The first few days of January 2021 were full of promise. But then Boris put us back into a nationwide lockdown, and the existential despair hit us hard.
For those of us who had pledged to do Dry January – a month with no alcohol – the thought of spending weeks sitting at home without even the pleasure of a warming glass of red wine, or a cold beer, seemed unfathomable.
Lockdown life is hard enough – why make it harder with self-inflicted sobriety?
But, although it might be tempting to abandon Dry January amid the news of a third lockdown, experts say you should stick with it – it could be the best thing for your body and mind.
‘With the bleak news of another lockdown, it’s easy to think that we might as well just give up now,’ says Sam Adams, The REAL Life Coach.
‘I get it. Most of my friends feel flat and tearful, and this is totally understandable. Our emotions are all over the place due to the constant moving of goalposts.
‘But if you’ve already started Dry January, my advice is to dig deep and stick with it. Because the benefits will be worth it.’
Sam’s golden rule is that if she feels really lo, she won’t touch alcohol – because it only heightens your emotions, especially the negative ones.
It’s actually very easy for people to quickly fall into a new habit or behaviour, and if we choose a negative one, Sam says we can end up on a slippery slope.
‘Challenging ourselves is great for our confidence, doing this in one area of our lives can impact others positively,’ says Sam.
‘Sticking to Dry January will force you to look for other, perhaps healthier, ways to relax and de-stress, and it will actually help you feel more in control.
‘You set this goal for a good reason and here’s why I think you should stick with it and why it’s needed more than ever in this uncertain time:
‘When we set goals or challenges for ourselves it can improve our motivation, self confidence and esteem and lead to success in other areas.
‘Each day you get further along, the challenge is you entrenching a new pattern of behaviour and likely improving the feel good factor within yourself.
‘You started this because you believed in yourself enough that you could do it, and because it will have a positive impact on your health. So remind yourself of that, and that you have the ability to find other ways to relax.’
How to stick to Dry January in lockdown
‘Dry January is a concrete goal, and anchor we can attach too in times when uncertainty rules,’ says Lee Chambers MSc MBPsS, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant.
‘It shows us the possibility of what we can do, how we can find other options and solutions and is practicing having a possibility mindset in action.’
To maintain focus, Lee says it’s important to remove the chance to be triggered.
‘We can’t let our human impulsiveness dictate our drinking habits, instead, give yourself the space to make an empowered choice,’ he says.
‘Move alcohol out of the kitchen and out of eye-line, and plan for those occasions when your willpower is depleted.
‘Remember that making a 100% decision is more comfortable than a 98% decision, and you cut off all options and won’t have that nagging voice of the 2% testing you ever time you think about it.’
Dry January may be easier than cutting out alcohol at other times of the year due to the lack of social occasions where drinking is the norm – and lockdown is just an extension of this. But with so little to do, it can be tempting to use booze as a distraction.
Here are Sam’s top tips to help you stick with your teetotal goal for the month:
Create the right environment
Eemove alcohol from home and replace with your new go-to items and things to relax and de-stress you.
Setting goals can improve our mental health and level of personal and professional success. It’s important to keep the future benefit in the front of your mind.
Focus on what you can control
Which ultimately is your thinking and behaviours.
Form positive habits
Around 40-50% of everything we do on a daily basis is habitual, we spend half our lives on autopilot.
So, looking at our habits is super important. When you have a negative thought you have to learn to become conscious and self-aware, and ask yourself ‘is this empowering me, is it limiting me, will it hinder me?’
‘Taking on Dry January puts you in a position of power, over your own life, your own behaviours and your own health,’ says Sam.
‘In such times of uncertainty, these aspects of self-awareness and control can really impact how you feel about external events that we are powerless over.’
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