Unsurprisingly, many American adults reported drinking more during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research, published in Hepatology, which was led by investigators at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
To reflect on alcohol consumption, an increasing number of Americans took part in Dry January, a public health initiative that was started nearly a decade ago from Alcohol Change UK, a British charity.
"Many people notice positive changes from cutting back or abstaining from alcohol," says Dawn Sugarman, a research psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Those can include "improved sleep, increased energy, and feeling like they can think more clearly."
Here's how much money you may have saved if you participated in Dry January, and tips for reducing your alcohol intake if you found the month of abstinence beneficial.
Millennials spend an average of $56 each night they go out drinking, according to a 2020 study conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade. That means that, for the entire month, the typical millennial who participated in Dry January saved more than $300.
Gen Xers were expected to save just a little over $150 and baby boomers were forecasted to save about $97, according to the survey.
If you want to calculate your own spending on alcohol, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has a calculator for that.
If you were dry, or mostly dry, this past January, you may have noticed an improvement in your work. "Many people report feeling more productive when they reduce or abstain from alcohol," says Sugarman.
Just think about the hours you'll gain by not being hungover, Sugarman says. "People who are drinking heavily often spent a lot of time recovering from the effects of alcohol. In particular, not experiencing hangovers and getting a better night sleep can help people feel more productive."
By cutting out alcohol and saving money, you may have a better shot of reaching your financial goals. Just ask Joy Manning, a Philadelphia-based food writer and author of "Stuff Every Cook Should Know,″ who saved more than $10,600 by cutting out alcohol from 2016 to 2019.
"It's no coincidence I paid off my student loans this year," Manning told Grow in 2019.
Video by Courtney Stith
After testing it out for the month, if you've decided you want to stop or cut back on your alcohol consumption, Sugarman recommends taking these five steps:
- Make a change plan that includes your important reasons for stopping or cutting back on alcohol
- Make specific goals. If you want to cut back, define what that means. For example, how many drinks per day or week will you limit yourself to?
- Find alternatives to drinking. If you tend to drink when you are stressed, what will you do instead to relieve stress?
- Come up with a plan for dealing with challenging situations where you might be around others who are drinking a lot. Practice refusal skills to use when people ask if you want a drink
- Ask for support from friends or family members
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has a great resource called Rethinking Drinking to help people who want to make a change to their alcohol use, Sugarman says.
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