Mindfulness for Dry January®

Lauren Booker | January 2024 | 7 minutes

Here are some simple mindfulness exercises you can try throughout Dry January® to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling.

When it comes to changing habits, mindfulness can help to build your resilience and stop you from slipping up without thinking about it. All of this is really handy if you sometimes absent-mindedly reach for a drink and don’t even notice you’re doing it. Checking in with yourself can also be a helpful way to manage any stress or anxiety you may be feeling.

This text was adapted from Try Dry®: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze

Week one

Repeat this exercise during the first week of your Try Dry® challenge.

Every time you think about having an alcoholic drink, notice where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with or who you're talking to and how you feel about having the drink. Make a mental note and then carry on as before. Don’t change what you do and (this is really important) don’t have a go at yourself or put yourself down. You’re trying to observe yourself with curiosity, not punish yourself.

Weeks two and three

During the second and third weeks of your challenge, take this exercise a little further. This will help you to recognise your self-sabotaging thoughts.

Pay attention to your thoughts. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself, make a mental comment – ‘Oh, I just put myself down,’ or, ‘I just told myself I won’t manage a dry month,’ or ‘I brushed aside that compliment.’ Don’t try to change your thoughts, just notice them and move on. As with the last exercise, it’s important not to judge yourself for these thoughts, just to notice that they are happening.

As you practise, you will become more used to noticing and responding to your thoughts. For a while you may feel that you’re thinking more negatively. Don’t worry, this is normal, you’re just becoming more aware.

Week four

The final part of this exercise, for week four of your challenge, is to smile when you notice one of these negative thoughts and say to yourself, ‘That’s not me.’

Keeping yourself in the present

While it can be great to plan ahead, you’re actually missing out on the here and now as you do so. If you notice yourself disappearing into the past or the future just say, ‘Here and now, here and now,’ to yourself to bring yourself back into the present.

If you find it hard to be mindful because as soon as you pause for a minute random thoughts pop into your head, that just means you’re normal. The point is not to make these thoughts go away, but rather to become aware of them and let them pass by, without needing to linger over them or judge them or yourself.

The more you practise the easier it becomes. Most of us find it hard to remember to do this regularly at first, so I recommend downloading a mindfulness app too.

Being mindful is about releasing stress and focusing on your senses, rather than just your thoughts. If you’re feeling particularly low and mindfulness doesn’t seem to help you to relax, have a chat with your GP. You can also complete a useful mood self-assessment questionnaire on the NHS website.

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