What is Dry January?

girl giving a fist bump

Have you heard of Dry January? It’s a movement that encourages people to give up alcohol for the month of January. Whether you’re considering giving it a try or you’re just curious about what it’s all about, you’ve come to the right place!

I have participated in Dry January a few times and occasionally practice “resets” throughout the year. In this post, I will teach you everything you need to have a successful and stress-free Dry January.

What is Dry January and Why Do People Do It?

Dry January is a challenge to limit or eliminate alcohol for the entire month of January. Some people do it as a way to break unhealthy habits, while others use it as an opportunity to reassess their relationship with drinking.

Others participate in Dry January for health reasons, and I was in that category the first time I participated.

Regardless of what you choose to do, Dry January can be an effective and meaningful tool in creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself.

The key term is “for yourself.” Dry January is not the time to preach about what you’re doing and tell everyone that they shouldn’t drink alcohol.

Also, there is no “right way” to participate. Again, some choose to abstain completely, while others are forming what they consider healthy habits. A great part of Dry January is that it’s a movement about healthy habits, which means there are people all over the world doing it with you.

How to Prepare for Dry January

It’s common for the new year to roll around and you decide last minute to make a change. We all do it.

If you’re considering taking part in Dry January, there are some important steps you should take before starting the challenge:

Educate yourself on what’s healthy and what isn’t when it comes to drinking. Learn what constitutes “moderate” drinking and what counts as “heavy” drinking so that you know the difference.

Ask yourself what role alcohol plays in your life. For some of us, we don’t realize the answer until after we have participated in Dry January. It’s perfectly natural to not know the answer.

Everyone has an opinion on this, and even different countries around the world have different recommended standards for what’s considered “healthy alcohol consumption.”

I find the National Library of Medicine an excellent resource for finding the latest research in health-related queries, like this study that discovered longevity-associated gene expression in moderate consumption of red wine.

Ultimately, this is a personal decision and will be up to you to decide.

Next, decide what Dry January will mean for you this year. This is highly personal, based on what your habits are and what you think you need. Here are a just a few examples or common options chosen, but do what you think will work for you AND challenge you at the same time:

  • Cut back on alcohol consumption by limiting it to a number of alcoholic drinks per week
  • Cut out spirits and cocktails, but still drink wine with meals
  • Do not drink any alcohol for the duration of January

Consider cutting back prior to January, especially if you are planning to stop drinking alcohol completely. I get that this is hard for some with the holidays, but it might make the transition easier.

If you are a heavy drinker, alcohol withdrawal is real, so do your research and be safe. “Heavy drinking” might not be what you think – check the NIAAA definitions of drinking levels.

Stock up on non-alcoholic beverages before January. Think about when you typically drink alcohol and what you might want to drink instead. Maybe that’s still or sparkling water most of the time, but you might want to consider adding some non-alcoholic beer or ready-to-drink beverages for something festive.

Jump to drink recommendations

When you are skipping alcohol for the first time ever (or in a long time), you will likely want a cocktail or wine at some point. Love mixing cocktails? You can still do that with non-alcoholic spirits.

A note about shipping: non-alcoholic beverages are subject to freezing, so they have to be packaged in special winter packaging. These might increase some shipping costs with some shops, but not by more than a couple bucks.

Also, Dry January is a popular time for non-alcoholic beverage retailers, so do yourself a favor and plan ahead. The last thing you want is to ditch Dry January because your drinks didn’t get to your house in time and you didn’t want to drink water.

Shipping speeds are important to us at Master of Mocktails, so we try to recommend only retailers with the best selection and shipping options.

How to Do Dry January (without creating more stress in your life)

Dry January doesn’t have to add stress to your life. Here are some tips for making Dry January a positive experience:

  1. Start small and work your way up. If you’re new to the concept of going dry, try limiting yourself to one or two alcohol-free days per week before working up to a full month without drinking. There’s no reason you have to stop at the end of January.
  2. Prepare for social situations by planning what you will do when someone offers you a drink. Learn what non-alcoholic drinks to order at a bar if you’re going dry.
  3. BYO non-alcoholic beverages with you like sparkling water or a canned spritz so that you have an option other than what’s being offered.
  4. Find supportive activities and people who can provide an encouraging atmosphere during your challenge. Spending time with friends or family members who don’t appreciate what you’re doing will only make it harder.
  5. Replace the time you would spend prepping, purchasing, mixing, or drinking alcohol with something different like cold plunge therapy, dry sauna, hiking, or long walks.

The Best Ready-to-Drink Alcohol Free Beverages

Unless you have a regular habit of mixing cocktails, adding mocktails to your list of to-dos in January is not practical. Instead, I recommend stocking up on some pre-mixed and ready-to-drink beverages. That includes non-alcoholic beer. There are some really great craft beers without alcohol. 

I’ve listed my top picks for Dry January drinks in 20 Best Non Alcoholic Drinks to Stock up for Dry January. This list gets updated regularly due to an ever-growing supply of new and inventive non-alcoholic beverages.

Benefits of Less Alcohol Consumption

The benefits of Dry January and less alcohol intake can be far-reaching. You may find that taking part in this challenge helps to improve your overall health and well-being, including:

  • Improved sleep quality
  • Increased concentration and focus
  • Enhanced physical fitness levels and more energy
  • Lose weight*
  • Better looking skin

In addition to short term health benefits, long term alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on our bodies. By cutting back, you might reduce your risk of developing long-term health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.

A while back, I wrote an article on non-alcoholic beer and learned a lot about its potential health benefits

*Losing weight is possible, but there are many factors involved. Cutting the additional calories of alcohol from your diet can contribute to weight loss, but not if you replace those calories with another calorie-rich food or beverage.

How to Stick with Dry January (even when you don’t want to)

So, you’re a week or halfway through, but feeling over it. Sticking with Dry January can be difficult, especially if you’re surrounded by people who are drinking.

But there are a few things you can do to make it easier:

  1. Stock up on ready-to-drink beverages. There are so many to choose from, and you will always have something interesting to drink. This means canned adaptogenic drinks, canned alcohol free spritzes, na wine, na beer, etc.
  2. Take up a new hobby that doesn’t involve drinking or is incompatible with drinking (meditation, yoga, hiking).
  3. Create an accountability system where you share your progress with someone else – this could be a friend, family member or even an online group of people taking on the challenge.
  4. Celebrate each day as it comes – when cravings come up or days get tough, remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Sticking with a new habit requires consistent celebration of the little things. If you can stick with one habit, you know you can make change in your life, no matter the habit.

Best Ways to Celebrate When You’re Done with Dry January

Congratulations! You’ve made it through Dry January and you deserve to celebrate. Here are some great ways to reward yourself for a job well done:

  • Schedule a massage, facial or spa day.
  • Take a trip somewhere new – even if it’s just a day trip – and explore what the world has to offer.
  • Enjoy dinner at your favorite restaurant with friends or family.
  • Treat yourself to something special, like tickets to an event or concert.

Whatever you decide, take the time to savor what you’ve accomplished and enjoy the feeling of success that comes from completing Dry January.

After you have skipped alcohol for a while, it’s not a great idea to celebrate with alcohol for a couple of reasons:

  1. Celebrations with alcohol often means binge drinking or drinking too much alcohol and you’ll feel that. Having a hangover is not a great way to reward yourself.
  2. For some, associating “reward” with alcohol can lead to abuse. Tread lightly and consider if this is the habit you were trying to avoid in the first place.

Take Time to Reflect

Whether you reach your initial goals or not, it’s always important to take time to reflect on what you noticed throughout Dry January.

Consider taking notes weekly to document physical and mental changes, what was hard, and what you liked or didn’t like about it.

Saving these notes in your phone can be helpful to reference for future attempts at new habits, or a future Dry January. You might even want to assess your regular drinking habits and how they make you feel moving forward.

Alcohol Abuse

I am all about healthy lifestyle choices and want to help you make non-alcoholic beverages tasty, but am not a medical professional. Dry January will not fix addiction, alcohol abuse and alcoholism. If you or a friend struggles with alcohol abuse, please see a professional for help. Read more about sobriety.

Final Thoughts

Dry January is a great opportunity to reconnect with yourself and practice self-care habits that could benefit you for years to come. So what are you waiting for? Give it a try this January!

If you need help planning go-to alcohol free beverages, or want recommendations based on taste, check out my top picks for ready-to-drink products and browse all the recipes and reviews, or feel free to reach out!

Angela T.
Hi, I’m Angela! Ever since alternative beverages made their debut, I’ve been on a mission to find the best. As someone who loves wine and making craft cocktails, I approach each new beverage with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism. I hope these honest reviews will help you learn which non-alcoholic drinks are best for you.