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15 Tips to Maximize Success During Dry(ish) January

15 Tips to Maximize Success During Dry(ish) January

dryish jan benefits

Last Updated on November 29, 2023

**Dry January is a trademark of Alcohol Change U.K. Sunnyside is not affiliated with Dry January, and this article is meant to be an educational resource.**

Are you planning to start drinking less during the new year? If so, you’re in great company. 

Almost 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have mentioned that they would love to give Dry January a go. This challenge encourages participants to give up drinking for the entire month of January, allowing them to hit the reset button on their drinking habits at the start of a new year. 

Dry January is a fantastic way to explore the benefits of going teetotal. But you might not be keen on going sober for an entire month. In this case, you can still aim to start 2024 off on the right foot through another challenge called Dryish January.  

Dry(ish) January, also known as Damp January, is pretty similar to Dry January. However, instead of going completely dry for the month, participants can set their own goals based on how they wish to improve their drinking habits. 

Whether that’s reducing how much they drink or setting specific cut-off times and dry days throughout the month—Dryish January is an inclusive challenge that caters to all sorts of wellness goals and personal preferences. In fact, over 25,000 people with varying goals participated in Sunnyside’s 2023 Dryish January challenge. 

If you’re keen on taking part in either challenge in 2024, continue reading. We’ll explore some benefits of a Dry or Dryish January, as well as expert-backed tips on how to succeed at a Dry(ish) January.

Why Participate? The Benefits of an Alcohol-Free Month

An alcohol-free month can bring about various improvements in your health. Based on research studies, Dry January can lead to the following benefits: [1]

  • Improved focus
  • Better sleep 
  • Lower blood glucose levels
  • Reduced cholesterol 
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced liver fat

And even if you don’t plan on going fully sober for the month, a Damp January can still enhance your physical, mental, and emotional wellness in many ways. 

Based on Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January study, participants experienced the following benefits after taking part in the challenge: 

  • Improved sleep 
  • Increased energy and focus
  • Improved mental health
  • Better overall mood
  • Higher productivity 
  • Less reliance on alcohol in social settings
  • Improved relationship dynamics 
  • Better skin 
  • Weight loss
  • More money saved 

Do the Effects and Benefits of Dry January Last? 

You might still have some doubts or concerns about the effects of a Dry(ish) January challenge. For instance, many people wonder whether this challenge might lead to rebound drinking in February. And this also means that benefits will be short-lived. 

While a small group of people may slip back into their old drinking habits, over 90% of Dry(ish) January participants in 2023 planned to maintain a lower alcohol consumption moving forward. Another study also showed that over 70% of participants continued to maintain lower levels of harmful drinking even six months after an alcohol-free month [1]. So, for many people, Dry(ish) January isn’t a one-off thing. 

Based on the science of habit formation, the best way to sustainably change an old and big habit is through micro-habits. In other words, making small changes to your lifestyle is your best bet if you wish to break undesirable drinking habits for good. 

James Clear makes this very apparent in his book Atomic Habits when he writes, “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound and turn into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”

A challenge like (Dry)ish January encourages you to look into making small changes to your habits. This might be cutting back on one drink a week or exchanging that glass of wine for a cup of hot chocolate on weekday nights. 

The small modifications you make throughout January will lay the foundation for cultivating healthier drinking habits that last beyond the month and withstand the test of time. 

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Expert and Research-Backed Tips on How to Complete Dry January Successfully 

If you’re set on jumping onto the Dry January bandwagon, we’ve got some tips on how to make it through a Dry January. 

Tip #1: Setting Clear Intentions

Dr. Edwin Locke, who reviewed studies spanning over a decade, found that 90% of these studies pointed to a similar conclusion. What Dr. Locke found was that having specific and challenging goals (but not too challenging) was more likely to lead to better performance and outcomes than having no goals or “do your best” goals [2]

This shows the importance of having specific and clear intentions for what you want to achieve. In any area of life, having goals helps to create a sense of direction, increase motivation, direct your decision-making, and improve your focus. This can increase your odds of success. 

If you plan on starting a Dry(ish) January challenge, make sure your goals are specific and achievable. For example, instead of “drinking less,” you might aim to “cut back on one glass of wine each week.” 

You can also assess your drinking triggers and habits. For instance, if you often drink on Friday nights out of boredom, you can set a goal to stop drinking on those nights by filling up your spare time with a new interest or hobby. 

Other common drinking triggers include: 

  • Stress and anxiousness
  • Relaxing or unwinding
  • Social events or drinking with friends 
  • Celebration
  • To get better sleep 

Think about what your triggers are and create goals based on them. 

If you choose to take on the Sunnyside challenge, you’ll be prompted to set your own goals from the very start. 

Sign Up for Dry(ish) January

Tip #2: Creating an Accountability System

Accountability is the often-overlooked ingredient that ties commitment to success. Without any form of accountability, you may be less motivated to achieve what you’ve set your mind to. 

Luckily, there are many simple ways to create a sense of accountability around your wellness goals. The following are examples: 

  • Make a plan with targets and monitor your progress along the way. For example, you can set a goal to gradually reduce your alcohol intake by an additional serving each week. Tracking how much alcohol you consume daily will help you keep tabs on your progress. 
  • Share your goals with friends and family you trust. If you’d like, you can even enlist the help of one or two people to check in on your progress throughout the challenge. 
  • Stay on course with the help of trained coaches. Sunnyside’s real-life coaches can provide professional advice and accountability through the app. 

Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies, explains how you can determine which type of accountability system works best for you. You’ll have to first figure out which of the following four personality types you fall into: [5]

  • Upholder: Upholders enjoy routine and will readily meet internal and external expectations. Thus, the strategy of scheduling works best for an upholder. For instance, they can mark accountability check-ins on their calendar or schedule reflective journaling and a workout session into their weekday nights. 
  • Obliger: This is someone who more readily meets other people’s expectations. An obliger will do best with a friend, coach, or family member as an accountability buddy. This person’s role is to actively check in and monitor their progress. 
  • Questioner: This person will only meet expectations that they believe are justified. Setting goals and determining the why behind them will keep a questioner committed. They’ll also need someone with the right expertise, like a coach or healthcare professional, to keep them accountable. 
  • Rebel: Rebels don’t respond as well to advice, supervision, or routines. The best way they can keep themselves committed is by delving deeper into the why behind their goals and creating an environment that makes good habits more convenient—for instance, having non-alcoholic substitutes stocked up at home. 

Regardless of your category, it’s most important to be honest with yourself and your accountability partners about any mistakes you’ve made throughout your journey. Maybe you overshot your drinking limit during a party or had alcohol on a dry day. 

Taking ownership of these mistakes further strengthens this sense of accountability and allows you to review what went wrong and what you can do to prevent it in the future. 

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Tip #3: Find a Substitute Non-Alcoholic Drink

Non-alcoholic substitutes often get a bad rep for their taste. But with their increasing popularity, it’s now much easier to find substitutes that beautifully embody the taste and flavors of their alcoholic counterparts. 

Derek Brown’s “31 days of non-alcoholic drinks” series is a good place to get started with some ideas of beverages you can try. 

If you want non-alcohol options, check out Boisson and Athletic Brewing. These are two of the top brands for non-alcoholic substitutes, beers, and wines.  

There are also low-alcohol options and low-calorie alcohol beverages you can go for. BODY, KEEL, and Cupcake Lighthearted are some brands to consider. 

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Tip #4: Plan Ahead to Avoid Temptations 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear writes, “Disciplined people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.”

Essentially, people who seem disciplined and good at self-control don’t have to use it often. 

So, another Dry January tip for success is minimizing the risk of encountering temptation as much as possible. 

Here are some ways you can do this: 

  • Move alcohol to the back of your bar cart for harder access. Alternatively, you can store your alcohol in places where they’ll be out of sight, like your garage or basement. 
  • Leave drinking events and parties earlier, so you’ll be less tempted to drink more than you should. 
  • Avoid going to bars or restaurants that you usually drink at. The sight, smell, or sounds that your brain has linked to alcohol can open the door to more temptation. 
  • Take an alternative route home if the current one has you pass by your favorite drinking spot. This is especially crucial if you’ve developed the habit of drinking to unwind after work. 
  • Give your circle of friends a trim. Research has shown that the urge to drink can be triggered by social interactions or even peer pressure [3]. Suppose you constantly find yourself drinking excessively around a particular group of friends. In that case, you can suggest alternative hangout spots or connect with other friends who are keen on doing non-alcohol-related activities together. 

Again, it’s crucial to identify what your personal drinking triggers are so you know how you can best reduce the urge to drink. 

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Tip #5: Try Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January Challenge

Taking on a mindful drinking challenge on your own isn’t much fun. But if you don’t have any friends who are keen to join you on the ride, Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January challenge can help fill that gap. 

This community-based challenge allows you to set your goals based on your preferences and current habits. Through the Sunnyside app, you’ll gain access to the community, trained coaches, progress visualization, drink tracking, and other tools to launch you toward your goals

The barrier to getting started is much lower because there’s no pressure to go fully dry for the month. Yet, you stand to reap plenty of benefits by participating. For instance, previous participants have reported better mood, improved sleep, weight loss, higher energy, and greater focus. 

You can sign up for a free 15-day trial on Sunnyside to try out the features and tools provided in the app.

Sign Up for Dry(ish) January


Tip #6: Engage in Alternative Activities

Research has found that an effective way to break a bad habit is by replacing it with a better, healthier one [4]

In this sense, you can replace habitual drinking with another activity. For instance, if you tend to drink alcohol before bed to wind down, you can try another activity to help you unwind before bed. 

Some examples of mindful activities to replace drinking include carrying out simple yoga exercises or learning deep breathing techniques. You can also try your hand out at meditation at home. The Muse app contains over 500 expert-led guided meditations to help you pick up effective techniques as a beginner. 

Carrying out these activities will also serve as a form of distraction and help you take your mind off alcohol. 

If you need more ideas and inspiration to fill your free time, check out our guide on 31 mindful activities to do throughout Dry January

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Tip #7: Stock Your House with Alcohol-Free Beverages

Many people drink alone to remedy feelings of boredom or loneliness, but this habit can spiral out of hand if you aren’t mindful of how much you consume. This isn’t surprising since research shows that many individuals tend to report the most significant alcohol cravings when alone [3]

If you habitually enjoy alcohol while alone at home, it will make sense to stock your house with alcohol-free or lower-alcohol beverages. These beverages can help you manage cravings during the Dry(ish) January challenge. 

Boisson offers a wide range of non-alcoholic spirits, wines, and cocktail kits to choose from. 

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Tip #8: Identify Your Motivator

Before you embark on the Dry(ish) January challenge, there’s an important question you need to ask yourself: “Why do I want to stop or cut back on my drinking?” 

Are you hoping to improve your health, sleep better, or save some extra cash? Maybe your drinking habits are affecting your career performance or your work relationship with your colleagues.

As Simon Sinek states in the book, Start with Why, “A failure to communicate WHY creates nothing but stress or doubt.” 

In other words, having no clear motivators will make it harder to stay on track. On the flip side, clarifying the reason behind your Dry January goals can create more passion, purpose, and drive, which gets you invested in your goals. 

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Tip #9: Commit with Tangible Actions

Another tip on how to make it through Dry January is to commit with tangible actions. 

Your goal might be to cut back, but it might be harder to stay committed and on track without a proper action plan in place. 

You can build a practical action plan by determining which micro-habits to incorporate into your daily routine throughout the month. The concept of micro-habits revolves around the idea that small actions will compound to make a bigger difference and become easier the more you carry them out. 

Here are some ways you can implement small but impactful changes to your lifestyle based on the “micro-habit toolkit” laid out in Atomic Habits: [5]

  • Start with the “two-minute rule.” Pick one habit that is small enough to be feasibly incorporated into your daily routine. For example, you’ll go on a short jog around the block instead of drinking right after work. 
  • Try habit stacking. This means you’ll link a good habit to something you do daily. For example, if you plan to start mindfulness meditation to help you curb your alcohol urges, you can carry out short meditation exercises while waiting for your laundry or your water to boil. 
  • Track your micro-habits. Tracking a habit can generate a visual cue that serves as a reminder. Creating a streak can also be a form of positive reinforcement since recording your success and achievements is inherently rewarding. If you want to cut back on your alcohol, using a journal or drink-tracking app like Sunnyside can make it easier to monitor your progress. 

A proper action plan helps to pave the way toward your goals. So don’t forget to create one for Dry January. 

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Tip #10: Change Your Thought Patterns

Changing your mindset can have a powerful effect on your motivation and commitment. One of the best methods to identify unhelpful thinking patterns is by journaling your thoughts down. 

Here are some unhelpful thought patterns to look out for: 

  • Focusing on the negatives: Completing Dry January can be challenging if you constantly think about what you may lose instead of what you stand to gain. Try to reflect on and list out the possible benefits of cutting back on alcohol in your personal life. Focusing on the positives rather than the negatives may help keep you motivated. 
  • All-or-nothing: A black-and-white mindset where you’re either a success or failure can have a negative impact on your self-confidence. Instead of focusing on the results, try to celebrate your progress throughout Dry January, whether or not you hit your goals. 
  • Making decisions based on emotions: People who make decisions based on emotions might notice that their feelings have a big say in their drinking habits. 
  • Blame shifting: It is true that your social circle, emotions, and environment can impact your alcohol cravings. However, using these factors to excuse bad habits will only make it harder to achieve positive change. 

Practice catching and reframing unhealthy thought patterns. This can help you to break out of a negative spiral and give you a new perspective on things. 

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Tip #11: Plan for Urges and Cravings

If you drink habitually, cutting back or stopping during Dry January will likely lead to cravings. One thing you can do is to create an action plan in advance to help you combat those urges. 

The moment you notice that the urge to drink has hijacked your mind, put your action plan into motion. This plan can consist of various activities that will take your mind off drinking. Some examples include going on a run, taking a hot bath, or calling up a friend. 

Finding the right activities that can effectively distract you from your drinking urges boils down to finding what sparks excitement, relief, and happiness. Exercise, laughter, and social company can all help to boost your dopamine and make drinking a less attractive activity. 

Keep in mind that you should try to create an action plan of activities that will last you at least 30 minutes. This gives your body enough time to tide over those cravings. 

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Tip #12: Seek Proper Support and Build a Support Group

There are plenty of ways you can seek a community’s support, whether online or in person. 

Here are some ways to build your own support system as you take on the Dry(ish) January challenge: 

  • Let your friends know you’ll be cutting back or stopping drinking in January. You can also tell a few friends about your goals and expectations during the challenge so they can help hold you accountable. 
  • Join online mindful drinking communities such as the Sunnyside Facebook group or app. Through these online communities, you can seek advice, tips, and encouragement from others who are on the same journey or have walked in your shoes. 
  • Seek advice from trained coaches on the Sunnyside app. Whenever alcohol cravings hit, simply pull out your phone and send a message to a real-life coach, who will then provide personalized advice and tips to help you out. 
  • Talk to your therapist or a professional on how you can build mindfulness. If you notice that anger, stress, sadness, or anxiety are the cause of your drinking, reach out for professional help. This gives you the opportunity to learn how to manage those feelings and regain control over your drinking. 

The fact is that this mindful drinking journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one. So don’t forget to leverage the support of a community to make it an enjoyable experience. 

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Facing the Challenges of Dry January 

Dry January isn’t a walk in the park. And if it is, your goals might not be effective or challenging enough. 

Slip-ups happen, even to the best of us. If you have a bad day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Again, try to reframe the all-or-nothing mindset. 

Success isn’t black-or-white. You can still achieve great progress even if you do not hit your goals, and it helps to focus more on what you can do to improve. 

Social Pressures and Peer Influence

Social pressure and peer influence can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome during the Dry January challenge. If you’re a social drinker, you’d probably notice that you drink the most when you’re out with friends or at social events. 

Setting boundaries is crucial so you don’t spiral back into your old habits. If you’d like, you can also practice how you would say “no” or think of excuses before the event. 

Some examples of phrases you can use to tell your friends you’re drinking mindfully are, “I want to drink more responsibly” or “I’m listening to my body today.” 

Or you can just let them know you’ll be driving home or that you’d have to wake up early for a meeting the following day. 

How to Stay Motivated and Strong

Maintaining eagle-eye focus on your goals throughout an entire month can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. 

Here’s what you can do to tilt the scales in your favor and stay motivated during Dry(ish) January: 

  • Follow brands and pages on Instagram that talk about mindful drinking and provide positive support.
  • Make full use of the Sunnyside app to receive drinking-tracking reminders, daily tips, and encouragement. 
  • Don’t overlook your progress; simply choosing to improve your drinking habits and cut back is a huge step in the right direction. 
  • Focus on what you stand to gain, whether that’s higher energy, better sleep, a healthier body, or greater mental clarity. 
  • Build one small micro-habit at a time, such as tracking your drinking, to create long-term habit changes that will make a difference. 
  • Join Sunnyside’s challenge, which will include prizes and giveaways for those who successfully track their progress throughout the month. 
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Conclusion: Embracing the Dry January Experience

Dry January is a health journey that’s meant to push your limits in a positive way. If you’ve yet to pursue any goals that will build your mental and physical wellness, Dry January opens up a fantastic opportunity to get started on that. 

Choose how you want to start, even if it’s simply adding one more ‘dry day’ to your week. But keep in mind that it’s called a challenge for a reason. These goals have to be achievable and realistic but challenging enough to keep you engaged. 

And when you do achieve your goals, take some time to reflect on how you feel. The satisfaction and excitement of hitting your target might be a motivating factor to drive you to continue drinking mindfully even into February and beyond. 

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What happens if I do have a drink?

Slip-ups happen to everyone! If you do have a drink during Dry January, take it as a learning experience. What triggered that urge and made it hard to resist the temptation? How did you feel after drinking? Reflecting on your thoughts, emotions, and triggers can help you devise a plan to overcome an alcohol craving the next time it hits. No matter the outcomes, we’ll celebrate your efforts and progress with you! 

Can I customize my own Sunnyside Dry(ish) January experience?

Absolutely! Feel free to fully customize your own Dry(ish) January challenge based on your current drinking habits and what you wish to achieve. For instance, you can opt to halve your alcohol consumption or only drink during non-work nights. The point is to pick a realistic and achievable goal that, at the same time, challenges you to build healthier drinking patterns. 

Can I start later in the month?

You can get started whenever you’re ready! Feel free to join the Sunnyside Dry(ish) January challenge any time during the month. Of course, we recommend that you hop on from the start, as a month-long challenge will likely produce better results than cutting back for just a week or two. 

Should I drink after Dry January ends? 

It’s completely up to you! Around 92% of participants who chose to stop drinking or cut back during January planned on maintaining those efforts moving into February. The longer you work on building healthier drinking habits, the more significant the benefits. 

What happens to your body after Dry January? 

Participants who took part in Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January challenge reported various health benefits, including better sleep, clearer skin, higher energy, and weight loss. Some research has also shown that Dry January can help lower blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure and improve liver health [1].

What should I drink during Dry(ish) January? 

Mocktails and alcohol substitutes are some great options during Dry January. Non-alcoholic wines and beers are becoming more popular. You can also experiment with making mocktails and mixed drinks at home using non-alcoholic spirits. 

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[1] Ballard J. (2016). What is Dry January?. The British Journal of General Practice : the Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 66(642), 32. 

[2] Locke, E. A., Shaw, K. N., Saari, L. M., & Latham, G. P. (1981). Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980. Psychological Bulletin, 90(1), 125–152. 

[3] Ghiţă, A., Teixidor, L., Monras, M., Ortega, L., Mondon, S., Gual, A., Paredes, S. M., Villares Urgell, L., Porras-García, B., Ferrer-García, M., & Gutiérrez-Maldonado, J. (2019). Identifying Triggers of Alcohol Craving to Develop Effective Virtual Environments for Cue Exposure Therapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 74. 

[4] Adriaanse, M. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., De Ridder, D. T., de Wit, J. B., & Kroese, F. M. (2011). Breaking habits with implementation intentions: a test of underlying processes. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(4), 502–513. 

[5] Shnayder-Adams, M. M., & Sekhar, A. (2021). Micro-habits for life-long learning. Abdominal radiology (New York), 46(12), 5509–5512. 

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