Many people around the world plan to go alcohol-free for 31 days as part of the social phenomenon known as "Dry January."
If you’re curious about giving up alcohol, whether it’s to get a fresh start now for the new year or at some other time, you’re not alone.
"Dry January" benefits
Regardless of age, people who drink moderately might be surprised to find several benefits from taking a break.
"Some people might discover that alcohol was irritating their stomach, disrupting their sleep, contributing to weight gain, interfering with their morning exercise routine, affecting their mood, or that they relied more on alcohol for stress relief than they thought," Director Dr. George F. Koob with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) told FOX Television Stations.
"If you stop drinking in the month of January, and suddenly you feel better, then your body is trying to tell you something. You should listen to your body," he added.
Another perhaps unexpected benefit of cutting back alcohol is the financial savings.
The psychology of alcohol
As your body is adjusting to a decreased intake in alcohol, your mind will go through an adjustment period as well.
It may be uncomfortable or even downright difficult to abstain at first, especially if alcohol is part of a routine to relieve stress. But paying attention to that uncomfortableness is key.
"Dry January helps us evaluate our relationship with alcohol," Dr. Koob said. "Paying attention to how someone feels while taking a break from alcohol can provide a great deal of insight into why one is drinking in the first place and whether they want to return to it after the break."
If you’re reaching for a drink to feel less stressed, or to be social, or because you enjoy the taste are insights that can be unlocked over the course of the month.
Non-alcoholic drinks are "in"
So what does one drink then when they’re in a social setting or to relax at the end of the day?
Non-alcoholic cocktails, AKA mocktails, are becoming more commonplace on restaurant menus nowadays. And you may be surprised to find your local liquor store with quite the corner selection of NA beverages – even beers and wines.
And if the aesthetic of alcohol is something you might miss, you’ll be pleased to know that many look like your average beer can, wine bottle, or even special designer spirit bottles.
Here are some to check out:
Last month, the popular brand announced it’s launching a 0% seltzer on Jan. 1 of this year.
The drinks come in four flavors - black cherry cranberry, mango passionfruit, peach orange blossom and lime yuzu - and are designed to replicate the taste of the original White Claw Hard Seltzers with a serving of electrolytes.
The name sounds scary, and their signature tallboy cans may look it too, but don’t be intimidated. The brand has various offerings from mountain water, to flavored sparkling, to iced tea.
You can get them on Amazon and some grocery stores, or perhaps even order one at your local bar.
NA beers and wines
Many popular breweries and vineyards have hopped on the non-alcoholic trend, and you may be surprised to find your favorite has an NA offering.
And if mixing cocktails is a hobby, you can surely find your way down the internet rabbit hole of companies that offer nonalcoholic spirits – perfect for mixing, or perhaps even drinking on their own.
For example, Rouven Richter, Co-Owner of the award-winning BOAR Distillery out of Germany, says he and his two business partners, "decided to craft an alcohol-free beverage so their expectant wives would have something to drink while others consumed alcohol." The result is BOAR Zero, a nonalcoholic alternative that’s 100% distilled, and free of preservatives and artificial additives.
"Dry January" and beyond
Remember that as you go without alcohol, your tolerance will drop. So it’s not wise to "celebrate" the end of Dry January by drinking the same amount you maybe would have on New Year’s Eve.
And, as mentioned, use the time to pay attention to your thoughts and how your body feels. Being honest with yourself can help shape a new relationship with alcohol moving forward.
"For those who stop for the month, being mindful of how they feel without alcohol and cultivating new strategies for sleeping, having fun, relaxing, coping, etc, can be extremely beneficial," Dr. Koob suggests.
"For people who decide they still want to drink some during the month, paying closer attention to things like where, when and why they drink can be valuable for making decisions about what to do after January. If someone chooses to return to drinking at the end of month, they hopefully will do so having a much better understanding of why they drink and how it impacts their health and well-being."
For people who normally drink heavily and might be physiologically dependent on alcohol, quitting abruptly could lead to severe withdrawal and even death. The NIAAA reports at least 850 deaths and 250,000 emergency department visits related to alcohol withdrawal in the United States each year. For more information on alcohol treatment, visit niaaa.nih.gov.
This story was reported from Detroit.