Monthly sober challenges are becoming an annual ritual and with good reason. They help us reflect on our relationship with alcohol and ask ourselves questions like, “Why am I really drinking? Is it out of habit and boredom, or for comfort?”
We can start to see how much we drink regularly, why, and exactly how it’s impacting our mental and physical health.
In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know for a successful Sober October (or Soberish October) and how it’ll prepare you for Dry January.
The Rise of “Sober Months”
Becoming “sober curious” is without a doubt, trendy. In 2023, the average search volume for the term “Dry January” 2023 saw an increase of 66% in the US alone since the previous year. “Sober October” as a phrase has almost doubled in interest since 2022.
In fact, a total of 30 million Americans signed up for Dry January in 2023 — and the original Dry January campaign had just 4,000 participants solely in the UK!
It’s clear that with every passing year, the public is becoming more and more aware of the role alcohol plays in our health. And with mental health in particular finally becoming a commonplace topic– mindful drinking and sober months are on the rise.
What started with charities and social campaigns to raise awareness for health has turned into a global movement for people to closely look at their relationship with alcohol. And it’s not stopping there, Sunnyside is on a mission to help people become more mindful overall and create long-lasting healthier drinking habits.
Understanding the Sober(ish) October Challenge
Fully understanding and appreciating what you’re signing up for will make a massive impact on your level of motivation and commitment. So while the challenges might look like a surface-level trend to get healthier, there’s actually a lot of history and thought behind it that you should know.
Sober October Is a Tool To Kickstart Habit Changes
Changing habits doesn’t come easy, especially if they’re deeply woven into our daily routines. That’s why we’ve created this complete guide on how to have a successful dry (or dryish) month.
We’re diving into the benefits of a 30-day no-alcohol challenge, potential difficulties, as well as steps on how to best prepare yourself. I’ve included many resources throughout this post that go in-depth into each topic, so get comfy and put on your reading glasses, because you’re about to learn what going dry is really about — and what exactly you’ll have to do to accomplish your goals.
What is Sober October?
With the massive global success of Dry January, people started wanting more options and a more flexible approach.
Sober October is more like a sequel to the main event — or a prequel. Technically, it started as a charity fundraising event for Macmillan Cancer Support. Fitting, since an increased risk of cancer is tied to alcohol consumption.
And since Sober October isn’t as big as Dry January, it also became a bit more open to customization. Many choose to also give up caffeine, sugar, or other vices. But it’s really where Soberish October began, allowing people to go at their own pace and reduce any guilt or shame for not going fully dry.
Rules and Guidelines
The true goal of any sober month challenge is to help you notice your drinking habits by practicing awareness.
Without paying attention to our habits, we don’t usually notice their impact on our daily lives — including days we don’t drink. You might start believing that feeling tired and groggy all the time is normal, or that weight gain is a natural part of aging — both of which aren’t true.
The original rules have shifted into general guidelines that you can personalize. We all have different needs and ways of progressing in life and habits. That’s part of why Dryish January and Soberish October are so famous. We all have our own path to take and a flexible plan, along with support, helps us get there.
So while the general idea is to give up alcohol for a month, you have the opportunity to decide how the month will look. It can be simply tracking, choosing a few light or sober nights, or setting a fixed drink goal. It’s really up to you.
What Makes This Challenge Different From a NYE Resolution?
The true beauty of this challenge lies in the fixed amount of time. Cutting out alcohol “forever” might feel incredibly overwhelming (and it’s not exactly a SMART goal plan which you can read more about here).
There’s so much nuance that goes into habit change, including preparing for all the obstacles that will come your way. Motivation only lasts for so long! Successful habit change is about repetition and a reasonable reward.
Some people get super excited when they decide to introduce healthier habits and add on even more challenges. For example, cutting back on sugar or caffeine, too.
We’re all for supporting any challenge you choose, and we’re here to help you succeed. So if you’re adding more goals to the month, keep in mind the SMART goal strategy. It’s important to set realistic and manageable goals! And if it’s too much too soon, don’t beat yourself up — reassess your goals instead and take it as an opportunity to practice self-compassion.
If the goal isn’t working, it’s not you – it’s the goal.
Remember, humans are wired to struggle with big changes, and sometimes small ones, too. So whenever a goal isn’t working, dive deep into your triggers and obstacles. What keeps getting in the way? How can you overcome the challenges? Can you put less pressure on yourself and make a more realistic goal?
What is Dry January?
It all began with a social campaign in 2013 by a charity called Alcohol Change UK. One woman on a mission to run a half marathon and improve her health ended up creating worldwide change. She gave up alcohol to make training for the run easier and told her colleagues at the charity all about it. The idea was a big hit, and Dry January began.
In its first year, 4,000 people took part and raved about the dramatic change they saw in their health. They seemed to sleep better, lose weight, and feel more energized. Columnists came on board to spread the word, and the University of Sussex decided to do a 6-month survey on the program, revealing that Dry January led to less drinking all year long.
Read more about the impact and benefits of a Dry(ish) January here.
Rules and Guidelines
Dry January began with one main rule: go sober for the month. Originally, people loved it because it was a welcome change from the excessive food and parties of the holidays. But as with most strict goals, many realized it didn’t work for them.
Plus, when you don’t complete a goal it’s easy to feel a bit defeated or down. This affects self-esteem and motivation, making it harder to try again in the future.
Then Dry(ish) January began with Sunnyside. For those who need flexibility in their journey, it works!
Research shows extreme restriction can lead to disordered thinking and behavior. For example, people who diet are more likely to develop an eating disorder or obesity at a 5-year follow-up.
The Difference Between Sober October and Dry January
While Sober October and Dry January share the same goal, there are differences in the community, mentality, and participation of both.
Compared to Dry January, Sober October is still growing in awareness. You might have fewer reminders and people joining, so that could mean less social support and more peer pressure to drink. But, doing a dryish month is now hugely popular, and you can take the challenge at the pace you want. Sober October might be a great way to try the challenge pressure-free and just use it as a time of reflection.
January also comes with its own special set of challenges, with dark and gloomy weather that can exacerbate seasonal depression. You might also feel a bit more lonely with the lack of activities and fewer parties and family functions. Thankfully, Dry January is global so there’s no shortage of communities you can become a part of. Plus, friends might be more willing to join along.
Don’t forget to reconsider your NYE resolutions and pressure to get fit and healthy. Focusing on one habit at a time increases your chances of success.
Why Participate in These Sober(ish) Challenges?
If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth the hype, it’s already a big sign you’re willing! But doing anything that requires effort also requires a big enough “why” to justify the effort. So let’s dive into what you can get out of these challenges.
Benefits of a Sober or Sober(ish) Month
There are plenty of benefits to choose from, including:
- Improved sleep
- Better skin
- Weight loss
- Improved gut health
- Decreased risk of chronic illnesses
The research done by the University of Sussex that made Dry January so famous showed that almost 70% of participants saw their overall health improve. The percentages of people who reported better sleep, skin, and weight loss all ranged between 53-71%. That’s a huge difference!
Sunnyside did a follow-up study on the impacts of a Dry(ish) challenge and discovered that the perceived benefits were on par with what was reported by the University of Sussex.
In other words, even a Dry(ish) challenge can lead to remarkable results:
Countless studies have also shown a link between alcohol consumption and increased risk of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart and liver disease, and cancer. And since one dry month might lead to less drinking for the entire following year, you can make a big impact on your health.
- Better concentration
- More energy
- Improved mood
- Increased self-esteem
Along with physical benefits, mental health also showed great improvements. Over 80% of participants said they felt a sense of achievement — something that affects every area of your life. If you’re feeling confident in one aspect, chances are you’ll feel more confident to go after another goal.
Almost 70% of participants also said they had more energy, and less anxiety and depression. For someone struggling with their mental health, cutting back on alcohol can be a game-changer.
- Better relationships
- Enhanced social interactions
While we all think hanging out with friends over drinks is typical bonding time, that’s not necessarily the case. Over 40% of participants said they got to spend more quality time with friends and family when they went dry.
It could be because people were able to focus more on their emotional connections and conversations. Or there was just more time to spare by coming home early to see your family or partner instead of after-work drinks. Whatever it is, drinking less seemed to offer some combination of more time and emotional connection — which is one of the biggest factors that improves mental health.
Alcohol isn’t all that cheap, and with inflation rising you might be wondering what you can cut. While a drink now and then doesn’t necessarily make a big impact, a few a week can add up. Depending on where you live or what restaurant or bar you’re at, a beer might be anywhere from $3 to $10, and a nice cocktail could be $10 to $30. Try calculating or tracking how much you spend and you might be surprised.
Just think, global consumer spending on alcohol and tobacco is increasing, with over 550 billion U.S. dollars expected to be spent between 2024 and 2028. Clearly, that bar tab is adding up.
One of the most overlooked benefits of going dry (or dryish) is that all the benefits you experience during that month can continue long into the future. For example, the original Dry January study showed decreased drinking for the following year. And if you regularly participate once or twice a year, that’s a life-long change toward significantly improved health.
How to Prepare for Sober October 2023 and Dry January 2024
Joining in on the challenge doesn’t have to be daunting. Follow along with these tips and you’ll find what works for you:
1) Set Clear Goals
Understand your “why”. Are you doing it for your health or just to prove to yourself you can? Whatever your reason is, make sure it’s one you have an emotional connection to.
2) Plan Ahead
Think about what obstacles lie in your way and plan how you’ll overcome them. For example;
3) Get Support
We’re community-based creatures — wired to thrive with the support of others. Think about different communities you can join or create so you’re not doing this alone. Encourage friends and family members to join you and join an online community, like the Sunnyside Facebook group.
Also think about professional help with a therapist, support group, or one-to-one mindful drinking coach with Sunnyside.
Sober October 2022: A Look Back
To learn what works (and what doesn’t) it’s helpful to look back at past dry months.
Something special about Sober October was that people used the motivation of the event to piggyback other healthy habits onto their challenges. Fitness and mindfulness routines, for example, were a big hit. Take a look at hashtags like #soberoctober #soberishoctober #soberoctoberchallenge on Tik Tok and Instagram to follow others who are participating in the challenge.
One of the biggest improvements people saw was the noticeable health benefits, such as weight loss, better skin, and more energy. It was enough that plenty of people decided to extend their sobriety beyond October.
Take a look at some of these testimonials from Sunnyside from Dryish January 2023:
Sober October 2023 and Dry January 2024: What to Expect
You don’t have to wait for the “new year, new me” hype to change old habits. Think of Sober October as a trial period, where you get your feet wet and find out what works and what doesn’t. Plus, each month has its own unique challenges and benefits, like a dark and gloomy winter season in January, but global awareness and support. With Sober October, though, a whole new challenge has opened up.
Flexibility is now well-known to be one of the most important factors for mental health, so you can take these challenges and personalize them any way you like. Sober October has especially become a customizable month, so you get a pressure-free way to think about what could work for you.
Think of moderation and mindfulness approaches you’d like to work on. That could mean planning for fewer rather than no drinks or focusing more on your mental health. You might want to tie in a morning meditation routine or breathwork when you’re feeling anxious. Whatever it is, the goal is awareness, self-compassion, and progress — not perfection.
Social Media Campaigns
Sober October is also a time that many brands engage in social media campaigns to help encourage mindfulness during October. Sunnyside is partnering with a number of exciting brands this year for their Sober(ish) October Challenge which will include plenty of perks and giveaways. Some of these include:
- Exclusive discounts and gift cards to Non-Alcoholic options from Boisson.
- Meditation, mindfulness, and helpful resources to get through the month from Muse. As well as product giveaways and discounts.
- Recipes and book giveaways from Derek Brown from Positive Damage Inc and award winning mixologist, Evelyn Chick.
- Sunnyside perks and swag bags.
To sign up for the challenge and to get access to all of these perks, be sure to save your spot here before October 5th to take full advantage of winning as many prizes as possible.
Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them
It’s called a challenge for a reason! But, a challenge that pushes you to take action for positive results, without being too stressed, is exactly what helps us move forward in life. Identify your triggers and challenges and keep these tips in mind as you prepare:
Peer Pressure and Social Events
One of the first things people worry about is how they’ll tell friends or handle social events. That’s why it’s so important to set your goals first: you want a plan to stick to and communicate confidently to others.
Try practicing some of these 20+ mindful phrases of how to politely decline offers, set boundaries, and stick to your non-alcoholic options.
If you can’t avoid high-pressure social events, go prepared with a sober or soberish game plan. How much do you want to drink? Would leaving early help? Can you order or bring non-alcoholic drinks?
Remember that mindfulness also means giving yourself compassion when things don’t go according to plan and allowing yourself flexibility (and forgiveness).
Old Habits and Boredom
You might not think twice about how a drink when you get home from work or sit on the couch is the norm. But those old habits can add up to quite a few drinks — and a shock when the dry month comes around.
To overcome old habits, think of a SMART goal that can help you switch things up and break your routine. Doing just one thing differently might create a domino effect that helps you disrupt your old patterns.
For example, instead of coming home and going to the fridge for a beer, try lying down on the bed to rest with a 5-minute meditation first. You never know, those few minutes of rest might be just what you need, and give you enough time to consciously think about what you want to do next.
Also, check out these 16 psychology-backed tips that dive into the tiny daily details that can make a difference.
Whether we realize it or not, our habits and emotions guide much of our behavior. Start by observing your drinking and look for patterns so you can find ways to intervene and cope differently. Some of the most common emotional triggers include:
If you want to dive into discovering all the triggers that may be affecting you without you even realizing it, plus ways to overcome them, check out this article on drinking triggers.
With a mindful approach of acceptance, patience, and self-compassion, you can learn new coping mechanisms. For many, that includes mindfulness practices, tension-releasing exercises or activities, and reaching out for some much-needed social or professional support.
The “Before and After” of a Sober Month
- Many report feeling healthier and even looking younger.
- Skin health
- Liver improvement
- Heart health
- Metabolism and weight loss
Emotional and Mental Changes
- An enhanced sense of well-being is often cited as a major benefit.
- Better mood
- More focus
Added Benefits of Participating in a Sober(ish) October
Besides the more noticeable physical and emotional benefits, there are other factors that come into play:
Mindful Drinking Development
By working hard for one month to track your habits and triggers, you can jump-start your journey to develop lifelong mindfulness skills. You can’t overestimate just how much a month-long challenge with tons of support can offer for long-lasting results.
The added benefits of improved sleep and an overall enhanced sense of well-being might be so noticeable by the time the month is over that you want to keep going. In the end, you might create mindful drinking habits that you don’t want to give up.
Sense of Achievement
It’s no secret that accomplishing a goal boosts our mood and self-esteem. Sunnyside’s Soberish October challenge has helped 93% of its participants feel a sense of achievement and empowerment. And that’s including an (ish) challenge — so if you’re worried that you need to go all-in to feel like you accomplished something, you definitely don’t.
One Dryish January Sunnyside participant said it helped them, “Prove to myself that I am capable. Also realized I can be fun and social without alcohol!”
Another was quite surprised at how the challenge turned out and wrote, “I didn’t think I could go for 2 days without a few drinks and I did 30 dry days in January!!”
And the great thing about this self-esteem boost is that it easily spreads to other areas of your life. It might give you enough confidence to try something new. It could be a new hobby, or something as important as having the courage to change your career, who knows?
Improved Overall Health
Going sober or soberish for a month can offer big short and long-term health benefits. Cutting back might help you:
- Lose weight
- Sleep better
- Get healthier skin
- Improve liver function
- Increase energy levels
- Feel less anxious or depressed
- Increase self-efficacy and self-confidence
These benefits don’t always stop as soon as the month is over, either. Studies show it can lead to improved drinking habits that support these health changes throughout the year.
The spill-over effects might even help you concentrate and work better, with 67% of Sunnyside users saying they could think more clearly with mindful drinking. Those increased energy levels might also help you reach your fitness goals more easily, too.
Increased Overall Mindfulness
Even if you don’t abstain completely, attempting a Sober or Soberish October makes you more mindful of your alcohol consumption habits. That can lead to you observing your triggers and patterns better, as well as developing an overall sense of mindfulness.
It might encourage you to try other mindful activities, like yoga, breathwork, or meditation. Mindful skills can help you to cope with life’s stressors long-term, and perhaps help you manage cravings and avoid relapses.
Some Sober October challenges raise money for social causes like cancer support and treatment. It originated with the Macmillan Cancer Support charity, where you can go online to get involved and start fundraising or campaign with them.
Volunteering is actually a great way to help your mental and physical health. Science shows that people who volunteer usually feel a decrease in their anxiety and depression, with an increase in self-esteem and life satisfaction.
Why Sunnyside’s Soberish October Challenge is a Great Option
While you can do any Dry Challenge on your own, science shows that monitoring your behavior while feeling supported can make a huge difference. Here are some ways Sunnyside can help:
Focused on Mindfulness: Unlike other challenges that stress complete abstinence, Sunnyside.co emphasizes mindful drinking, making it more sustainable and perhaps more suitable for first-timers. This can reduce any anxiety you might have about going full-on dry for a month, letting you focus on what would work for you.
High Success Rate: Our May 2023 Impact Survey showed a staggering 96.7% of members drinking less since joining Sunnyside. And not just a drink less, about 62% said they were drinking half what they normally would in a week.
Sense of Accomplishment: A massive 93% of participants said they felt a sense of achievement. You might think that sounds like a temporary mood-booster, but this can have long-term benefits. It helps increase self-efficacy, which can lead you to challenge yourself to improve your life in countless other ways.
Positive Mental Health Impact: Our focus on mindfulness can make an overall difference in your mental health, with 3 in 4 members reportedly seeing an improvement since joining Sunnyside. It could also be thanks to sleep improving, and less shame and guilt thanks to a more compassionate approach.
Binge and Craving Support: We know it’s not easy to change habits, but by learning new coping methods and becoming a part of the Sunnyside community, 81% said they could manage cravings better. Binge drinking can also decrease, with 90% saying they noticed they binged less.
Inclusive Community: Regardless of how much you drink, social support has a direct positive impact on your motivation to change. A community that fosters collective growth, understanding, and compassion can make the experience more engaging, successful, and fulfilling.
Whether you choose a totally Sober or Soberish October, you’re going to get benefits. Participants report sleeping better, having more energy, and losing weight. You also get to see just how much your mental health is affected by alcohol. Feelings of anxiety and depression might lift, and you may even gain a new hobby that relaxes you as you try new things.
The Sunnyside.co challenge focuses on community, compassion, and support. You’ll be doing this challenge alongside thousands of others going through the exact same thing as you. And as science shows, a supportive community is key to our health and success. Plus, if you need some extra one-to-one support, coaches are there for you 24/7.
You never know where this challenge might lead you. It could be new friends, fun hobbies, or an increased sense of mindfulness and self-esteem — all of which will support you in life’s ups and downs, helping you to create long-lasting change.
FAQs About the Sober Challenge
Can I drink non-alcoholic beer during Sober October or Dry January?
Yes, non-alcoholic drinks can be a great way to not worry about missing out on a social event or changing your habits before you’re ready.
If you’ve planned a Soberish month, then you can also decide on a safe number of alcoholic beers that would work for you.
What if I fail and have a drink?
That’s OK! One of the most important things to remember is that “failure” is a part of life — it’s how we learn!
In the end, it’s a way to practice self-compassion and possibly reassess your goals and decide if they’re truly reasonable. Maybe going fully sober isn’t for you and a dryish month is best for now. Use it as a learning experience, reach out for support, and keep going.
Do I need to prepare my body before starting the challenge?
No, but a balanced diet and hydration will make a big difference.
Important note: If you’re dependent on alcohol talk to a doctor first, since going fully dry can have extreme negative consequences and require medical support.
Can I do both Sober October and Dry January?
For sure! A few months between each challenge is a great way to give yourself a break but continue your health journey.