Dry January Isn’t Just a Challenge to Check Off—How the Month Can Transform Your Life

I have a love-hate relationship with the New Year’s wellness frenzy. On the one hand, I love any excuse to lean deeper into the habits and routines that help me feel my best. But on the other, in our all-or-nothing culture, following weeks of parties, drinks, and our favorite indulgent foods, I’m overwhelmed by the shift to restriction. What’s more, I often find that many people make January resolutions with little intention or forethought—instead latching on to whatever’s trending. (75 Hard and 10K daily steps, I see you.) And while I once thought that Dry January was an unnecessarily tortuous, month-long challenge, any break from alcohol can help you become a more aligned and authentic version of yourself.

As I’ve been reflecting on and reconsidering my relationship with alcohol, this year’s Dry January came as an opportunity to explore sober curiosity further. Several weeks in, not only do I physically feel better—those “mysterious” headaches have disappeared—but I see myself transforming into a more confident and carefree woman. One who trusts in her ability to have fun entirely sober. With those results as proof, I’m convinced that Dry January is a month for all of us to practice embodying our highest selves. Doesn’t that sound like a good way to kick off 2024?

Editor’s note: This article is not intended to treat alcohol addiction. If you are struggling with substance abuse, consult with your medical provider or call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for support.

Dry January Tips to Make 2024 Your Healthiest Year Yet

Recent post-Covid years have seen a significant uptick in Dry January participants. Last year, 35% of consumers took part, up from 21% in 2019. Interestingly, 74% of Dry January participants reported succeeding in the challenge, compared to the 8-10% who saw their resolutions through.

But while many aim to take on the month without alcohol, anecdotally, I’ve observed people doing so without support or resources. Oftentimes, what this achieves is little beyond abstaining for the month, only to revert to old habits come February.

And sure, while some take on Dry January intending to maintain abstinence, most want to cultivate a more intentional relationship with alcohol. So how do you make that happen? By taking a more mindful approach.

This is everything you need—from affirmations to supportive mental and physical practices to books to yes, zero-ABV drinking alternatives—to help level up your Dry January. Who knows, it must just change how you approach everything.

Dry January Benefits

I connected with Marcus Sakey, co-founder of Ritual Zero Proof, to discuss why Dry January is a growing trend, particularly among younger consumers. Many approach it as a reset, he notes, “for both mental and physical health.” A hard reset at that. Post-holidays—a celebratory time of year—many swing to the opposite end of the spectrum, cutting out any and all indulgences. But as Sakey observes, Dry January is also an opportunity to explore a lifestyle of moderation.

While the timeline may vary depending on how much and how regularly you’re currently drinking, abstaining from alcohol may lead to the following benefits.

  • Better sleep. Sure, that glass of red wine might help you doze off, but it can disrupt sleep later on, leading to an overall lower-quality snooze. By taking a break from alcohol, you’ll sleep more soundly and wake up feeling better rested.
  • Brighter skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and what’s on the outside indeed reflects what’s within. Case in point: the relationship between alcohol and your complexion. Because alcohol is known to accelerate facial aging and increase the risk of rosacea, Dry January could also support your 2024 skin goals.
  • More energy and mental clarity. Goodbye, brain fog, and hello to a headache-free year. Alcohol is dehydrating and can cause your blood sugar levels to fall, leading to feelings of weakness and fatigue.
  • Improved sex life. While many of our dating lives may involve going out for drinks or we’re quick to cite the 2009 study that named red wine an aphrodisiac, alcohol consumption can impair sexual function in both men and women.
Champagne cheers.

Dry January Tips

Of course, for anyone who’s experienced the majority of their adult life socializing around alcohol, abstaining from it can pose a slew of challenges. It can be hard to know how to connect with others or even go out to dinner when a glass of wine sounds so good. But with a few simple Dry January tips up your sleeve, you can navigate these difficulties with ease. Not only that, but you may discover that you appreciate these moments of connection all the more.

Simple Ways to Get the Most From Your Dry January

  • Identify a support person. When we undergo something new, it’s important to have someone we trust and can lean on in our corner. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be doing Dry January, but it can be helpful for them to understand the specific challenges you’re facing.
  • Connect with like-minded communities. The beautiful thing about Dry January is that it’s an international movement—and you’ll find plenty of local or virtual communities to join. Visit Meetup to see what sober-curious groups are gathering in your area.
  • Explore zero-ABV options. If you still crave your signature drink, opt for a tasty non-alcoholic alternative. Ritual Zero-Proof, Non, Apothékary, and Figlia are all great options. Explore even more of our favorites.
  • Pour into your hobbies. With fewer weekend bar hops and Saturday mornings spent recovering from the previous evening’s festivities, you’ll find that you have more time to explore the activities that bring you joy and energy. At a loss for ideas? Here’s how to find a hobby.
  • Look at Dry January as an exciting challenge. One that’s “full of possibility,” Sakey says. Making significant behavioral changes inevitably opens us up to new ways of living and spending our time. Sakey encourages having fun with spirit alternatives and finding your new go-to mocktail. Be mindful of how you’re benefiting from this choice—mind and body—and be present for the ways in which it’ll positively impact your life moving forward.

How to Be More Spontaneous—and Why It Could Transform Your Life

I won’t lie—I never used to prioritize spontaneity in my life. (Truthfully, I was a little intimidated by the thought.) Instead, determined and organized, I planned every area of my life to a compulsive tee. But with therapy as my north star, I began to peel back the layers of the fears hiding behind my carefully thought-out routines. And while always knowing the next step can help you feel safe and secure, learning how to be more spontaneous can open up new possibilities and opportunities for a joyful, fulfilling life.

Of course, we love a good ritual. They ground us, center us, and help us welcome the world with curious eyes and an open heart. But like much in life, the energy we give to routines and shaking things up is a careful balance—one that creates space for everything we need. It’s true that spontaneity can be a catalyst for inspiration, innovation, and growth in our lives. And today, I’m taking you along the journey toward learning this key lesson of infusing spontaneity into your everyday life. Ahead, discover the tips and ideas to help you feel refreshed and reinvigorated each day

Featured image from our interview with Mary Ralph by Michelle Nash.

Image by Michelle Nash

Why Spontaneity Is Important

While change can be difficult, it’s also an inevitability of life. Even well into adulthood, every day sees us growing, shifting, and adopting new ways of being. Oftentimes, this happens because we—perhaps even unknowingly—put ourselves in the path of inspiration and influence. Think about it: What have been the most transformative experiences for you in the past couple of months? Did you visit an art exhibition that completely changed your aesthetic? Perhaps you said yes to a dinner invite that became a new job and career. Or maybe a new friend asked if you wanted to play pickle ball—and you’re now considering building a backyard court yourself.

Much of what happens to us in life is the result of surprising ourselves and learning to weave a healthy, consistent amount of spontaneity into our everyday. We meet new people, learn new things, and have new experiences because we trust ourselves enough to shake things up every so often.

Spontaneity isn’t something we simply chase after. Rather, it’s something we intentionally invite into our lives.

How to Balance a Spontaneous and Planned Life

Of course, just as we can’t spend every day planned out entirely, we also can’t move from one spontaneous activity to the next. Much of life is a dance between relying on our routines for support and sprinkling in spontaneous acts that keep us guessing and growing. Throughout all of it, it’s important to stay in touch with your feelings. Take stock and ask yourself the following:

  • What could I use more of in my life?
  • What parts of my routine feel most inspiring? What parts feel most draining?
  • How do I deal with change? Do I embrace it or shy away from it?
  • How do my habits support my growth? How do they hinder it?

By reflecting upon and thoughtfully responding to these questions, you can gain a clearer sense of what parts of your life and routines could use a bit of a shake-up. Remember: spontaneity isn’t something we simply chase after. Rather, it’s something we intentionally invite into our lives.

Image by Michelle Nash

How to Be More Spontaneous: 4 Tips That Will Change Your Life

Are you ready to learn how to be more spontaneous and start embracing a life of adventure and routines that support your growth? Ahead, discover five game-changing tips that will inspire you to be more creative with your time and trust the natural ebbs and flows of your life.

Embrace new activities

I was always that anxious kid who was scared to sign up for anything new. What if no one likes me on the baseball team? Will I have anyone to talk to at lacrosse practice? What if I make a fool of myself at play rehearsal? While it’s natural for children to experience these fears, we can’t pretend we don’t have these same anxieties as adults. But I’ve learned over the years, that the more I put myself out there, the more I practice that confidence muscle and prove to myself that everything will always work out. (Oftentimes, even better than I initially hoped.)

Trying new activities and hobbies has a beautiful way of changing our perspective and naturally shaking up our routine. What’s more, when you try something you’re genuinely curious about or interested in, chances are, you’ll connect with people who share your same interests. And if it’s social anxiety that’s keeping you from signing up, it’s true that when people do the same activities together, conversation simply flows. So join that knitting club, take up photography, or attend that lecture series. Trust, the reward will be worth the challenge.

Change up your environment

There’s a reason so many rom-coms involve a mid-movie montage of the protagonist frantically rearranging her entire apartment. It feels good and energizing to switch up our surroundings. What’s more, it’s a simple way to exercise our autonomy in our lives. We have the power to transform our work-from-home routines simply by moving our desk in front of the window. (Way more inspiring, tbh.) And we can improve our sleep by making our bedrooms a relaxing haven. Changing up your environment can inspire new ways of inhabiting your space and new behaviors that can lead to a more productive, happier life.

It’s possible to do this outside of the home as well. As much as I love being a regular at the coffee shop around the corner, try a new one further down the street. Maybe they make a chai you’ll obsess over, or perhaps a new friend is there now, reading your favorite book that you can’t help but gush over. My partner and I love visiting new neighborhoods in our city most weekends—shopping at new stores, trying new restaurants, and walking streets we’ve never been on before. You can do this with your commute, too. Even if it takes a little longer, get off the train at the stop before yours. Walk the rest of the way and notice how different the city looks by foot.

Little by little, the more we infuse change and novelty into our lives, the more we learn about ourselves, our cities, and the rhythms that make us feel our best. While change can invite discomfort, know that it can also lead you toward a richer, more vibrant life.

Image by Michelle Nash

Carve out free time in your day

As much as we swear by time-blocking to help us get sh*t done, it’s important to create space for unplanned pockets in your day. This challenges you to get creative in the moment, allowing you to connect with your intuition and spend your free time in a way that feels most authentic to you. When we leave time unplanned in our schedules, we have more opportunity to explore our instincts and get in touch with what they may signify. Perhaps you’ll discover that you love taking long walks in the evening, or the mid-morning is when you feel most creative and energized. With more freedom in our days, we can get curious and act upon our spur-of-the-moment ideas.

Be intentional with your “yes”

You’ve probably heard the expression: if it’s not a hell yes it’s a hell no. Well, it’s time to put it to practice. While some may say that learning how to be spontaneous means saying yes to everything, I’d disagree. Spontaneity requires a quality of intention, meaning that instead of randomly agreeing to something that entirely out of alignment with your wants and desires, pause to ask yourself if this opportunity will lead you to the sort of growth you desire. It’s okay to take your time with your decisions, and it being purposeful about your choices can even help you learn about yourself all the more.

Image by Michelle Nash

Final Thoughts

Many think that spontaneity is simply a trait that we’re born with—but like much in life, it’s a practice. We can orient ourselves toward more freedom and escape a repetitive cycle by consistently trying new things, shaking up our routines, connecting with different people, and creating more space for novelty in our days. Learning how to be more spontaneous can help you grow in ways you’ve never imagined and begin to get comfortable with the inevitable change that takes place throughout all of our lives. And truly, is there anything better than surprising yourself and experiencing something vastly different from how you imagined it? That’s the beauty of a little spontaneity.

Feeling Overwhelmed? These 3 Tips Will Transform Your Perspective

It was a painful moment. I was sitting on my living room floor, my puppy curled by my leg, when I hit send. I’d been thinking about that email for days, spinning over a choking feeling of overwhelm. I need to re-home my puppy, the email read.  I have too much on my plate

This memory scratches my heart. It wasn’t the request in the email (which landed in the inbox of a handful of friends). People re-home their dogs. It happens. What makes me shiver is how in my frantic quest to beat my feeling of overwhelm, I failed to consider what gave me joy and instead acted on impulse. I was tired and depleted, searching for a quick fix when I needed to take a minute and reassess what I was juggling in my life.

Featured image by Riley Blanks Reed.

Image by Michelle Nash

Before I continue, I’ll tell you that my puppy is curled next to me as I write this. I didn’t let go of her. But that moment was a pivot point. How did I let my life get to a point where I was so maxed, I was willing to consider giving her away?

The wild truth is that I am not alone. Study after study today shows that at least 50 percent of us feel stressed or, even more so, overwhelmed by life on any given day.

How to Beat the Feeling of Overwhelm

In the two years since sending that email, I’ve become razor sharp about how I spend my time. I aim to only allow the essential to fill my plate so there’s room for joy and simply being.

Yes, I admit: Writing this conviction is a whole lot easier than employing it. Still, I’ve gathered an arsenal of strategies over the past few years that have helped. I’ve read, gleaned, studied, obsessed over, and interviewed some of the most compelling thought leaders about time management, beating overwhelm, and prioritizing joy.

Here are the three most life-stretching tips from those thought leaders that helped me beat that feeling of overwhelm.

The daunting list. It rules our lives. A grocery list, a task list, an errands list: They’re all a series of things to check off, conquer, and get through. In honesty, I love lists. But it wasn’t until I came across Oliver Burkeman’s brilliant spin on them that I finally began to see beyond the lines: “Spending your days trying to get through a list of things you feel you have to do is a fundamentally joyless and soul-destroying way to live,” writes the productivity expert. 

Image by Michelle Nash

Whoa. It gets better. Burkeman offers a reframe: “What if we understood our lists as menus?”

This approach helps us see that we have choices in our lives. We get to do things, and when we mindfully and smartly opt for the ones we want (or will benefit us), we are happier. Yes, there are tons of things to choose from on a menu. But that very abundance presents the beauty of it all, believes Burkeman. “Increasingly, I find myself treating my list of work projects as a menu, too,” he writes. “The contents of the menu is constrained by various goals and long-term deadlines, to be sure. But the daily practice is to pick something appetising from the menu instead of grinding through a list.”

I’d used this reframe when I decided not to give up my puppy. I get to keep her I think. I choose to care for her. Burkeman’s approach helps me see how joyful it is to view what comes into our lives as items of potential fulfillment that we have the agency to pick from.

#2: Design Your Ideal Day

When I felt overwhelmed several years ago, I existed in a narrow tunnel each day. I let things happen to me, like too much demanding work, others’ needs, and the day-to-day grind. Doing this put me in a victim place. To switch this, I practice a simple morning technique Hugh Jackman revealed to Tim Ferriss several years ago: design your day. The actor admits he’s always been primed to be overworked and writes out how his day will unfold every morning. He visualizes himself at the end of the day, reflecting on how he felt, what he did, who he connected with, and what he accomplished. “I do that every morning on a text, which I send to [my wife] Deb,” he told Ferriss. “I keep myself accountable to what I was trying to manifest.”

These days, I write down not what I must do but what I’ve had the joy and privilege of accomplishing that day. I may jot down something like, I had an incredible day, wrote five pages of my book, took Andi (my dog) for a long walk, and had a delicious dinner with (my boyfriend) Christian. Every time I ‘design my day,’ as Jackman describes, I think of my future self and how she feels.

Jackman says doing this helped him listen to his intentions. I can attest to this working. We can hope for great days all we want, but if we don’t focus on the actions and specifics of those dreams, they will (likely) not happen. However, if we visualize a beautiful day with conviction, we increase our chances of it all unfolding. 

Image by by Riley Blanks Reed

#3: Be Still with Yourself

My greatest takeaway from Burkeman and Jackman is their spotlight on choice. Each of us has agency in our lives. Knowing this truth has nourished my strength and solace. 

My brilliant friend George Mumford, a psychologist and sports performance expert, has further drilled this home for me. In my conversations with Mumford, many of which have focused on how to beat overwhelm, he’s told me that we can choose how to respond to everything in our lives. The most potent way to do this is to start by taking a moment of stillness before we respond.

Each of us has agency in our lives. Knowing this truth has nourished my strength and solace. 

Digging a little deeper: When we react quickly to a fact or situation, we rob ourselves of any room between the stimulus (what is happening at that moment) and our response. I did this on that fretful day I considered rehoming my dog. I reacted and didn’t take a moment to be still. Mumford says when we pause before responding, however hard it may be, we reclaim our power and integrity. 

There’s such beauty in checking in with ourselves, which Mumford calmly reveals in this video. He says we each have a still voice deep within, a source of tremendous wisdom and insight.

When we tap into that, we close the space for overwhelm and open new portals for joy.