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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dry January

It’s that time of year again – New Year resolutions. After the excess of the festivities – too much food, too much drink, too many relatives, the thought of not feeling bloated and slightly blotto becomes quite appealing. (If it doesn’t then you haven’t been trying.) So this is where Dry January comes in – it’s a campaign launched by Alcohol Concern to encourage people to give up drinking for the whole of January –You can fundraise for Alcohol Concern at the same time or perhaps just donate what you would have spent on alcohol. Whilst it’s not necessary to sign up, there’s nothing like announcing it to the world to make you stick with it (gulp). 

Wine O’clock has jokily but steadily become a part of what many of us regard as time off for adults, time to put a lid on a tough day with a pint of beer or a glass of wine. Sometimes wine o’clock is every day and sometimes it gets a little earlier each day or lasts a little longer. At the time it feels like the answer as problems seem to gently melt away but, all too often the next day it can result in lethargy and lack of energy at best and all the symptoms of a hangover at worst. 
Of course being entirely sober may not be what you want in January. You may prefer to cruise through it ever so slightly comatose, avoiding the unpleasant weather, being back at work and dealing with post Christmas debts. In addition, with a failure rate of 88%, are New Year’s resolutions worth the breath we give them?  
Resolutions of any sort – to lose weight, exercise more, smile more, all rely on will power (or as my friend, @GeorginaPerkins calls it, won’t power). And will power is controlled by a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex that also keeps us focussed, manages short term memory, and solves abstract problems. So, if we are overtaxed in this department, it is harder to remember that we are also keeping off alcohol or not eating cake.  However, if the not drinking becomes a habit in itself (perhaps it will take a month) then it strikes me the prefrontal cortex doesn’t have to consciously think about the not doing something and it will become easier. This link will tell you more

I’ve mentioned Dry January to friends to gauge their reaction (mixed) and I’ve suggested it to my other half - who recognising he might be coerced into it - grumpily queried what the health benefits might be. Not a bad question. What are the benefits? There’s the obvious – lose a few pounds in weight, save a few pounds in cash. Your skin will look better (even for January) and you will sleep better and have more energy.

Alcohol can cause raised blood pressure which in turn carries a risk of stroke and heart disease. It can damage the liver, cause inflammation of the pancreas resulting in nausea, pain and vomiting. The pancreas is also the organ that produces insulin, used to regulate our blood sugar and, diabetes can be linked to drinking alcohol. Excess intake of alcohol is also linked to some cancers including mouth, breast, bowel and liver cancer. Go to Cancer Research UK website for more information:

There is no shortage of information out there so I won’t reiterate it all here. Check out the excellent websites of Alcohol Concern and Drinkaware  for further information.
Taking up the no alcohol challenge in January has its advantages – many people will be on a similar health drive – the gyms will be rammed, the pavements awash with joggers, so you won’t be alone. You can complain and share stories of success in equal measure (pardon the pun) and at the end of the month you may just regard alcohol as not quite so important.  Cheers!

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