6 Mental Health Benefits of a Month of Sobriety

January 20, 2024

After a holiday season filled with family gatherings and parties where alcohol is flowing freely, many people opt for a period of sobriety in the new year. This growing trend started as a health campaign in the UK called “Dry January” and has since become a popular new year’s resolution around the world. It requires participants to abstain from alcohol use for the entire month to cleanse their minds and bodies of alcohol and assess their relationship with drinking. 

Not consuming alcohol for a while after prolonged use can have numerous health advantages, including an improvement in mental health. The following are some of the mental health benefits of participating in a month of alcohol abstinence. 

Improved Mood and Energy Levels

Alcohol is a depressant substance that can exacerbate anxiety and feelings of sadness in some people. If you drink nearly every day, you may go through a period of irritability in the first few weeks of sobriety. Eventually, your mood and energy levels will stabilize and you’ll likely feel a massive mood improvement overall, with fewer ups and downs. Over time, you will feel refreshed more often and be capable of taking on your daily responsibilities with less fatigue. 

Better Sleep Quality

Even though it may help you fall asleep faster initially, alcohol consumption can disrupt rapid eye movement (REM) sleep patterns. This means that you’re getting less restorative sleep and operating with impaired cognitive function throughout the day. When you stop drinking, you’ll likely experience a deeper, more consistent sleep that will reinvigorate you and ultimately help improve your mental health.  

Healthier Coping Skills

People battling anxiety, depression, or work-related stress may turn to drinking to deal with these difficult feelings. Most of the time, alcohol will only work to amplify depression, anxiety, and anger. A dry month will give you the chance to discover healthier coping mechanisms going forward. Maybe you will begin an exercise regime, practice meditation, or engage in a creative endeavor. Developing positive outlets for your emotions will benefit your mental health in the long run. 

Reduced Anxiety

As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol promotes feelings of calm and relaxation. However, drinking is known to increase anxiety in some people, especially those who tend to drink heavily. Taking a month off of drinking allows your brain chemistry to stabilize, and if you currently experience anxiety, you may start to feel it melt away after a period of sobriety. 

Sober Camaraderie 

There are millions of people worldwide participating in 30-day alcohol-free challenges. The collective experience can provide a sense of community and accountability during your journey. Whether you have a close friend who wants to stop drinking with you, or you join an online support group, sharing your struggles with not drinking can create a sense of camaraderie. You realize you’re not alone in learning to be social without leaning on alcohol use. Becoming more confident and sociable is important for good mental health.  

Positive Self-Image 

Alcohol abstinence not only will help you prove to yourself that you don’t need alcohol to be social but also will likely improve your physical appearance after a while. Alcohol can dry out your skin, cause bloating, and add thousands of calories to your diet every month. In addition to eating better and exercising, a dry month can help you reboot your self-image in the new year or anytime. You will also no longer feel the shame of embarrassing drunk moments where you lost control. 

Strategies for Staying Dry

While the mental and physical health benefits of alcohol abstinence are numerous, the prospect of not drinking can be daunting, especially if you’ve never tried to stop before. There are several strategies recommended by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) that may help you curb your drinking habits for a month, including:

  • Ridding your house of alcohol to limit the temptation to drink
  • Asking for support from a trusted family member, or asking a friend to join in the month of sobriety alongside you
  • Staying away, at least temporarily, from places and occasions that you associate with drinking, such as bars and parties 
  • Practicing saying no to drinking, as you shouldn’t feel obligated to drink every time someone offers
  • Cultivating other interests or hobbies to keep busy during your month of sobriety 

If you experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or feel like you can’t stop drinking on your own, it may be a good idea to explore options for addiction treatment. An alcohol rehab program can provide detox support, various forms of therapy, 12-step recovery programs, and more to help you stop drinking and understand the underlying causes of your substance use. 

Taking a month off of drinking alcohol can provide a significant improvement to your mental health. Thirty days of sobriety can lead to improved mood, less severe anxiety, and better sleep. After a month of abstinence from alcohol, and some reflection on your relationship with booze, you may feel inclined to continue the trend year-round. 

Additional Resources:

SleepFoundation.org — Alcohol and Sleep

Journal of Psychiatry & NeuroscienceThe role of GABAA receptors in mediating the effects of alcohol in the central nervous system

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Author Bio

Kent Reason is an editor and content specialist with Ark Behavioral Health, a substance use treatment provider with locations in Massachusetts and Ohio. Ark offers an array of services for addiction and mental health, including multiple levels of care and evidence-based treatment options. 

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