Healthbeat: Long-term benefits to ‘Dry January’

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A New Year’s trend is catching on this month with many people.

It is called Dry January when you try to abstain from consuming alcohol for a month. Dry January actually started in 2013 in parts of Europe. Research shows there are health benefits to be gained by taking on the challenge if you do it right.

Among the many people taking the Dry January challenge is Ruth Corcoran. The Wilkes-Barre woman is trying to abstain from drinking alcohol during the first month of the year for the first time.

“I have thought about it before but this year I think my weight spurred me into doing it,” Corcoran said.

Some unwanted pounds she blames on being a social drinker and consuming alcohol’s empty calories.

“I drink on the weekends but what I think happened with COVID we were at home more, we were sitting around playing cards at night and maybe have a wine so I think I was drinking more than I normally would,” Corcoran said.

Researchers say Dry January can provide a host of health benefits including weight loss, improved restorative sleep, improved liver function and even a stronger immune system. But the challenge can bring something else according to drug and alcohol counseling experts: awareness of our relationship with alcohol.

“Once you take alcohol out of the picture, then you are kind of forced to look at your coping mechanisms,” Wyoming Valley Alcohol & Drug Services Prevention/Eductaion Supervisor Stefanie Wolownik said.

That awareness, she says, can provide long-lasting life changes.

“Once you have gone for 31 days without alcohol you are like why did I ever drink to begin with,” Wolownik said.

But Wolownik says to have a successful Dry January, you need to understand what triggers you to drink and find healthier alternatives as simple as exercise or an outdoor walk.

“That could be your substitute, okay, and when you get back, yes, you have a little bit more energy and you are calmer. You are not inside your head anymore because you are going outside of yourself,” Wolownik said.

Another tip? Try and take the Dry January challenge with a friend who will hold you accountable. It is what Corcoran says she is doing with her son and daughter.

“If we get a little bit down in the dumps and say hey, I want a glass of wine, we’ll support each other. So, it has been good moral support. I think it is a healthy thing to do for us as a family,” Corcoran said.

Research shows alcohol consumption rose 20 percent in 2020 with the pandemic largely to blame so Dry January could not come soon enough for many of us.

For help if you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol, visit wvadsinc.com.

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