CLEVELAND — We are just a few days into January and millions of Americans are actively working to better themselves for the New Year.
They are participating in 'Dry January'.
The month-long initiative encourages folks to stop drinking alcohol and take on healthier hobbies.
It comes at a critical time as alcohol-related deaths increased dramatically during the two-plus years of the pandemic.
Deaths involving alcohol surged by more than 25% between 2019 and 2020.
Experts say there is extremely high interest in participating in Dry January as many of us likely overindulged while we were in lockdown and developed bad habits.
They say you may feel tempted to break your alcohol fast, but you can succeed by planning ahead and staying preoccupied.
“The overall aspect of being sober is a good thing," Rebecca Crabtree of Akron said.
Crabtree is an Akron native and a sobriety advocate. She had never heard of Dry January, but she applauds the month-long challenge.
She encourages everyone that they can succeed if they commit to it with a plan of action. “Write it down, number one. Look at it every day. Put it on your mirror. Tape it up. Say it. Do it," Crabtree said.
Dry January started in the United Kingdom back in 2013 and has grown in popularity nationwide.
Many participate as a way to start the new year on a clean slate following holiday parties and New Year’s Eve indulgences.
Cleveland Clinic Addiction Psychiatrist Dr. Akhil Anand says the benefits are clear.
"Studies have shown that 31 days--even 31 days of absence from alcohol increases improved sleep quality and causes some weight loss. It helps with anxiety and depression. It helps decrease cholesterol, blood glucose," Dr. Anand said.
In addition, he says roughly 75% of those who participate in Dry January complete it successfully, and they can keep the momentum going for months to come.
Dr. Anand says if you’re struggling to complete the challenge, find a buddy. A support system helps hold you accountable.
In addition, be vocal and take on the challenge with pride. The more you talk about it, the more likely you are to stay committed to completing it.
"Have your friends and family all join in. Tell everybody about it," Dr. Anand said.
In addition, he says to start a new hobby or venture that follows a routine.
From scheduled workout classes to joining a book club—keeping your mind busy can help you thrive long-term.
Routines create habits.
"Finding different substitutes rather than going out to the bar on a Friday night helps. Go to the movies or go outside. The weather's getting nicer, so go for a walk, hang out at the Metroparks," Dr. Anand said.
Dr. Anand says those who succeed report experiencing mental clarity and increased overall wellness.
He also points out that Cleveland is a hub for addiction services. If you are struggling with alcohol, contact your doctor or psychiatrist for additional support and guidance.