The beginning of a new year often marks a time of reflection and resolutions. Whether you want to set goals or try something new, why not try it now? While many embrace Dry January as a chance to detox from alcohol, this month-long commitment can also serve as a powerful catalyst for positive change in various aspects of your life. Let's explore how Dry January can extend beyond abstaining from alcohol, influencing decisions related to social media, commitments, and relationships that might not be serving your well-being.
It will likely be harder before it gets easier so log how it goes and tough it out to really see how these changes impact you over the next 4 weeks. To start making changes a helpful book on habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear. Here are some suggestions to explore below.
Saying No to Excessive Social Media: How much time do we waste scrolling? Embracing Dry January can be an opportunity to reassess your relationship with social media. Is social media positive or at least neutral or is it bringing up comparisons, negativity and leading to avoidance of other things you’d like to accomplish. Consider taking a break from constant scrolling, likes, and notifications. Log out of your sites and increase your ability to sit in silence, let your mind wander or read a book. You can also try social media/technology reduction if you don’t want to dive right in or are not able to with your work or life commitments. A book I’d recommend is 24/6: Giving up Screens One Day a Week to Get More Time, Creativity, and Connection to explore what that could look like for you.
Mindful Yes and No: Just as Dry January encourages you to say no to alcohol, it's a chance to evaluate your commitments. Am I saying no to everything that could have the potential to be fun? Am I saying yes to commitments that I dread and don’t see a payoff? Reflect on your personal and professional obligations and what serves you in the short and long term. Anything that doesn’t serve you can be reduced or taken off your list of commitments. This mindful approach to yes and no can lead to a more intentional and fulfilling life. I’d highly recommend the book Happier Hour by Cassie Holmes to assess your schedule and how to make the most of your time.
Eliminating and Reducing Toxic Relationships: Abstaining from alcohol often involves making lifestyle changes, and that may extend to the people around you. Use this month to identify and distance yourself from toxic relationships that drain your energy. Surround yourself with individuals who support your growth and well-being. If you have a limited support system sites like Bumble, MeetUp, Classpass can be a great way to seek out new friends, interest groups and novelty with trying different group fitness classes. If you find it difficult to leave a relationship that hurts you it could be a great time to explore counseling with a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and get the support and expertise to help you make, process and keep those changes.
Decluttering Your Environment: Just as Dry January clears your body of toxins, take the opportunity to declutter your physical space. Marie Kondo it up! Simplify your surroundings by letting go of items you no longer need with donating, selling on places like Next Door and Facebook Marketplace. A tidy, clean and organized space can positively impact your mental clarity and overall sense of well-being. If you have kids that are attached to their things or toys then invite them into the process. Whatever they sell they can have a percentage of that money to pay for a fun experience, give and save. They might enjoy giving their toys, clothes and other things to others and start a January tradition and value. Here’s a helpful youtube video on helping your kids with decluttering.
Exploring Alternative Stress Relievers: Instead of relying on alcohol as a stress reliever or a way to numb out emotions, use Dry January to explore alternative methods. Engage in activities that bring you joy, whether it's exercising, practicing mindfulness, or pursuing a hobby. Try social activities that are during the day, are silly, fun or are fitness related. Explore progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, get your PCP visit in to rule out any concerns and run labs and/or start counseling with a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Alcohol use can be a way of short-term self-medicating. Why not explore long-term and more effective ways and alternatives to feel better overall? A book I’d recommend is Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington.
Setting Boundaries: The commitment to Dry January reinforces the importance of setting boundaries with yourself, places and with others. Boundaries are there to allow others in and out of our lives. Healthy boundaries enrich our lives and unhealthy boundaries lead to unhealthy outcomes. People with healthy boundaries are more respected and are happier overall. Clearly define your limits and communicate them to others, creating a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. Boundaries go along with learning assertiveness and aren’t necessary rules for others but how you choose to live, interact and respond to others in your life. To learn more speak with a licensed counselor and explore books such as Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and tools from Positive Psychology.
As you embark on Dry January, consider it not only as a break from alcohol but as a holistic journey towards self-improvement. Take changes, try new and old things, experiment. What do you have to lose? Embrace the opportunity to create positive, lasting change and set the tone for a year of mindful living. Cheers to a new year and better you!
Lowther Counseling Services, www.LowtherCS.com, 2024