It's that time of year again, we might be spouting 'New Year, New Me' but what we're actually planning on is 'new month, temporary new me, then back to the same old crap', because January - the month most people dread - is also the month we decide to give up something we typically love in the name of health.
Whether it's dry January or veganuary, with every one around you is hopping on some sort of health bandwagon, it's hard not to be pulled in. There are certain health benefits, but there are also questions we should ask before embarking on a month of restriction, and we spoke to life coach Ben Bidwell to find out exactly what they are...
1. Are you doing it because you feel like you should, or because you actually want to?
If it’s the former, you could just be embarking on a month of guilt and failure.
‘The more deeply connected we are to our motivation, the more chance we have of being strong in the face of temptation,’ says life coach Ben Bidwell, ‘Get clear on why you’re doing it and make sure that stays fresh in your mind if you're serious about seeing it through.’
2. What else could you spend your booze-fund on?
‘Whether saving money is a major motivation for you or not, you will most probably be saving yourself some good money by not drinking,’ says Ben, ‘Can you make an agreement with yourself before you start that you will put that money to good use, for example donate it to a charity that matters to you - because helping others is a great way to help yourself feel good about you- or use it to treat yourself for a healthy weekend. That can be a great carrot to dangle to aid motivation.’
3. Is there anything else to do in January but drink?
‘Be organised and line up some activities or weekends away so that you aren’t sitting around twiddling your thumbs while your friends head out for a drink,’ says Ben, ‘With boredom the temptation gets stronger, so occupy yourself with activities that take your mind away from alcohol.'
4. Should I try and rope my mates in?
‘Can you bring someone else on board to make you one, accountable and two, give you someone to hang out with at times when you would normally be drinking?’ asks Ben, ‘Staying dry becomes much easier when you’ve got someone to share it with. ‘
5. How will I cope being around all my mates getting pissed?
‘See this as a test for yourself: Can you go out, be sociable and have fun without needing alcohol?,’ says Ben, ‘If you really don’t think it’s possible, perhaps look at why not and stay away from the parties. If you think you can, give it a go and see if you can have a great night that costs very little with the added bonus of still feeling good in the morning!’
6. Is one month long enough?
‘If you’re reasons for doing this are very compelling and inspire you, perhaps consider if you want to extend this to 3 months or beyond’ says Ben, ‘There are all sorts of health benefits to having an extended period without any alcohol.’
7. Can I actually do it?
‘Be honest with yourself, is this a realistic target?’ asks Ben, ‘Get very clear on this rather than giving yourself an excuse half way through the month and then think to yourself that it wasn’t ever realistic in the first place. Set a realistic target before you begin and make sure you stick to that.‘
8. Is my drinking actually that bad?
'I am a huge advocate for balance. Sometimes we overly punish ourselves to such a degree that we are unhappy, all because we want to be "healthier",' says Ben, 'Having a healthy and happy mind is also important, so if you think you have a healthy and balanced approach to drinking alcohol at the moment, do you definitely want to go down the route of changing something that doesn't necessarily need fixing?'
9. Is a month full of hangover-free weekends worth it?
‘Not only will you have a few more spare evenings but you'll also be feeling fresh every morning,’ says Ben, ‘It’s a great opportunity to try something new, do something different, experiment, it may be that you discover a whole new hobby you love. Give it some good thought before the month quickly flies by.’
10. How can I make sure I actually do it?
'If you are worried you might not succeed based on your own will power, can you make yourself accountable to something beyond yourself?' asks Ben, 'Raise money for charity, promise your friends you are going to do it, put down a deposit with someone! If you're not sure you can trust yourself, making yourself accountable to something else that is bigger than you, is a powerful motivational tool.'
So what have you decided? Are you going to go ahead with dry January or is it not that necessary? According to Ben, even if you're drinking in moderation now, committing to anything that will give you a healthier relationship with yourself can be amazing for your own personal development.
'The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship of all,' he said, 'If you say to yourself that you are going to do this and you mean it, then having the courage to see it through is so important in keeping a healthy relationship with yourself.'
If you're interested in working with a life coach, visit the Life Coach Directory.