While many people are not fond of the idea of an alcohol-free January, according to Twitter, that is exactly the goal of #dryjanuary.
It might not be a college student’s dream, but in her recent blog post, Ashley Jones, a nurse practitioner at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State, outlines the multiple upsides of adhering to an alcohol-free month.
“Dry January,” the movement motivating people to dedicate a month to sobriety, is not only a trend but also a concrete step toward a healthier lifestyle, Jones said.
Motivating 20-somethings to stop drinking is a tall task, but Jones said there are two factors to consider: weight loss and money.
A phrase that is commonly heard among college kids is “the freshman fifteen,” referring to the weight students can put on during their first year of college, and Jones said this frequent weight gain can sometimes be attributed to drinking.
“People looking to lose weight could certainly make it easier to drop a few pounds if they eliminate alcohol,” Jones said. “There’s plenty of calories in alcohol that I don’t think people account for.”
Calories in an alcoholic beverage can vary from 100 calories in a 12-ounce light beer to more than 400 calories in a frozen margarita.
In addition to cutting calories, college students can save money by participating in Dry January, Jones said.
“If [someone is] finding, ‘Hey, I’m a poor college student. How can I keep more money in my pocket?’ alcohol and drinks tend to be really expensive,” Jones said.
Jones said that if the average person went out for two drinks twice per week — spending $10 to $20 per cocktail — eliminating drinking would result in $150 to $200 in savings per month.
While losing weight and saving money are real benefits of Dry January, Jones’ blog post discusses many nonmaterial consequences related to a person’s health that come with heavy, prolonged alcohol use.
Sleep, liver health, inflammation of the pancreas, elevated cholesterol and blood pressure are just some of the ways alcohol can affect the body, Jones said.
College-aged people are often lacking in the sleep department, Jones said, and the idea that alcohol helps sleep is a common misconception. In her blog post she wrote, “The initial buzz that may help [someone] fall asleep [can] lead to premature awakening during the night.”
Matthew Brillhart, a third-year in finance, has been participating in Dry January and said he has experienced a noticeable energy increase.
“Since I stopped drinking, I have more energy and even tend to go to bed earlier,” Brillhart said.
Not only can alcohol cause minor health problems, but prolonged heavy consumption can have a direct relationship with certain types of cancer, Jones said. She also noted effects that can manifest in breast, liver and colon cancers from drinking.
A month might not seem long enough to make a difference in a person’s overall health, but a 2016 study published by Health Psychology explains why it can do just that.
In the study, many of the participants in Dry January continued to drink less after the month of sobriety was over. Dry January can help start someone’s year off fresh, and it can promote an overall healthier year.
January might be ending soon, but taking 30 days off any time of the year is still likely to promote the same healthy habits. According to the Health Psychology study, even the people who didn’t make it through the 30 days still reported drinking less after taking time off.
“I figured it would give me a good chance to reset and try to feel healthier at the beginning of this year,” Brillhart said.