Tips for a Successful Dry January

dry january tips

No booze doesn’t mean no fun

Chances are, you’ve at least heard of the phrase “Dry January".” Maybe it’s the excuse your coworker gave for skipping wine at the weekly happy hour, or maybe it’s something you are in the middle of doing right now. The last few years, it seems that this trend has grown bigger and bigger and that more folks are abstaining from alcohol (or reducing their consumption) for these 31 days.

Now I’m not here to convince anyone to give up alcohol (or really make any changes to their diet), but I thought it would be a fun and timely topic to discuss. Usually when people want to casually cut down on drinking it’s because of a couple reasons:

  • they think alcohol is interfering with their health goals (relaxation, sleep, inflammation, weight)

  • they think their social lives revolve too much around alcohol

  • they want to save money or practice another good habit that a nightly drink might be substituting

  • they want to jumpstart a lifestyle changes of drinking less indefinitely because of a family history of chronic illness, mental health issues, or alcoholism

So here’s a roundup of a couple of tips from me if you are participating in Dry January or just don’t feel like drinking tonight.

4 Tips for Surviving Dry January:

Know your mocktails

Inevitably the toughest part about Dry January is being at a bar or a party and just not knowing what to order. If you are giving up alcohol for health reasons, you probably don’t want to switch to a sugary Sprite or Coke or even a sugar-filled mocktail. Sure, you can just get a water, but if you want to be slightly festive (and not the cheapo in the group), try ordering a club-soda based drink, whether that’s my go-to (a Bitters and Soda), or simply asking for lemon or lime juice and soda, or soda added to another juice you see out on the bar. Bartenders at nicer bars and restaurants will almost always be able to create something custom for you based on flavors that you like, and many may even have unique mixers for this purpose like Seedlip, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit. For more casual places though, you are better off sticking with a club soda drink.

Chicagoans can check out this round-up from Chicago Food Magazine for a couple of bars doing Dry January alcohol-free specials. If you have a group of friends going dry, you could also consider setting up a custom mocktail class with my friend Devin at Hollow Leg. She teaches mixology classes but also always has zero-proof or no-proof cocktail options. And if you are looking to DIY at home, I recommend one of my favorite healthy cocktail books, The Thinking Girl’s Guide to Drinking, which you can read about on my Recommended Books page.

Try coffee, tea, or juice

Maybe it’s not actually the alcohol that you miss, but it’s the ritual of meeting up with a friend one-on-one in the evening to catch up over a few hours. Does Dry January mean you are destined to a life of hermitage? For situations like this, as long as the friend is willing, I like to switch up the location and simply meet at a coffee shop or juice bar instead. Trying to go out to dinner instead of a bar can quickly become a pricey habit, so I’d stick to beverages-only. And while I’m not a fan of “juicing” as a daily habit or meal replacement, an occasional fancy juice bar green drink can certainly be a fun afternoon out and a nice nutrient boost as well.

Mix up your social life

Along those lines, you can consider mixing up your social life a bit so that alcohol isn’t as prominently featured. So much of our social lives and even family lives revolve around food and beverage. And while that can be a beautiful thing—and totally natural!—it does get tricky when everyone wants or needs to consume different things. So try coming up with a list of social activities that you can do with friends, family, or a partner that don’t involve eating or drinking. (As a chef, this one is hard for me!) Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Meet up with a friend at a yoga class, dance class, or even just for a walk around the block.

  • Go to a museum. Here’s a guide to after-hours events at museums in Chicago.

  • See a comedy show. Many have 2-drink minimums but some don’t.

  • Do an art or crafts class. I love the classes by Joslyn Villalpando!

  • Explore an antique store or a cool bookstore

  • Join a book club (but one that like actually reads the books)

Cultivate relaxation habits

Alcohol occupies a unique position in many of our lives. We think it relaxes us but often it does quite the opposite: alcohol can disrupt sleep and actually lead us to be a little more stressed out in the long-run. So if stress reduction and relaxation is what you are seeking, use Dry January to put some of those practices into place. 30-days without alcohol can force you to develop a relaxing evening routine, maybe one that involves shutting off screens after a certain hour, reading in bed, and maybe incorporating another component of self-care. Every person finds different activities relaxation or stress-reducing, so prioritize what works for you.

Those are my tips! Have any additional ones to suggest? Add them in the comments below!