Sparkling Water, Please

Damp January Is The New Dry January — But It's Not For Everyone

When it comes to setting new habits, and ditching bad ones, starting small might (or might not) be better for you.

Originally Published: 
Young handsome dad taking selfie with his lovely daughter while enjoying beer in pub garden.
Images By Tang Ming Tung/DigitalVision/Getty Images

The beginning of a new year is a time full of possibility and growth, a time when people try new things or make goals for the upcoming 12 months. For around the last ten years, millions of people have started the new year with the same goal — no alcohol consumption for a month. Known widely as Dry January, the popular resolution has people abstaining from alcohol for the entire month and ostensibly reaping the benefits of a short-term alcohol-free life — especially after an indulgent holiday season.

But if that seems a little overboard to you — maybe you didn’t indulge all that much over the holidays, or you’re not quite ready to commit to 31 alcohol-free days — Dry January’s more laid-back sibling is here for you: Damp January. (That name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but we’re just thankful they didn’t opt for Moist January!)

Damp January encourages people to think about their alcohol consumption and make little tweaks. Usually have two glasses of wine after work? Shoot for one. Normally prefer higher-proof drinks? Go for something a little tamer. Wanting to go bigger? Maybe only have an alcoholic drink on Fridays and Saturdays. Damp January is about cutting back on your alcohol consumption, not quitting entirely. The goal is to be more mindful about when and how you consume and to set a few new boundaries.

Damp January might be more realistic, and even might set better long-term habits, than Dry January if full sobriety isn’t your goal.

How Can Damp January Help You Set Long-Term Goals?

Evidence-backed research finds that when you’re trying to change your behavior or build a new habit, small changes (like drinking a glass of water before your coffee in the morning) are far more effective than big changes (like deciding to run three miles a day, every day, when you weren’t previously a runner.)

These small changes are much more effective at building long-term lifestyle changes than going all-in on a new lifestyle and ultimately burning out and failing.

In that vein, Damp January might be a good way for you to begin to make a small lifestyle change — drinking less alcohol than you did before — in a more sustainable way.

Is Damp January Good for Your Health?

Any decrease in alcohol consumption, whether a complete halt or just a drop in the number of drinks per week, brings health benefits. This includes lower blood sugar and blood pressure, better sleep and memory, more energy, improved immunity, and reduced risk of diseases such as cancer, stroke, and liver disease.

Cutting back on alcohol is especially beneficial if you drink a lot. Excessive drinking, which is defined as four or more drinks in one day or 14 or more drinks per week for men and three or more drinks in one day or seven or more drinks per week for women, has been tied to liver and cardiovascular issues, mental health problems, certain cancers, alcohol use disorders, and several other health concerns.

Moderate drinking, which is defined as two or fewer drinks in a day for men and one or fewer drinks in a day for women, still carries risks, but it does reduce the risk of developing these health conditions associated with excessive drinking.

Changes don’t happen overnight, but they do happen.

Is Damp January Right for You?

It’s easy to say that quitting or cutting down on alcohol consumption is as easy as 1-2-3, but for many, it’s not quite that straightforward. If your relationship with alcohol has moved from casual to serious and the thought of quitting or cutting down sparks anxiety or fear, and actually quitting or cutting down has physical effects like tremors, nausea, or changes in heart rate and rhythm, you may have developed an alcohol use disorder.

Quitting or decreasing consumption with an alcohol use disorder can be a dangerous proposition and should be undertaken with the help of a medical professional familiar with withdrawal symptoms.

For those who are just feeling a little overwhelmed by a month of holiday celebrations and want to keep it low-key on the alcohol front, Damp January is a great choice. And who knows, the boundaries you set with alcohol in January could last throughout the year and provide you with better health — and fewer headaches — in 2023.

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