People Are Trying Damp January as a Moderate Alternative to Dry January

After the holidays, you may be looking to reevaluate your approach to drinking. If you don’t want to stop completely, consider this more moderate approach.

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Photo: Blaine Moats

It’s not exactly a secret that all the merrymaking of the holidays can lead to a little overindulging. When the new year rolls around and resolutions are in full swing, many people decide to make health-conscious choices, including swearing off alcohol, at least temporarily. That trend has led to the rise of Dry January or Dryuary, a popular January-long commitment to take a break from drinking, with a set endpoint.

However, not everyone looking to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol (particularly after the holidays) wants to stop imbibing completely. Sometimes, people just want to be more thoughtful about what, and possibly why, they’re drinking as part of a focus on their overall health, while still enjoying the occasional glass of wine. This is where Damp January comes in.

Damp January allows you to set your own goals for a month of mindful drinking. Whether you’re looking to cut back on drinking permanently or want to take a thoughtful pause, Damp January may be worth exploring. Read on to see what experts have to say about this moderate alternative to Dry January.

What Is Damp January, and Why Is It Trending?

“A Dry January challenge is where you eliminate alcohol for the entire month of January,” says Vedant Pradeep, the CEO and co-founder of Reframe, an app created to help with alcohol reduction and elimination. “A Damp January is a less extreme and potentially much more sustainable version of the challenge that is focused on reducing our alcohol intake during the month of January.”

Damp January is all about moderation. This month-long effort can be a good option for someone who wants to keep alcohol in their life but find a healthy balance. So how do you know if Damp January is for you?

“It’s for pretty much anyone that wants to make positive adjustments and experience all the health and emotional benefits of drinking less, while not eliminating alcohol completely from their lives,” Pradeep says. “Since we’re not going cold turkey, Damp January is also a great (and safer) choice for anyone who is a daily drinker or has struggled to cut down on alcohol in the past.”

The popularity of Damp January coincides with the popularity of prioritizing wellness and the increased knowledge about the negative effects of alcohol use. Additionally, cultural beliefs around drinking are changing. The sober curious movement has produced books, podcasts, and a large selection of non-alcoholic beverages for those interested in leading a life with little or no alcohol. Gen Z and Millennials also have an increased focus on both physical and mental health and are drinking less alcohol than previous generations, so this challenge feels timely and like something many are ready to embrace, not just as a short-term fix but as part of ongoing lifestyle changes. 

How to Have a Successful Damp January

One of the challenges of Damp January is that, unlike Dryuary, where you abstain from alcohol completely, there are no hard and fast rules. The subjective nature allows you to set your own goals and determine what parameters constitute success. For some, this may mean choosing lower-alcohol drinks, limiting the number of days they drink, or the number of drinks consumed on any given day. Because the concept behind the challenge is so fluid, it helps to set out your goals ahead of time, so you know what you’re trying to accomplish with your Damp January Challenge.

To help you stay committed to your Damp January goals, Pradeep suggests pay close attention to how you feel throughout the month. “Check in with yourself along the way and take note of any positive changes that you might notice to motivate you,” he says.

These physical improvements can include better hydration, lower blood pressure, improvements in your skin, and better sleep, Pradeep says. And that’s not all.

“It’s not just our physical self that can see the benefit of reducing our alcohol intake,” Pradeep says. “Excessive alcohol use can contribute to a range of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. By cutting back on alcohol, you can improve your mental health and reduce your risk of developing or compounding these conditions.”

If you do decide to try Damp January, you should be prepared to experience some complex feelings surrounding why you choose to drink.

“Cutting back on our alcohol consumption is not just about simply reducing it in our life,” Pradeep says. “It’s about understanding why we might be reaching for a drink in the first place and why we want to make a change. Do we drink to be social, to destress, to try and reduce the feeling of boredom or loneliness, or for other reasons and emotions? This should become clear pretty quickly when we decide to make this change, and we can perhaps become irritated, tired, anxious, and withdrawn, just to name a few, when we cut back. We shouldn’t see this as a sign that we need more alcohol, but that alcohol may have a greater hold on us than we thought.”

The intentional aspect of Damp January—as with any lifestyle change, temporary or permanent—is the key to successfully completing this challenge.

“Alcohol is a band-aid we use to try and ‘fix’ or remove these emotions and can be an artificial way to have fun,” Pradeep says. “So, it’s important to have a plan in place for how we can use this time to work on ourselves and grow in the process. And remember that if you’ve never tried this before, it’s OK to reach out for help and ask questions of others who have, even if it’s just searching for a podcast to listen to in your spare time. There are many digital resources like the Reframe App out there that can help you get started.”

Damp January might also mean changing the way you socialize, so consider having a sober buddy to support you or let people know you’re participating, so they don’t unintentionally pressure you to imbibe.

If you feel like you want to have a drink in your hand while you’re out even on outings where you’ve decided not to drink (this can also keep people from asking about why you’re not drinking if you don’t want to discuss it), mocktails are a fun way to go. If you feel the urge to order or make an alcoholic beverage beyond your set Damp January limits, keep the focus on the positive and think of the things you’re gaining instead of what you’re cutting out. There’s now a whole world of delicious pre-made non-alcoholic beverages you can try, and if you have a few friends doing a Damp or Dry January, it could be fun to host a mocktail-making party or try and create mocktail pairings for appetizers.

The most important thing to remember is that, however you decide to do Damp January, it can be beneficial. “Overall, reducing your alcohol intake can have a range of positive effects on your physical and mental health, as well as your relationships and daily life,” Pradeep says. So focus on progress, not perfection. 

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