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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

What happens if 'Dry January' doesn't work out?

Updated: Jan 26

The concept of 'Dry January' has been growing in popularity over the past few years. After all, if you'd like to reduce your alcohol intake, then January feels like it might be the ideal moment after the excess of the festive season. But it's not always so simple. I spoke to Saga Exceptional about what happens if 'Dry January' doesn't work out. Click here to read the full article, or read on to learn what I had to say. I've also spoken to Metro more broadly about how we feel if our New Years Resolutions don't work out. Click here for the full article.

If 'Dry January' hasn't worked out as we had planned, here are some positives that we can take away from our efforts:

  • ‘One-size-fits-all approaches’.  When we want to change our behaviours, concepts like ‘Dry January’ can feel quite attractive.  But the reality is that we are all different, and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is rarely going to meet all of our needs.  There are a myriad of reasons why we might drink alcohol, and why we might decide to quit drinking.  This makes ‘Dry January’ a bit of a blunt instrument for behaviour change.  

  • Identifying that you want to make a change.  If you’ve tried ‘Dry January’, then there’s a good chance that you’ve identified that there’s something about your drinking habit that you’d like to change.  This in itself should be considered a victory.  You’ve acknowledged that you want to change, and you’ve tried something out. 

  • Learning from ‘failure'.  If ‘Dry January’ didn’t work out for you, then it’s an opportunity for you to figure out whether there’s another approach that might suit you better.  Maybe it’s about changing your social patterns, or cutting down rather than quitting.  Or perhaps it’s an indication that you need to look at the underlying reasons behind your drinking.  If we think of drinking as a ‘coping strategy’ then we can start to be curious and explore what our drinking does for us.  And whether we can replace it with another, perhaps healthier, activity.  

Tips for recovering from a ‘setback', if 'Dry January hasn't worked out:

  • Motivation.  Stay motivated.  Hang on to your original goal, and see if you can find another way to get you there.  Maybe a different approach or a different deadline.  Perhaps you need to find an accountability buddy.   

  • Consider why it didn’t work.  Take some time to figure out why you didn’t achieve your goal.  Perhaps it was unrealistic, or not quite the right approach.  Or maybe there’s something else going on.  Are you getting in your own way?  Some of us are prone to self-sabotage when we try something new.  Be honest with yourself, so that you can learn how to achieve your goals next time.   

  • Understanding guilt/embarrassment.  If you’re recovering from a ’setback’, it’s possible that you’ll experience feelings of guilt or embarrassment.  They are natural, human emotions, and they exist in order to send us a signal that we are trying to achieve something that we really want.  If we acknowledge these feelings, rather than ignoring them, then it helps us to retain perspective.  Otherwise there’s a risk that they will spiral, particularly if we are prone to anxiety, negative thoughts or perfectionism.  This can leave us with a sense of shame, when our actions have a negative impact on our self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves.  

  • Resilience.  If you’re struggling with the idea of a ’setback’ then it offers an opportunity to reflect on your personal resilience.  Consider what you can do to build your confidence going into the new year, to learn from what you have achieved so far.  

Keen to explore more?

I love working with people to help them to understand themselves, their habits, and why they feel the way that they do. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch. Click here to contact me or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.

What happens if 'Dry January' doesn't work out

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