With New Year’s resolutions in full swing, many of you may be considering an alcohol free January. In this article we’ll be exploring the pros and cons of cutting out alcohol, and some alternatives for you to try too.
Why try Dry January?
For many of us we’ve perhaps over indulged over Christmas and we’re looking towards that new year detox, with alcohol being top of the hit list. It’s well researched that too much alcohol can affect your mental health as well as your physical health, worsening symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It can also affect your sleep quality, leaving your feeling less refreshed even after 8 hours in bed.
The All or Nothing Approach
At My Self-Care Edit we believe that everything is about balance. If people can use Dry January as a way of feeling more confident about managing their drinking generally, then that could translate to lower alcohol consumption overall across the whole year (which can have great health benefits). However, completely cutting out alcohol could also have unintended consequences – people might feel that they’ve ‘detoxed’ after a month of no drinking, and drink more than they otherwise would have done in subsequent months. If you know that you’re likely to fall into this ‘all or nothing’ type of approach, then perhaps consider reducing your alcohol intake as a long term switch, as opposed to cutting it out completely for the month of January.
Are there benefits to drinking alcohol?
There are some links between alcohol and our social wellbeing; having an alcoholic drink in many cultures is often linked with social occasions, so it’s understandable that sometimes people taking part in Dry January will skip that trip to the pub or the meal out with friends (but it doesn’t have to be that way!).
Certain alcoholic drinks may have different benefits when compared to other options too - for example, wine contains antioxidants called polyphenols. Also found in fruit and vegetables, polyphenols reduce inflammation in the body, which is a factor for disease. There are ten times as many in red wine than white, so if you’re choosing between the two then perhaps opt for a glass of red.
Alberto Bertelli, a researcher at the University of Milan's department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, has found that small amounts of wine can protect us against heart disease, partly due to the drink’s anti-inflammatory properties. He recommends no more than 160ml of wine a day (the size of a champagne flute), but only with a meal, Mediterranean style.
Simple Switches: Swap Your Cocktail for a Mocktail
Just because you’re reducing your alcohol intake doesn’t mean you need to avoid socialising - try switching your cocktail for a mocktail at social gatherings. Here are some of our favourites:
Virgin Mojito: Muddle 1 teaspoon of sugar with a small handful of mint leaves using a pestle and mortar (or use a small bowl and the end of a rolling pin). Put a handful of crushed ice into 2 tall glasses, then squeeze half a lime into each glass and stir in the mint mix. Add a straw and top up with soda water - enjoy!
Alcohol free passionfruit martini: Scoop the flesh from 2 passion fruits into a cocktail shaker. Add the juice of 1 lemon, as well as 1 egg white, and 2 teaspoons of sugar syrup and shake vigorously until frothy. Add a handful of ice, then shake again until the outside of the shaker feels cold. Double strain into two martini glasses. Delicious!
Apple, elderflower and mint sparkler: For a grown-up non-alcoholic drink, mix elderflower cordial with cloudy apple juice. Add a small handful mint leaves, stir well, then pour into a chilled flask. Pour half glasses of the juice and top up with sparkling water for a little fizz.
These switches don’t have to stop after January - whilst the occasional glass of wine might help to protect us against heart disease, excessive drinking will undoubtedly negatively impact your overall health and wellbeing. So embrace a balance throughout the year, and let us know how you get on!