Every year, a public health initiative that originated in the UK, called Dry January, enrolls millions of people worldwide in a no-cost challenge to abstain from alcohol for 31 days. So how can Dry January help catapult you to achieve your goals and well-being? Read on to find out!
Preparing for Dry January Post-Pandemic
Having taken part in Dry January in years past, I was starting to get concerned when my attempts in 2021 and 2022 failed. Badly. I was only a few days into both years when I drank during the first occasion that presented itself.
Actually, I don’t even think I considered Dry January in 2021. Sometimes things that happened during the pandemic are a blur.
During this time, NYC had shut down many things but it didn’t shut down our ability to buy alcohol and take to-go cups! What a time to be alive, I thought! We’ve finally manifested Rosé All Day. Be careful what you wish for! I can be lighthearted about it now, but the reality is that it was a very difficult time for me and many other New Yorkers that love to experience the many events (and places) our city has to offer. The city that never sleeps was sleeping. Well, in my case, if you’re on Broadway, the ambulance sirens kept us up many nights.
Before the pandemic, my boyfriend and I would go to restaurants a few days a week. Some might think, first world problems, but hey, we’ve worked for it. I have paid my dues. Literally. This was manifestation at its finest. But a pandemic? If there is a one-in-a-million chance, why us? Where was this on the vision board? I didn’t think Rosé all day had to be more specific! Just my luck!
So when Mayor Cuomo made the to-go drink an option, it soon had us overindulging. Let’s throw these New Yorkers a bone, they thought.
When January 2022 came around, I decided to jump on the Dry January challenge. A few days into the month, I was on a plane on my way to a villa in the Dominican Republic, where my mom had saved my favorite type of wine, Sauvignon Blanc. I mean, if they went through the thoughtful trouble of getting me my favorite type of grape, I shouldn’t say no. Right? And I did say no, for a second, as everyone held on to Presidente beers, their favorite Rum or Whiskey or wine. I thought it was just silly of me to be that person. So I had my crisp glass of white wine, or two or three. We partied for days, sometimes starting really early.
The overindulgence continued.
I should know better.
As a neuro coach, I realized I had created a habit that was giving me dopamine fixes during a difficult time. The more we do something, a certain action, the more we create mental maps that will lead us to create a habit around it. It becomes the norm. The lack of exercise during the lockdown and the overindulgence were not a good mix, with the extra pounds to show for it.
Dry January 2023
I started to worry. Can I do this in 2023? Can I stop the overindulgence? Maybe Dry January would be a great thing to do now. By the way, my boyfriend joined me in 2022 (when I dropped out), and he didn’t have a drink until 365 days later (New Year’s Eve. He didn’t like it).
I decided to really go all in for Dry January 2023. As I had learned from neuroscience, I can create new mental maps, and it isn’t enough to just try. Here are some things of the things I did:
Take Indecision Out.
I had to make a decision. Will I be taking part in Dry January 2023 or not?
Indecision sends mixed signals to the brain, and it can stem from many different reasons, one being fear of failure. If I don’t commit, then I’m not really failing sort of thinking. We might not realize this until we really think about it.
Our brains are wired for certainty. We like to know what’s going to happen and what’s coming next. If I allowed myself to be in a constant state of indecision on whether I would go all in or not, I would be leading my brain down a road of stress and anxiety.
If you want to help your brain out, take the indecision out and decide. Of course, this will be tested but read on and I will share more on what to do when the other challenges arise.
The Mindset and Self-Control + Confidence.
I took out the “what-ifs” and I allowed myself to say: this is my decision and my choice. I noticed that when I allowed some leeway into the situation, I was setting myself up for failure. There was no: But it’s my birthday on the 26th, and I should have a drink! The first time I participated in Dry January (2018), I allowed myself to decide whether I would drink or not for my birthday. It’s not my fault Dry Jan is in my birthday month! I had jumped on this challenge on a whim and was not prepared, but I was happy with my decision.
For 2023 I prepared to go through the whole month without a drink.
Self-worth and confidence kicked in every time I felt a bit anxious thinking about being invited to an event or elsewhere. I reminded myself that a decision had been made. Period. I can, and I will do this. In fact, I am making a decision that for 31 days, I will not drink, and I am the only one that can make it happen. Therefore, it all depends on me. It also made me feel powerful and able to practice my own decision-making in a world that constantly seems to know what’s better for all of us than ourselves.
If I can’t follow through, I thought, I will further look into this.
It’s a great exercise in confidence to be able to say no and not think or feel as if it isn’t a hard no because someone else hasn’t approved it. Treating our goals the same way goes a long way. Who do you need permission from to do things that are good for you?
In life, I’ve learned to depend solely on myself when it comes to reaching a goal. I won’t quit just because a buddy is quitting, but knowing people from all over the world and all walks of life were in this challenge to win helped me. I liked using the Dry January app and checking off the “didn’t have a drink” icon. I couldn’t possibly mess up the perfect 31 days. Dopamine.
I hate losing, and I love to challenge myself. More Dopamine.
Did I really want to do this?
Deep down, in the other attempts, I didn’t want to quit having my favorite glasses of wine. I did not want to. Have you ever wanted to reach a goal, but didn’t want to give up something you are enjoying even though you know it isn’t good for you? It’s called Cognitive dissonance.
A good mantra to use is: My goals are more important than a temporary fix.
By speaking to your subconscious and priming the brain over and over, you are recreating new mental maps and enjoying the benefits offered by accomplishing what you said you would.
Inform yourself and know that the brain will want to revert to what it knows. While the brain loves novelty, it does not like change because it represents the unknown. Every time we keep up with a habit, whether it is good or bad for us, we get a dose of dopamine! Isn’t that something? The brain will reward you for keeping up with a habit. Who cares what the habit is as long as it’s getting its fix!
Plan for the difficult moments.
We know the decision was made that I wouldn’t drink on my birthday, so when I went away on business, I decided to keep my birthday to myself. I had a quiet Uber Eats dinner and tucked in, enjoying a relaxing night with the joy of knowing I wasn’t going to feel lethargic the next morning. It’s ok just to relax. I’ve had plenty of birthday parties with friends, family, and drinks. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether it was my birthday or someone else’s that would want to force me out!
Keep Planning, especially for Sudden Surprises.
One of the biggest problems with goals is that we might say we want to accomplish something, manifest something or see something happen, but we don’t plan for it, and the biggest planning starts from within. It starts in our brains because we will be tested.
Plan for sudden surprises like a last-minute party where booze will flow freely.
Out of nowhere, my boyfriend decided to gift me with a trip to Aruba after I arrived from my work trip. I know, the horror!
I took a breath and reminded myself that I said the decision was made. My boyfriend is a JetBlue Mosaic member. Great. Now he is. Not before, when I was not taking part in Dry January, but here we are. It was 8 am anyway, but that didn’t stop the seniors behind us from keeping the wine flowing.
Every time I faced myself with the craving and desire as I did from the giddy feeling of traveling to a tropical island and listening to the other happy travelers order their FREE drinks, I returned to my mantras and the reasons why I was doing this, just like I do in my life and business.
I made a decision, and I don’t have to change it. I’m in control, and I feel great. I visualized myself arriving with energy and taking it all in without starting to feel sleepy or tired after a few glasses. Plus, when do I drink at 8 am?
When planning any goals, look at your monthly calendar. Which days could be challenging? How do you plan to address them so you aren’t caught off guard?
Use the time
Since you aren’t drinking, the focus would be better. Is there a project you’ve kept saying you want to pick up but haven’t?
Are you trying to lose weight and have been unable to get it going?
Have you been meaning to journal, meditate, go to yoga or work out and haven’t gone because you don’t have any time? No one feels bad after yoga or working out! Allow yourself to feel those things you’ve been wanting to feel but habit got in the way.
Not going to Happy Hour or popping a bottle at home will open hours and hours for you in the month of January and perhaps trickle into the rest of the year as it has for me.
I focused on my walks, physical therapy (to fix that annoying pain I’ve been putting up with), reading, and finally writing the blogs that I love to write.
Try some of these tips in anything you’d like to accomplish, and please remember that you are dealing with years and years of ingrained mental maps that lead your subconscious. One mess-up doesn’t mean you need to quit. It means you will eventually come back stronger.
Do you need more help?
Sharing my experience is not meant to give anyone medical advice or counseling.
I know that this subject matter is a difficult topic that many battle with. If you need more help, please contact: 1-800-662-HELP(4357) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, available in English and Spanish.