Last Updated on November 29, 2023
If you’ve considered pulling in the reins on your drinking, Dry January may help you kickstart that change. This challenge encourages people to quit drinking for an entire month, giving them the opportunity to explore life without alcohol in the picture.
But if you’re not too keen on going fully dry for the month, you may prefer the alternative version called Dry-ish January or Damp January.
Participants won’t have to abstain from drinking during Dry-ish January, but they are encouraged to cut back on their alcohol intake and reflect on their drinking habits throughout the month.
The question is, “Do either of these challenges even work?”
We’ll explore more about Dry and Dry-ish January and learn about the benefits and outcomes of these challenges.
The Trend of Going Alcohol-Free for a Month
Going alcohol-free for a month isn’t a new thing. In fact, this idea goes back much further than you might expect.
It started when the Finnish government kickstarted a campaign called Sober January, in which citizens were encouraged to stop drinking alcohol throughout the month to support efforts to save national resources during the war.
This campaign turned out to be immensely successful. Both citizens and soldiers at the frontlines reduced their alcohol consumption, which helped to promote their welfare and conserve the country’s resources.
Fast forward to 2013, and a more modern take on this concept was birthed. This time, the idea of Dry January was put together by Alcohol Change UK, a British charity .
One of their employees, Emily, decided to give up drinking in January, igniting a great deal of interest from people around her. As a result, Dry January was born and first kicked off with 4000 participants. This public health initiative grew in popularity over the years, reaching over 130,000 participants in 2022 .
The Dry(ish) Alternative
For people seeking a more mindful and moderate approach to alcohol rather than complete sobriety, a great alternative is Dry-ish January.
This campaign created by Sunnyside empowers participants to hit the reset button on their drinking habits at the start of the year with no pressure to quit.
Dry-ish January allows participants to curate a personalized take on this challenge and set their own goals for the month. They can choose to abstain from alcohol, drink only on certain days of the week, or reduce their alcohol intake by a specific percentage.
This feature of Dry-ish January makes the challenge more inclusive, giving just about anyone who wants to improve their drinking habits a chance to start the year off on the right foot.
Why is Dry-ish January Gaining Popularity?
In 2023, over 25,000 people took part in Sunnyside’s Dry-ish January challenge. Despite how new this challenge is, it has already amassed a great deal of attention.
But what’s the reason behind this?
Dry-ish January’s skyrocketing popularity may be attributed to the following reasons:
- This challenge provides a more balanced approach to building healthier alcohol habits. This makes it more attractive to a larger group of people who want to improve their drinking patterns but aren’t ready to give up alcohol for good.
- Dry-ish January encourages participants to focus on what they stand to gain from cutting back on their alcohol intake. At the same time, they don’t have to fret about missing out on all the fun of drinking as long as they stick to their limits.
- Low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages are becoming more popular. The wide range of brands and choices available on the market allows people to experiment with creating lower-alcohol variations of their favorite tipples. This could make a challenge like Dry-ish January more accomplishable and enjoyable.
- Dry-ish January leverages the power of mindfulness, a concept that is becoming more popular due to increasing research. Studies have found that mindfulness can help change drinking behaviors by increasing self-awareness, emotional regulation, and attentional control, which is your ability to control what you focus on. As a result, mindfulness can help you pay more attention to your drinking habits and better regulate your emotions so they do not dictate how much you drink .
Why Do People Participate in A Sober Month like Dry January?
There are various reasons why someone might participate in Dry or Damp January.
In this case, the saying “New Year, New Me” rings true. The end-year holidays and New Year’s celebrations are typically linked to a surge in alcohol consumption. And at the start of a new year, people often reflect on how their drinking patterns have changed.
Thus, drinking less is a popular resolution, making Dry or Dry-ish January a timely challenge for those who have taken their drinking up a notch during the holidays.
Apart from that, there are changing guidelines around the recommended limit for alcohol consumption. One of the most recently updated is Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRDGs), which was published in 2023 .
According to these new guidelines, a maximum of just two drinks a week is recommended for people who wish to consume alcohol. At this level, you are most likely to avoid alcohol-related consequences.
That said, it is a significant change from previously published recommendations, which allowed up to 10 drinks a week for women and 15 for men. This drastic difference may have sparked more interest and awareness of the benefits of cutting back.
On top of that, celebrities and social media influencers have talked about their own experiences with cutting back or going sober. These personal success stories may have inspired other people to take a step in the right direction and redirect their mindset and behavior around drinking.
Is Dry-ish January Right for You?
Dry-ish January isn’t for everybody. But there are a couple of factors that could beckon you to take on this challenge yourself.
Dry-ish January may be the challenge you’re looking for if any of the following apply to you:
- You’re looking to cut back on your alcohol intake without the pressure of giving drinking up completely.
- You feel that Dry January is too much commitment.
- You have tried Dry January but quickly gave up on your goal.
- You know that there are upcoming events (like a wedding or corporate event) you will drink at.
- You plan to keep drinking as part of your lifestyle, but you hope to be more mindful about your alcohol consumption.
- You want to improve certain aspects of your wellness, such as your sleep, mood, or energy.
Essentially, some people may be hesitant about hopping onto the Dry January bandwagon due to the commitment involved. If that’s something you relate to, Dry-ish January might be the better option to go for! This flexible challenge can be customized based on your preferences and personal goals.
Health Benefits of Dry or Dry(ish) January
Drinking alcohol comes with different risks. Ultimately, the less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of health issues and negative outcomes. Thus, even cutting back on your drinking comes intertwined with various benefits.
Let’s dive a little deeper and explore the possible health benefits of a sober or damp month.
Out of the 25,000 participants who took part in Sunnyside’s Dry and Dry-ish January challenge, around 63% noted that they got better sleep throughout the challenge.
Cutting back or stopping alcohol can improve your sleep simply because alcohol affects how well you sleep. You might notice that drinking alcohol before bed sends you to dreamland quicker—however, these sedative effects of alcohol only last temporarily .
Once these effects wear off, your sleep quality will take a hit. Drinking before bed can lead to more nighttime awakenings, decrease sleep duration, and increase sleep disturbances. And if you have sleep apnea, evening drinking may also worsen this issue .
Dry-ish January encourages participants to be more mindful of how much and when they drink. By cutting back on their intake and setting a cut-off time for drinking, participants can minimize the impact of alcohol on their sleep quality.
If you’re used to having alcohol before bed, the Dry(ish) January challenge can help you break this habit and build a healthier bedtime routine.
“I don’t feel like I have to have a glass of wine every night now. I discovered that I just need something else to drink (besides water) to transition to unwinding for the evening.” – Sunnyside Dry(ish) January Participant
Increased Energy and Productivity
Based on the data collected from Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January challenge, around 64% of participants noticed increased energy and focus during the month. Around 54% of these participants also found that their productivity rose.
How is this increase in energy and productivity linked to lower alcohol consumption?
Since alcohol can make it harder for you to get good-quality sleep at night, this can sap your energy the following day.
Apart from this, the sedative effects of alcohol could also have a part to play. Daytime drinking on weekdays may leave you tired and drowsy, leading to poorer focus and lower productivity.
Hangovers are another possible side effect of drinking that can lead to reduced productivity. Needless to say, it’s much harder to concentrate and get things done if you’re dealing with a nasty headache and feeling under the weather.
Thus, mindful drinking could help you combat these negative effects of alcohol and boost your productivity at work.
Better Mental Health
You may feel less anxious and more confident after enjoying a drink. That said, these short-term effects usually wear off pretty quickly, leading to chemical changes in the brain that bring about negative emotions, such as anger and anxiety .
In the long run, research suggests that risky and problematic alcohol use can contribute to the development of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, as well as make you more prone to episodes of stress .
There may also be a bi-directional relationship between alcohol and mental health conditions like depression. Alcohol use can increase the risk of depression, and depression may also lead to more drinking.
Even if you aren’t emotionally dependent on alcohol, scaling back on your drinking may still have beneficial effects on your overall mood.
Sunnyside’s survey on participants found that around 59% of participants who took part in the Dry(ish) January Challenge noticed improved mood during the month.
“Throughout Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January challenge, I noticed way better sleep and productivity, as well as lower anxiety.” – Sunnyside Dry(ish) January Participant
Alcohol contains more calories than you might expect, which can make it harder for you to lose weight.
A regular can of beer contains about 150 calories. Cocktails drizzled with syrup or topped with sugar-coated fruits can also pack a punch in terms of calories. A chocolate martini usually contains upwards of 400 calories, while a serving of Piña colada can contain over 500 calories.
Thus, hitting the brakes on your alcohol intake may help you cut back on calories. In this sense, mindful drinking can play a part in bringing you closer to your fitness or weight loss goals.
Based on Sunnyside’s survey, around 29% of participants in the Dry(ish) January challenge experienced some form of weight loss.
Longer-Term Health Benefits
For most participants, Dry(ish) January wasn’t a one-and-done thing. In fact, around 92% of them planned to maintain lower alcohol consumption in February and beyond.
This isn’t a surprise. Throughout the month, participants already noticed the benefits of a short-term change.
The good news is that there’s more to the picture. Maintaining a lower alcohol intake for a longer period can lead to even greater benefits, including the following:
- Lower blood pressure: Research has found that the more you reduce your alcohol intake, the greater the decrease in blood pressure . Alcohol can narrow the blood vessels in your body, causing your blood pressure levels to rise. Over time, risky drinking can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. By cutting down on your alcohol intake, you’re minimizing the possible effects of alcohol on your heart health.
- Improved liver health: Drinking alcohol can also impact your liver health. Firstly, alcohol can contribute to fatty liver. Apart from this, alcohol may increase the risk of alcoholic liver hepatitis, a condition characterized by the destruction and inflammation of liver tissue. Alcoholic cirrhosis is another possibly life-threatening liver condition linked to structural and functional damage to the liver . Cutting back on alcohol can help to reduce your risk of these three liver diseases.
- Better immunity: High alcohol consumption can directly suppress a wide range of immune system responses. Because of this, risky drinking is linked to an increased incidence of infectious diseases . If you’re drinking more than the recommended alcohol intake per day (maximum of two drinks for men and one for women), scaling back on your drinking may help to improve your immunity.
Dry(ish) January isn’t only about your physical wellness. In the long run, you may also notice improvements in your mental health, productivity, focus, and mood.
Week-by-Week Benefits of a Dry(ish) January
Now that you have a better idea of the possible benefits of a Dry(ish) January, you may be eager to get on board the challenge.
The question is, “What can you expect from it?”
Let’s look at the week-by-week outcomes of a Dry(ish) January.
Keep in mind that these experiences and outcomes may differ from one participant to another, especially since the challenge can be customized to suit each person’s preferences and goals.
Week 1: The Detox Phase
As great as Dry(ish) January sounds, you’ll likely face some challenges, even more so during the first week of change.
As your body slowly detoxifies from alcohol, you may notice mild side effects, such as feeling irritable, anxious, or agitated. These adverse outcomes are usually temporary and should subside as you continue the challenge.
You might also notice an increase in alcohol cravings, especially if you’re used to drinking alcohol every day. Keep a look out for certain triggers that bring out the urge to drink—for instance, hanging out with a specific group of friends or dining at your favorite restaurant that happens to serve delicious cocktails and wines.
When these cravings hit, you can try to experiment with different coping strategies to help you resist the temptation to drink. Knowing what your personal drinking triggers will help. For instance, if you tend to drink out of boredom, filling in your spare time with a new passion or creative pursuit may help to take your mind off alcohol.
Week 2: The Realization Phase
During the second week, you may start noticing positive results. Many participants who take part in a Dry(ish) January experience benefits in their first one or two weeks, including the following:
- Improved mood
- Less difficulty getting up in the morning
- Fewer hangovers
- Increased focus and productivity
- Healthier and clearer-looking skin
Of course, these outcomes may vary and depend on your initial drinking habits and how much you decide to cut back on.
It’s natural to feel discouraged if you don’t see any benefits or changes early on—and that’s okay. But no matter how small your progress seems, these tiny steps in the right direction can lead to great results with time and consistency.
Week 3: The Adaptation Phase
In the third week, sticking to your goals and drinking limits will likely be easier. Your body starts to adapt to your new drinking patterns, and you may experience greater focus and clarity in thinking.
This is also a great time to start building and experimenting with different habits that can contribute to longer-lasting change.
For example, you may download apps that can help track your drinking or send reminders to log your alcohol intake. Finding a community with similar goals to yours can also be helpful if you’re looking to maintain these changes into February and beyond.
Week 4: The Transformation Phase
The benefits of cutting back or stopping drinking are often more apparent in the final week of the challenge.
Participants commonly notice the following positive outcomes after a month of practicing abstinence or mindful drinking:
- Greater mood, increased happiness, and feeling lighter
- Increased energy and productivity
- Lesser alcohol cravings or urge to drink
- Improved skin hydration and complexion
- Better sleep and improved daytime alertness
- Weight loss
The final week of Dry(ish) January is a great time to look back on your progress. You can also reflect on the challenges you faced and come up with possible solutions to implement the next time around.
Don’t forget to take time to celebrate both your big and small wins—preferably without alcohol in the picture!
Possible Downsides and Side Effects of Dry January
While Dry(ish) January can lead to many benefits, this challenge isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Many participants will face some sort of challenge, temptation, failure, or disappointment along the way.
For instance, some people report side effects such as mood swings or irritability when they first scale back on their alcohol intake.
Any positive changes may be short-lived, especially after the challenge ends. There’s also the possibility of a rebound in alcohol intake when February approaches.
Is Dry January Safe and Effective?
Dry(ish) January is a safe and beneficial way to reset their drinking habits for most drinkers.
However, if you have a dependency on alcohol, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to find out how you can safely and effectively work on this.
Let’s take a closer look at the skepticism around Dry January and how you can boost your chances of benefiting from it.
The Skepticism Around Dry January
Dry January has its own share of flaws and downsides. For instance, some critics may say that one month is not enough to change old habits and imprint new ones. There is also a possibility that participants may notice a rebound effect and an increase in binge drinking after the challenge ends.
That may be true in a small number of cases. For many others, this one month can serve as a jumpstart and stepping stone for longer-term changes. Throughout Dry January, you’ll have the opportunity to assess your drinking habits, identify your triggers, and experiment with different methods of cutting back.
There is some research studying the likelihood of a rebound after a Dry January. Based on the study, those who successfully completed Dry January saw significant improvements in being able to resist and refuse drinks in February. They continued to see a reduction in alcohol intake at the sixth-month follow-up .
Those who did not complete Dry January also saw lasting effects on their drinking habits. These participants noticed a reduction in the number of drinking days and drinks consumed daily, even at the six-month mark .
Why Dry(ish) Is a Good Compromise
Dry(ish) January is a great opportunity to revisit and reflect on your drinking habits without any shame, guilt, or embarrassment tied to it.
There’s no heavy commitment required as well since the challenge only lasts a month. Plus, Dry-ish January can be completely customized based on your goals and preferences.
Of course, long-term improvements will only come with consistency. But here’s the good news: Over time, resisting the urge to drink will become much easier.
How to Maximize the Benefits of a Sober or Damp January
If you’re keen to get started on a Dry or Dry-ish January, here are some tips that may help you maximize the benefits:
- Start incorporating mindful activities, such as journaling and meditation, into your daily regimen.
- Start tracking your drinking and progress with a drink-tracking app like Sunnyside.
- Look for non-alcoholic versions of your favorite wines, beers, and spirits, such as Boisson.
- Track your mood, mental wellness, and sleep. A device like Muse can help.
- Track changes in your health, recovery, and stress. You can use a smartwatch or a device like Whoop.
Personal Stories and Anecdotes
If you’re still on the fence, here are some personal stories and testimonials about the benefits and efficacy of a Dry(ish) January.
- “I am proud that on the few occasions when I drank, I did not drink in excess, and I did not automatically fall back into my old habit of drinking every night.” – Sunnyside User
- “I had several Friday nights and Sundays that I did not drink. Normally, I would drink from Thursday night through Sunday.” – Sunnyside User
- “I actually did not drink for 30 days straight. I cannot recall if I have ever stopped drinking for that long since I started drinking in college.” – Sunnyside User
- “I felt like a better version of myself and learned that I really liked the sober version of myself.” – Sunnyside User
- “I felt like I was really taking better care of myself. I felt in control of my drinking choices and health choices!” – Sunnyside User
- “It was worth it. It was an effort to drink less, lose weight, and sleep better. I lost 4 lbs, slept better, and generally had more energy and focus in the morning.” – Reddit User
- “I did 2 weeks of Dry January. It was worth it! Now, I am trying to keep my daily drams to no more than 3 days per week, and I successfully exercised every day in January! I plan to keep it up as it is a habit now. I lost 10 lbs in January, and I’m trying to lose 10 more by April/May.” – Reddit User
Advice for First-Timers Doing a Dry(ish) January
Dry(ish) January may not be a walk in the park, especially in the first week or so. But for many, the results are well worth the effort and commitment.
To increase your chances of success, you can start the challenge off on the right foot with the following strategies.
- Reflect on your current drinking habits and decide which challenge is best for you. If you drink a couple of drinks daily, going teetotal right away might not be the best choice. You can start by cutting back on a drink daily or having several dry days each week. On the other hand, if you only drink occasionally, you can try abstaining from alcohol for the month.
- Find ways to fill up your time and keep your mind occupied. You can incorporate mindful activities into your schedule, such as journaling, yoga, breathing exercises, or walking out in nature. Alternatively, you can pursue new interests or pick up a new skill.
- Enlist the help of a buddy or like-minded community. Getting a friend or a group of friends on board can make the challenge more fun and exciting. Plus, you’ll have someone to keep you accountable throughout the month.
- Rearrange and reorganize your drink stash at home. Store stronger alcoholic drinks somewhere less accessible, like in your basement or garage. Keep non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic beverages in places that are easier to reach, like your fridge or kitchen.
Dry January might seem like a mountain to climb—but think about the view from the top. There are plenty of benefits to reap and not much to lose.
It’s a month of commitment, but one that’s powerful enough to create change that lasts a lifetime. So, go ahead, take the leap, and embrace a healthier you.
Sign up for Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January challenge today!
FAQs on Dry January
Will I lose weight during Dry January?
Likely, yes! Cutting out empty calories from alcohol can help you shed some pounds. Almost a third of participants who did Sunnyside’s Dry(ish) January challenge noticed some weight loss during the month, though this may also be partially attributed to an increase in exercise and healthy eating.
What are the liver benefits?
Your liver plays an important role in breaking down the alcohol you drink. However, these harmful byproducts of alcohol metabolism can damage your liver cells and contribute to the development of liver disease. By cutting back on your drinking or going sober, your liver has more time to rest and heal. Giving up alcohol may also help reverse certain liver conditions, such as fatty liver.
Is Dry January good for mental health?
Many people report feeling happier and less stressed during and after Dry January. A sober month can also break the cycle of relying on alcohol to combat stress, sadness, or anger.
How do I deal with social pressures?
Be open about this challenge. Don’t be shy to reject a drink. Since Dry January is gaining popularity and traction, you may be pleasantly surprised at how supportive others can be.
Can I extend the benefits beyond January?
Absolutely! Use the month as a catalyst for making more permanent lifestyle changes. If you want to build longer-lasting habits, a mindful drinking app like Sunnyside can help you track your drinking and progress. You can also create personalized plans for cutting back through the app.
 Alcohol Change UK. (2023). The Dry January story. Alcohol Change UK. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/help-and-support/managing-your-drinking/dry-january/about-dry-january/the-dry-january-story
 Abo Hamza, E., Yoon, A., Liu, L., Garg, A., Richard, Y., Frydecka, D., Helal, A., & Moustafa, A. A. (2023). The Relationship between Mindfulness and Readiness to Change in Alcohol Drinkers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(9), 5690. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20095690
 Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health. Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. (n.d.). https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-guidance-alcohol-and-health
 Park, S. Y., Oh, M. K., Lee, B. S., Kim, H. G., Lee, W. J., Lee, J. H., Lim, J. T., & Kim, J. Y. (2015). The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 36(6), 294–299. https://doi.org/10.4082/kjfm.2015.36.6.294
 Mental Health Foundation. (2022, February 16). Alcohol and mental health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/alcohol-and-mental-health
 Tembo, C., Burns, S., & Kalembo, F. (2017). The association between levels of alcohol consumption and mental health problems and academic performance among young university students. PloS One, 12(6), e0178142. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178142
 Roerecke, M., Kaczorowski, J., Tobe, S. W., Gmel, G., Hasan, O. S. M., & Rehm, J. (2017). The effect of a reduction in alcohol consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet. Public Health, 2(2), e108–e120. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30003-8
 Maher J. J. (1997). Exploring alcohol’s effects on liver function. Alcohol Health and Research World, 21(1), 5–12.
 Romeo, J., Wärnberg, J., Nova, E., Díaz, L. E., Gómez-Martinez, S., & Marcos, A. (2007). Moderate alcohol consumption and the immune system: a review. The British Journal of Nutrition, 98 Suppl 1, S111–S115. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114507838049
 de Visser, R. O., Robinson, E., & Bond, R. (2016). Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during “Dry January” and subsequent alcohol use. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 35(3), 281–289. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000297