Dry January for Charity: What it is and Tips on How to Get Through it
One in ten of us, an estimated 4.2 million UK people, plan to stop drinking alcohol for Dry January 2020.
Official statistics show that last year, more than 7,550 UK deaths were directly linked to drinking too much. That’s 20 people dying in our country every day as a result of alcohol misuse.
The current medical drinking guidelines advise both men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis – that’s six pints of beer or six 175ml glasses of wine. Binge-drinking, defined by the Office for National Statistics as drinking more than eight units in one session for men or six units in one session for women, usually with the aim of getting drunk, is strongly discouraged.
Nevertheless, one in five UK adults regularly exceeds the recommended alcohol consumption guidelines without stopping to consider the impact that their drinking habits may be having on their health.
Dry January for charity offers the opportunity it offers to improve your health and crowdfund for a good cause.
What is dry January?
Dry January is a public health campaign that encourages drinkers to give up alcohol for the month of January.
It was launched in 2013 by the alcohol charity now known as Alcohol Change UK, with the aim of kickstarting an open conversation about alcohol and inspiring positive behavioural change.
Dry January is aimed at the one in five UK adults who regularly exceed the recommended alcohol consumption guidelines, without stopping to consider the impact that their drinking habits may be having on their health.
The campaign normalises not drinking for a month, helps encourage those with more serious alcohol problems to get help and puts pressure on the government to reverse the harmful cuts to alcohol treatment budgets.
Dry January gets us all talking more openly about our drinking habits – something that, as a society, we aren’t great at doing.
Similar campaigns run by other charities including Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon.
Dry January health benefits
Over 60 medical conditions have proven links to alcohol, including liver disease, diabetes, depression and seven types of cancer. Drinking less helps reduce the risk of developing one of these illnesses but it has more immediate benefits too.
Researchers from the Royal Free Hospital in London, have found that 71 per cent report sleeping better and 58 per cent lose weight. Not to mention the blissful absence of debilitating hangovers!
The study, published in the British Medical Journal last year, revealed that taking a month off alcohol lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of diabetes, lowers cholesterol and reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.
Best of all, Dry January participants aren’t cutting out booze for a month, only to hit it even harder come February. The University of Sussex’s independent survey of over 800 Dry January participants found that they were still drinking less eight months later.
On average, participants were recording one extra dry day per week and were consuming 1.5 fewer units per drinking day than they had been before taking part in the campaign.
Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said: “Put simply, Dry January can change lives. We hear every day from people who took charge of their drinking using Dry January, and who feel healthier and happier as a result.
“The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January. Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialise.
“That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about our drinking, and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.”
Dry January financial benefits
Charity Drinkaware notes that the average UK household spends £8 on alcohol drunk outside the home and £8.50 on alcohol drunk inside the home weekly. These stats suggest that giving up booze for Dry January will be kind to your bank balance, leading to hefty average annual savings of £858.
The aforementioned Royal Free Hospital researchers found that 88 per cent of Dry January participants save money.
How to get through Dry January
Giving Dry January a go is no mean feat, especially if you turn to alcohol to relax or cut loose at the end of a long day. In fact, a recent YouGov poll showed that two-thirds of regular drinkers reckon they would find cutting down on alcohol harder than improving their diet, exercising more or even quitting smoking.
Expect the first week or two to be the toughest, as your brain gets used to daily life without booze. It’s normal to might experience minor headaches and feel more irritable. Try to find alcohol-free drinks you like and consider taking up a healthy new activity to distract from your cravings, such as swimming or dancing.
Connect with other Dry January participants – ideally friends, but there are Facebook groups you can join for online support – and swap tips. Meet up with a fellow teetotaller before a social event so you can push through any initial awkwardness together.
Tell family, friends and colleagues that you’re doing Dry January so they can stop offering you drinks, make an effort to support you and donate to your chosen charity if you’re fundraising.
Remember that slipping up doesn’t make you a failure. If you’ve already got a big event in the diary for January, such as a birthday or a wedding, then it’s okay to have a night off! Trying to reduce your alcohol intake and occasionally slipping up is better than not giving Dry January a go.
Dry January for heavy drinkers
People who drink very heavily or regularly should check with their doctor before attempting Dry January.
GPs and alcohol charities can advise on the best way to quit drinking if Dry January poses a danger to your health, so please be careful!
Tips on how to do Dry January for a good cause
1. Swap your beer for good cheer
Drinking in excess can negatively affect every corner of an individual’s life. Hospital admissions linked to excessive alcohol consumption (1.2 million last year) are putting pressure on an under-funded NHS. Consider donating some of the money you save on booze to an alcohol awareness charity.
2. Download the official Dry January app
Stay motivated by tracking your alcohol-free progress in Alcohol Change UK’s official app, Try Dry. It asks you to input your drinking habits, take a quiz and set personal goals, including Dry January, Sober Spring and halving your alcohol intake. The app shows you how many calories you’re skipping by forgoing booze and gives you the option of pledging a percentage of your financial savings to the charity. It’s so addictive, it’ll help you keep going through 2020 and beyond.
3. Take up a new job as a taxi driver
Going out to celebrate a friend’s birthday? Offer your services as designated driver and drop your pals home afterwards, in exchange for a small charity ‘tip’. They’ll save money on taxi fares and might feel inspired to give Dry January a try themselves next year. Come the next morning, you’ll be hangover-free and have the pleasure of reminding them of their embarrassing drunken antics.
4. Host an alcohol-themed quiz night
Sell tickets to a quiz night in your local village hall (or kitchen!) and serve tasty mocktails and nibbles on the side. Include lots of questions that’ll test people’s knowledge of alcohol, from brands of gin to facts about the impact of alcohol on health and society. Donate the proceeds to your chosen cause.
5. Organise a tee-total raffle
Low or no-alcohol drinks are a growing trend at the moment, with younger people waking up to the potential dangers of booze. Get in touch with some up and coming brands and ask if they’d consider donating a bottle of their finest 0.00% bevvy as a charity raffle prize, in exchange for promotion among your community and on your social platforms. Go one step further and approach a local celebrity with a social conscience to do the draw.
6. Get your boss on board
Encourage coworkers to go teetotal for January too. Set up a competition between colleagues with prizes up for grabs for the employees who raise the most money. Lost productivity and absenteeism are estimated to cost businesses an eye-watering £7.6 billion every year, so your boss is bound to support any Dry January charity effort.
7. Host a mocktail party
Mocktails can be expensive in bars, despite their zero alcohol content, so host your own mixing party. Invite friends and ask them to bring along different ingredients, from exotic juices to alcohol-free liquors. Get potion-making, find your new favourite booze-free tipple, give it a silly name (Nojito, anyone?) and do a whip-round for donations once the bar’s run dry.
8. Fill my pint glass!
Commandeer the morning meeting to tell your colleagues (and high-earning boss) all about your Dry January fundraiser and how their donations will help. Leave a pint glass at the end of your desk and ask them to help you fill it with loose change over the next 31 days.
9. Do something sporty
One of the biggest pros of cutting out alcohol is how much healthier it makes you feel. Mornings without hangovers mean you’ll be more likely to get out and about. Why not sign up for a sponsored sporting event, such as a marathon or swimathon, and put your newfound energy to good use?
10. Start a crowdfunding campaign
What better way to motivate yourself when sitting in the pub sipping an orange juice than by seeing your donations suddenly spike? Crowdfunding campaigns are an easy way to get all your donations in one place, including from bosses, co-workers and after your alcohol themed quiz nights. Turning down booze during one of the bleakest months of the year is a tough challenge – your GoFundMe campaign is an easy way to start nudging those friends who “simply couldn’t do it” for donations.
Start your campaign today
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