by Ellen Scott
Mornings are tough.
As the alarm claws its way through your slumber and all the tasks of the day run through your mind, it’s oh so tempting to just turn back over and retreat back to sleep.
But no, you’re a grownup with stupid responsibilities. You have to get up and face the day – starting with the morning.
We’d all love to be the type of people who jump up and out of bed filled with motivation and joy.
But if that’s a distant dream, here’s a more realistic goal: let’s do what we can to make mornings a bit less sh*t.
To help us in this mission, we asked a bunch of experts to share their top tips for making our mornings better. Here’s what they said.
Prep practical bits the night before
Avoid the mad rush of the mornings by preparing as much as you can the night before.
‘Pack your bag, decide what you are wearing and prepare your lunch,’ recommends consultant health psychologist Dr Sue Peacock.
And plan out your day the night before, too
Write out tomorrow’s schedule in the evening.
‘Doing so will not only save you energy and time the following morning when you already know what your priorities are, but also help you sleep better now that your thoughts have been transferred to paper,’ says Simon Alexander Ong, coach and author of Energize: Make the Most of Every Moment.
‘As a result you are able to protect your energy for what is most important and your most important tasks.’
Start your day with a stretch
‘Stretching first thing in the morning is not only an effective way to open up the body and wake it up after a long sleep, but it also activates your parasympathetic nervous system, increases blood flow to your muscles and release those feel-good endorphins which help to reduce pain and boost mood,’ says Carlos Cobiella, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon.
Keep a bottle of water by your bed
This’ll make it easier to kick off your ‘drink more water’ goal the moment you wake up.
Shaileen Shah is a happiness coach, and lists this as one of his highly effective morning habits.
‘Drink water first thing – we can dehydrate during the night and this activates the stomach,’ he notes.
Ditch the snooze button
Start each morning by setting your intention for the day
Life coach Kerry McLaughlin recommends: ‘Set your intention for the day.
‘I’m not talking about setting goals, but more of an ethos.
‘If, for example, the intention were to be efficient with your time, make decisions from the start to the finish of your day that align with this intention.’
Counselling Directory member Andrew Harvey says: ‘One way of having a better morning is to have a better night before.
‘It’s worth reflecting on how your evening routine is impacting your wellbeing in the morning.
‘For example, are you using alcohol to “wind down” in the evening? This may be having a negative impact the next morning.’
Wake up at the same time each day
‘This keeps your body and mind in a routine,’ notes Dr Sue.
Stick to a routine
Find a routine that works for you and stick to it. What that looks like is up to you – having any routine can help to boost mental health, as long as it’s manageable.
‘Morning routines are proven to increase productivity if they are created around things that are sustainable and maintainable in the long term,’ Avesta Panahi, psychological counsellor for Private Therapy Clinic, tells us.
‘Create a routine that does not feel to pressurising and does not set you up for failure. It may not be easy to maintain a 5am morning start when you have always been used to 9am.’
Have a tasty breakfast to look forward to
Luring yourself out of bed with the promise of something delicious? A stroke of genius, in our books.
‘My mum has always believed in a good breakfast in the morning and I share the same sentiment (plus I can’t think straight when I am hungry),’ says Dr Tina Mistry. ‘Eating a nutritionally balanced breakfast is crucial.
‘I love porridge or overnight oats, some fruit and a scoop of protein.’
Let the light in
The moment you wake up, open up your curtains and let the sunlight flood in.
‘This helps your circadian rhythm,’ Shaileen says.
Do some affirmations
‘Starting the day with positive affirmations will help you alter your brain space for the rest of the day,’ Joanna Konstantopoulou, health psychologist, tells us.
‘Affirmations are simply positive “I am” statements, such as “I am strong”, or “I am loved”.
‘Doing this helps you focus on the positives in your life, and if you get into the habit of doing so in the morning, it will set your day up perfectly.’
Plan to do one thing you enjoy every morning
‘Sometimes, people with mental health issues find that their moods are worse in the morning,’ notes consultant psychiatrist Dr Mohamed Abdelghani. ‘This is commonly seen in those suffering with depression, when it is called diurnal mood variation.
‘For many of us however, if our morning gets off to a bad start, we find that problems or irritation mount up throughout the day.
To avoid this happening, incorporate something you enjoy every morning to start the day in the best way possible.’
What that is is up to you – reading a chapter of a book, making yourself a fancy latte, stroking your cat – but having something to look forward to the moment you open your eyes can be life-changing.
Make your bedroom like a hotel
‘Check into a hotel room every night,’ says Simon Alexander Ong… but he doesn’t mean that literally.
‘The environment of a hotel room is optimised for the purpose of quality sleep and it’s something we can also do to make our bedroom a more inviting place to be in the evening.
‘Given that we spend around a third of our lives sleeping, it makes sense to invest in a better sleep environment.
‘Our happiest and most productive days always begin with getting good quality sleep, as it is this that sets the stage for better decisions, for waking up with greater energy and increased levels of emotional intelligence.
‘When you sleep better, you live better.’
Let go of what doesn’t work for you
You don’t need to get up at 5am to have a good morning. You also don’t need to start the day with a green juice, or immediately meditate, or force yourself to do all the things on this list.
‘The biggest thing you can do you for yourself when it comes to setting yourself up for a great day is understand what works for you and what doesn’t,’ says life coach Penny Haslam.
‘In the past I’ve given myself a hard time for not being a morning person – the fact is I am not particularly dazzling pre-10am.
‘I tried to emulate the 5am yoga sessions, emails read and actioned by 7am, relevant personal development chapter read by 7.30am, all in time to do the school run. It did not work out well for me.
‘After a month of that, going against what suits me best, I was utterly exhausted, with low mood and anxiety. I’m much better suited for high energy at 11am and again at 4pm.
‘It’s extremely hard not to fall into societal thinking that you’re lazy if you don’t spring out of bed and get going at first light.
‘Try out a few different ways to start the day and be conscious of what feels good for you and what sets you up for success – don’t follow the crowd on this.’
Juggling studies and work is a real struggle, as many students know. It is difficult to maintain a study-life balance, but it’s not impossible. Learn the fundamental principles of healthy productivity to avoid burnout, stress, and anxiety! You’ll see how your productivity depends on how you spend your free time. This article offers our top productivity tips to help you become the best version of yourself. You’ll find out how rest rejuvenates your motivation.
Check out the additional materials we’ve gathered – read more
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Try these small changes to improve your health in 2022
Set yourself overly-ambitious or vague New Year’s Resolutions and you’re likely to fail. This year, aim for progress not perfection as the best healthy changes are those that you can keep for life. Don’t forget to be safe in any new health routine, and always follow any advice from your GP.
Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for 2022
These simple suggestions will have a positive impact on your health…
1. Walk more
Brisk walking, even for just 10 minutes a day, can improve your circulation, boost your mood and improve your sleep. If you want to start walking more in 2022, try doing it in 10 minute chunks to make it less daunting.
Remember, you can tell if you’re walking briskly enough if you’re able to talk, but you’re breathing faster than usual.
If you’re worried about spending too much time on your phone, here are some things you could do instead.
2. Experience nature
Mental health charity Mind found that proximity to nature can have positive wellbeing benefits, including helping you feel more relaxed and less angry.
If your able visiting green spaces more often can be really beneficial. One study found, for example, that just hearing birdsong can boost mental well-being for four hours or more.
You can bring nature into your everyday life by having flowers in the house, looking after house plants, growing your own food or exercising outdoors.
3. Spend less time sitting down
Sitting is the new smoking – the body wasn’t built for spending hours at a desk or in front of the TV. It increases your risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and breast, colon and colorectal cancer. Why not try the Pomodoro method to break up desk time.
Set a timer to break each hour into two 25-minute blocks separated by two five-minute breaks. Work intently during the work periods and move about during the breaks. Use your breaks to stand up, do a quarter squat, do some rotations, or just go for a walk round the office. This technique can also boost your focus when you’re working.
4. Get good sleep
Being sleep deprived can negatively affect your mental and physical health. It can even make you prone to major illnesses, from obesity to depression. Reducing screen time before bed, sleeping in a cool room, and going to bed at the same time each evening all help with a good night’s rest. Apps such as Sleep Cycle can help you pinpoint any issues and help you to improve your sleep. For more tips, see our article on how to improve your sleep.
Many of us want to become more flexible and introducing stretches into your daily routine can help you achieve that. Dynamic stretching can help improve flexibility and range of movement, and decrease the risk of injury.
Make a habit of stretching when you wake up, or while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Discover more ways to boost your flexibility, including stretches to try.
6. Make food more fun
Challenge your self to cook and eat something one new recipe every week. As well as vitamins and minerals, there are hundreds of micronutrients known as phytochemicals in food. Eating a wide variety of food is an easy way of ensuring we get a good nutritional mix. If you’re looking to shake things up, why not try one of our delicious, healthy recipes, with ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
7. Plan meals
A focused food shopping list cuts calories and waste, and saves money, as you only buy what you need (and throw nothing away). Take the time to plan your meals, and write out a list before you go to the shops.
8. Reach out to others
We’re all busy, but in 2022 take time out for your relationships. The Mental Health Foundation says that having good quality relationships can help us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems.
Try to schedule calls (or in-person meetings) with your friends on a regular basis rather than leaving it up to chance. You can increase your sense of belonging by joining clubs or volunteering in your area. If you can’t get out and about, there are plenty of online communities you can join – from book clubs to parent/grandparent groups. For your romantic relationships, reflect on whether you’re in a healthy relationship.
9. Drink plenty of water
Drinking enough water is crucial to good health. The NHS recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day (or 1.5 to 2 litres in total). This includes lower fat milks, and low sugar or sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee within this intake.
You can meet this target by buying a reusable water bottle and keeping it with you throughout the day. If you know your bottle holds 500ml, you know you have to refill it 3 to 4 times to drink the recommended amount. Don’t forget that you need more water if you exercise, or on hot days.
A step-by-by step guide to surviving the January blues.
“Blue Monday” refers to the weird third Monday in January—described as the most depressing day of the year—when people appear the lowest in mood. Apparently, this is due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights, and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills. Alas, this year’s date is Monday 17 January 2022.
Is it real?
There is no real evidence to support this theory. The concept was first publicized as part of a 2005 press release from a holiday company that claimed to have calculated the date using an equation. However, the idea is considered pseudoscience, with its formula derided by scientists as nonsensical.
Now, having said that…
Are my clients generally underwhelmed after the Christmas and New Year holidays? Maybe.
Are they broke and just about hanging on for the next paycheck? Certainly.
Have they defaulted on that rather unrealistic New Year’s resolution? Perhaps.
Do they get stressed and overwhelmed by the return to a job they promised themselves that they’d resign from? Sure.
Whilst it might be tempting to indulge in a national collective “woe-is-me” day, it’s probably more helpful to focus on how to make your life better this year.
There might not be much evidence to support “Blue Monday,” but we could probably agree that some people might feel particularly low in mood this week, so let’s be compassionate and offer support to them as we would any other day of the week.
So, if you happen to experience the blues on Monday the 18th of January (or frankly, any other day of the week, for that matter), I invite you to try any or all of my top things to do when I need to beat the blue out of any bluey day! My clients love these, too.
Try any or all of my top things to do when I need to beat the blue out of any bluey day.
5 Simple Ways To Beat Your Monday Blues
- Go to bed early on Sunday night. Your body will thank you for it. It’s important to prepare for sleep using a helpful bed-time routine such as having a warm bath and limiting blue lights which often radiate from mobile phones and tablets. If you really have trouble sleeping, I’d recommend you see your physician for some advice. However, to learn more helpful tips about sleep, my favourite specialist is Dr. Michael J. Breus—aka The Sleep Doctor.
- Plan your Monday schedule, as it’ll help you to feel more in control. Remember to incorporate time in your day for a proper lunch. If you find yourself feeling stressed, take a quick 5-minute break to practice being mindful. Focus on your breathing and allow thoughts to float in and out.
- Meet a friend online and have a good laugh! Or organize a zoom meeting with a number of friends—better yet, friends you haven’t caught up with for a while, and have a really good laugh about all the silly stuff that happened in the past.
- Burn some energy. Go out for a run, cycle ride, or walk until you feel just a little bit better. The endorphins our body produces are our natural anti-depressants and will help boost your moods.
- Don’t pressure yourself. If you don’t fancy doing any of these, then don’t do it! Do something instead that you’d actually enjoy. There’s always Tuesday. It might be a much better day anyway!
How Essential Oils Can Support the Body in Stress
Understanding what actually triggers a stress response gave me the tools to help reduce it.
For example, nipping the thoughts that stir a stress response in the bud can help avoid it altogether. Essential oils are uniquely suited to help us address, transform and clear negative emotions and thought patterns.
Our sense of smell, which is part of our olfactory system, is one of the most powerful channels into the body. In fact, our sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 times more acute than our other senses. Research has shown that scents can travel faster to the brain than other senses like sight or sound. Perhaps for that reason, inhalation can be the most direct and effective method for using essential oils. The entire process from the initial inhalation of an essential oil to a corresponding response in the body can happen in a matter of seconds.
When we inhale essential oils through the nose, the odor molecules trigger receptor sites in our mucous membrane, which then sends the odor information on to the olfactory bulb at the base of the brain. I find it interesting that it is not actually the essential oil itself that is sent to the brain, but a neural translation of the oils. These fragrance messages are interpreted and transmitted to the limbic system of the brain, known as the “emotional brain” because it deals with emotional and psychological responses.
As you may know, the limbic system serves as the control center in the brain for emotions and feelings, along with hunger, thirst and sex drive. This helps explain how scent can influence appetite and sexual attraction. It also impacts long-term memory through our hippocampus which stores our memories. The hippocampus is the area of the brain at play during those powerful experiences of smell triggering emotions or memories. For me, the mere smell of mothballs transports me back in time to my grandparent’s apartment in Brooklyn, triggering a multi-sensory memory including both the visuals and the emotions that I experienced during our annual visits.
This powerful emotional reaction in the limbic system is triggered by nerve impulses which in turn trigger other areas of the brain that are responsible for secreting hormones, neurotransmitters and regulating body functions. For example, the pituitary gland releases endorphins, which can help alleviate pain and promote a sense of well-being.
The theory of how this works centers on the idea that essential oils can stimulate or sedate the brain to promote or inhibit the production and release of various neurotransmitters which then impact the nervous system.
Because smells can bypass the thought center of the thalamus and connect directly to the emotional center of the brain, known as the amygdala in the limbic system, they can trigger us to react first and think later. All other physical senses are routed through the thalamus, which acts as the switchboard for the brain, passing stimuli onto the cerebral cortex (the conscious thought center) and other parts of the brain.
The amygdala plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma. The easiest way to stimulate this gland is through the sense of smell. In other words – the emotional brain responds better to smell than it does to words that are read, spoken or heard. Our sense of smell links directly to emotional states and behaviors often stored since childhood.
This makes essential oils especially powerful tools for enabling us to access stored or forgotten memories and suppressed emotions, like anxiety, depression, fear, worry, grief, trauma, anger and self-abuse. Once accessed, we can acknowledge and release them. The word “emotion” includes the word motion, implying that are supposed to move through us and be released. Negative emotions can that we hold onto can contribute to health problems.
As you may recall, emotions and thought patterns can trigger an ongoing stress response in the body (since our stress response cannot differentiate between physical or emotional and thought driven stressors) which impedes our ability to heal. Smelling essential oils can be a powerful tool for moving through and releasing these thought patterns. To learn more about different essential oil blends to help release emotions, click here.
Essential Oils as Tools to Relieve Stress
Armed with this knowledge that I could use essential oils to help balance my stress, and not need to abandon my job or my children, I incorporated several emotional blends (my personal favorites are Liver Support™ for my anger and Small Intestine Support™ for my boundaries), along with:
Parasympathetic™: The first line of defense against stress is known as the “fight or flight” response triggered by the sympathetic nervous system. We are designed to switch into this sympathetic state, flee from danger, then drop back into the balanced parasympathetic “rest and digest” state where we can rest, repair and heal. To help stimulate the Parasympathetic response, apply Vibrant Blue Oils Parasympathetic™ blend to the vagal nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone). For more aggressive vagal stimulation, you can also apply at the base of the skull (where you feel a small indent). Apply before meals to optimize digestion and up to 6 times daily to help reset the body into the Parasympathetic state.
Adrenal™: The adrenal glands help determine and regulate the body’s stress response by secreting hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Prolonged periods of stress can deplete our reserves of these hormones and exhaust the adrenal glands. Applying Vibrant Blue Oils Adrenal™ blend over the adrenal glands (back of the body, one fist up from the 12th rib), may help to increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress and maintain healthy adrenal function.
Hypothalamus™: The limbic lobe can also directly activate the hypothalamus – a pearl size region of the brain often referred to as the “master gland” which acts as the hormonal control center for neural and hormonal messages received from/sent to body and plays a key role in the body’s stress response. The hypothalamus releases hormones that can affect everything from sex drive to energy levels. The production of growth hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, are all governed by the hypothalamus. It is constantly reading blood the levels of hormones, and adjusting resulting signals sent to the body to maintain internal balance (homeostasis). Chronic and prolonged stress can damage the hypothalamus’s ability to receive clear messages from the body which then impacts all outgoing endocrine and neural signals. Applying Vibrant Blue Oils Hypothalamus™ blend over the third eye may help reset the natural ability of the hypothalamus to send and receive clear messages to and from the body.
What are your tips for beating the Blue Monday blues? Please share in the comments below
1. It will aid you in becoming the person you want to be.
Do you like to be the type of person who can join up for a triathlon and look forward to finishing it…
…and also be happy when you reach the finish line?
Then it is critical that you make a New Year’s resolution to help you to become this person.
Making a resolution for yourself is a great way to help you represent what’s crucial to you, clear your mind, and concentrate on who you want to be.
Here’s why this is important:
2. It can offer stability.
We don’t even know what our proposals are for the next vacation, let alone in five years.
However, having a general concept of where you’d like to go in life could indeed help you make better decisions.
Make a small New Year’s resolution for 2022, and then use it to help direct you along on the right path when you’re having difficulties making a choice.
3. It will push you forward.
How many times have you said to yourself, “I’m not going to drink Monday through Friday!” only to find myself sharing a bottle of Red wine with Gabby from Finance on a Saturday evening?
We’re with you all the way. Consider this:
if you set the goal of not drinking on the week for a month – or even two months! – at the same time that everyone else is setting theirs, you’ll have the encouragement and support of everyone else around you to help drive you to accomplish yours!
Self-care may be important, but it isn’t necessarily free. How much should you budget for personal care? What are the best ways to save money on self-care expenses? We created a resource guide that breaks down five expert-recommended self-care practices for 2022 and how to finance the costs of self-care.
You can view our guide here:
A survey found that two out of five (40%) plan to make resolutions for 2022. Being healthier and happier is on the agenda for many, with other goals including getting fitter, changing diets, and taking up a new sport.
Elsewhere, their findings discovered that households want to spend less money on grocery shopping, have fewer takeaways, and also save on phone and broadband costs. Setting resolutions can help you get off to a good start in 2022, however it’s important to think of measurable goals that you can actually track and achieve.
Here are the 10 most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2022
- Exercise more
- Eat healthier
- Lose weight
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Get organized
- Learn a new skill or hobby
- Live life to the fullest
- Cut back on spending
- Look for a new job
- Travel more
Tips on Preparing For the New Year
Have you made New Year’s resolutions for 2022?
Plus, six smart ways to make skipping alcohol for 31 days feel like a breeze.
BY JESSICA MIGALA Jan 2, 2022
When everyone has drunk all the spiked eggnog they can stand, and when everyone has sipped the last of the year’s bubbly, you might hear more and more people saying they need a break from alcohol. Enter Dry January, where people avoid booze for the whole month.
“Dry January appeals to someone who may have noticed a pattern that they’re drinking a little bit more than they should, especially during the holidays,” says Michael Levy, Ph.D., a psychologist based in Florida and the author of Take Control of Your Drinking and You May Not Need to Quit.
If you’re someone who likes to relax after work with a glass of wine, know that you’re not alone. It’s a very common habit. “Alcohol hits the neurochemical pathways in our brain and releases endorphins that make us feel good,” Levy explains. A beer or a cocktail can temporarily provide a sense of ease and comfort, so it’s no wonder so many of us gravitate to the drink to unwind.
For women, a moderate consumption of alcohol is about one glass a day — no more than seven per week. Excessive drinking can lead to a slew of health issues, so holding back on alcohol for 31 days could launch you into 2020 with the right footing. You might find that you don’t need alcohol as much as you thought and you may reap some significant health benefits.
“You may feel so good that you decide, what was I drinking for to begin with?” says Amy Knoblock-Hahn, Ph.D., RD, a registered dietitian and health behavior expert at Whole Food Is Medicine in St. Louis.
Here are some ways practicing Dry January benefits your health:
You may be in a better mood.
It’s easy to think that a glass of wine really does perk you up and wash all the day’s worries away. And at first, it might. Over time though, if consuming alcohol has become a main coping strategy, it may be hiding underlying depression or anxiety, says Ashley Jones, APRN-CNP, a certified family nurse practitioner at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Alcohol tends to make these symptoms worse, so you may find that your mood is actually more stable when not consuming alcohol,” she says. GET STARTED:55+ Achievable New Year’s Resolutions
While Dry January won’t remedy an illness like depression, stepping back from your nightly vino can provide the distance you need to assesses your motivation for drinking. When not self-medicating, you’ll be in a better position to recognize that you’re going through something that perhaps you need help with via a talk with your doctor, therapy, or other known natural mood lifters like exercise or spending time in nature. At the very least, Dry January can provide valuable insight as to why you’ve been regularly drinking.
You’ll sleep more soundly.
After a night of drinking, it’s usually pretty easy to fall asleep. But have you ever then woken up at 3 a.m. wide awake? That’s alcohol doing what it does best: ensuring your sleep is less than great. As the National Sleep Foundation explains, levels of the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine rise to help you nod off, but it then crashes, waking you up. Even if your body doesn’t try to rouse you for a middle-of-the-night party, it’s likely you’ll rise groggy anyway. Alcohol degrades sleep quality; drinking moderate or high amounts of alcohol decreases “restorative” REM sleep, according to a review in the journal Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research. Giving up drinking for a month may help you get sounder sleep, and better rest means more energy to devote to the things that matter in the start of the year. (Like that resolution to be more active.)
Your waistline may shrink.
Depending on how much you were drinking before (as well as your starting weight), it’s possible you could lose a couple pounds per week, says Knoblock-Hahn. Not only do boozy beverages add calories, the type they add are liquid calories, which research shows don’t fill you up the way food calories do. “Many times, when people stop or cut back on drinking, they don’t replace those calories. You may find that just this one change helps you lose weight,” she says. You may also be consuming more junk food when under the influence, as booze has been known to knock down your willpower when you get a case of the munchies.
You’re saving money.
If you’ve been shelling out $10-$15 on the regular for fancy cocktails or pours of wine, you know that it adds up fast. Without the booze tab, buying dinner away from your kitchen sure becomes more affordable. And, while it’s natural to feel like you’ll be a fish out of water in social situations, chances are, you’ll be able to handle it better than you think. Your friends won’t pay too much mind if you’re sipping a bubbly with lime, and the server will be happy as long as you over tip them when it’s time to settle up.
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Your skin might look brighter.
Alcohol is a known diuretic, which means it will cause you to pee more than if you just drank water. As a result, it’s harder for the body to hydrate itself. Lack of hydration can lead to dry, lusterless skin. Alcohol has the potential to increase hormones like estrogen and cortisol, as well as spike your blood sugar (depending on how sweet you like your drinks). This is a recipe for breakouts. Research has shown that the toxins in alcohol can speed up your skin’s aging process.
You’ll have a stronger immune system.
Binge drinking (more than four drinks in a single occasion for women) may suppress your body’s immune response. A 2015 study found that when healthy folks (who normally consume low or moderate levels of alcohol) had an episode of binge drinking, their immunity initially rose. However, two to five hours later, levels of disease-fighting immune cells (like NK and white blood cells) decreased. Researchers can’t say how this may play out— as in, if it means you’re more likely to be saddled with a cold or flu virus — but it’s certainly not a good thing if your immune system is taking a break.
You’ll have a new relationship with alcohol.
The benefit to breaking is showing yourself that you don’t have to drink every day or even drink at all. “You may learn that you don’t need it in your life,” says Levy. If you do choose to drink again come February, the month off will also lower your tolerance, so you’ll be able to get a buzz on less. For Grace Atwood, founder of TheStripe.com and co-host of Bad on Paper Podcast, Dry January changed her view of alcohol for the better. She did one in 2018 and a year later the momentum is going strong. “I no longer reach for that mindless glass of wine, and alcohol is more of a treat than a daily indulgence,” she says.
Here’s how to have a successful Dry January:
Break up your routine.
If you’re used to going home and pouring a glass of red, you may feel a bit lost at the beginning of January when you go dry. “Drinking gets set off by the triggers in the environment,” says Levy. You don’t need to be gone all night. The idea is to get home at least after the “bewitching hour,” says Levy, which for many people is 7 p.m. Once you break the automatic habit of drinking, it’ll be easier to skip the glass.
Shake up your routine and it will be easier. After work, run errands, go to the French class you’ve always wanted to take, or see a movie. Make non-drinking plans with friends; like bowling or outdoor frisbee at a park. You’ll find that your evenings seem longer, and you’ll feel sharper before you head to bed.
Recruit a friend to hold you accountable.
It’s how now-pro Hilary Sheinbaum accomplished Dry January initially. She’s tacked that advice at the top of her new guide to going sober, The Dry Challenge, set for a end of 2020 release. “This person (or group) will be there to keep you company as you look to partake in non-drinking activities, as you face similar feelings and potential obstacles, and if you need someone vent to,” Sheinbaum tells Good Housekeeping. “On that note: they keep you accountable, too —you can even make a bet, like I did.”
Start a new workout regimen.
Since drinking alcohol too often can leave you feeling tired and dehydrated, Dry January might be the best time to develop a new gym habit. Without the booze, you could feel a new surge of energy. And when you’re working out several times a week, you might not want to reach for the bottle as often. You’ll want to feel fresh and ready to go for the next time you hit the weights.
Start journaling before you begin.
If you’re facing a particularly low moment, you can remind yourself easily of how it was a few days before — or during week one if you’re more than halfway through the month. As an added benefit, Sheinbaum says this journal can also clearly illustrate how ditching alcohol has made life better for you afterwards. “Document everything from how your skin looks, to your mood and energy, to the hours of sleep you’re getting, and more,” she advises.
Find a substitute.
If drinking is a habit, you’ve got to find a replacement sip. Water is always the best choice, says Knoblock-Hahn. Trouble is, a tall ice water might not do it for you. Infusing water with sliced citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange) or cucumber and mint can make it more interesting and feel “special.” Pour a can of naturally flavored sparkling water like LaCroix or Spindrift into a wine glass. Or try kombucha, which also has that “bite” that alcohol does. Ready-to-drink mocktails from companies like Be Mixed can also get you through the month without making you feel like you’re giving up a ton.
Refreshing No-Alcohol Beverages
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Hemp and adaptogen infused sparkling mocktail
Rethink happy hour.
This all depends on you. For some, being around alcohol is going to present too many temptations, for others, they’ll be fine. “If it’s particularly challenging, you may be better off taking a break from activities like happy hour or boozy dinners with friends for the month,” says Levy.
Cultivate a new way to cope.
If the glass of vino is one way you use to de-stress after the day, you need an alternate way to simmer down. When times get frazzled and you’re looking to have a drink or stress eat, Knoblock-Hahn recommends the “distract and delay” tactic. Leave the kitchen and go to another room to read a book or magazine. Do a few light stretches or breathing exercises. “Often when you delay you find, you know what, I don’t need to have it,” she says.
Think of keeping the Dry January momentum going:
Above all, set rules for yourself. “Determining guidelines will prevent you from falling back into your old routine,” says Levy. Make them specific. Rather than “I’m going to drink less now,” say that you’re going to drink only on Friday and Saturday nights but not at all during the week. And think about a limit, too, like having one glass of wine. (You’re an adult; you get to determine the rules that work for you.) LEARN MORE:How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick
And if you slip up more than once, don’t be too hard on yourself. First, it may mean nothing at all! Maybe you decided to stop early and made a conscious decision to do so. But, if the urge to drink feels out of control and you know it’s a source of struggle for you, it’s something to step back and think about. Same if you feel guilty about your drinking or if it causes problems for you at work or in your relationships — if you’re continuing to drink despite those things, alcohol may have become a problem, says Levy. And that’s something Dry January just can’t fix.