip-ups is a good idea. Having a drink doesn’t need to be the end of the world – or even the end of your dry month. It just depends on your mindset and how you come back from it.

Don’t beat yourself up about any slip-ups. Just think about why it happened – what made it difficult not to drink? Is there something you can do next time to stop you drinking? That way, if the same situation comes up again, you’ll be better prepared. That, in turn, will help you to strengthen what we like to call your ‘drink-refusal skills’, and that will make cutting back after January if you want to a doddle.

7. Keep a diary

Record what's new, what's different, what's better every day. You can look back at previous entries and see just how far you've come. Making time each day, even just a couple of minutes, to remind yourself of your Dry January journey will really help you to see it through to the end. Why not blog about your Dry January experiences? This might be something to inspire your colleagues or family or just to keep you thinking about your Dry January adventure.

8. Phone a friend

Doing Dry January with a friend can make all the difference. You can inspire and encourage each other and have someone to turn to if it gets tough. Better still, get the whole group involved! Feeling inspired by what others are achieving and not wanting to let others down are both great ways to stay committed. People who join with a friend are much more likely to succeed. If it's a friend you're competitive with, even better!

9. Think about why you drink, and make a switch

What are the things that make you really, really want a drink? For many people the triggers fall into one of four categories - Social Occasions, Treats, Negative Emotions or Defences Down. These can be internal (thoughts, feelings or sensations) or external (things going on around you). Knowing your triggers can really help you to plan for tempting times, and work out some things you can do instead. For example, if you drink because you’re stressed, could you try going on a walk instead?

10. Ask for help if you need it

You might find that Dry January is harder than you thought, and that’s ok. You could try having a Drier January instead, and use the Try Dry app to set some goals. If you’re finding it tough, don’t battle through miserably. Instead, talk to someone. That might be your friends and family, or it might be your GP or local alcohol service. Find out more about getting support here.

If none of those appeal, the Dry January Community on Facebook could be the thing for you.

Whatever you choose, getting support doesn’t mean admitting weakness. Lots of us have a bit of a complicated relationship with alcohol, and getting some help is just an all-round good idea.

Goodbye 2020, hello 2021! Download the free Try Dry app to take on Dry January with support and double your chance of long-term benefits.

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