The beginning of the year marks an opportunity for people to create resolutions to carry them into the months ahead with intention and mindfulness, often centered around becoming a healthier, more ideal version of themselves. For nearly 1 in 5 adults, the year also kicks off with participation in what’s been coined “Dry January,” or the avoidance of consuming alcohol for the month, often as an attempt to reset from the overindulgence of the holiday season.
Compared to 2021, studies show this year there’s been a rise in participation in the month of sobriety — most notably among millennials. So, with the finish line of the month already in 2022’s rearview, it’s worth exploring the larger cultural movement around participating in an alcohol-free lifestyle known as sober curiosity.
As part of a broader trend towards sobriety, the sober curiosity movement is one that’s gained traction with efforts of authors of drinking recovery memoirs and social media influencers at the forefront. Most literature in the sober curiosity space takes the approach toward fostering dialogue around sobriety and abstaining from alcohol as a healthy lifestyle choice. People looking to examine whether or not the status quo of alcohol is working for them but who may not identify with the term “alcoholic” make up many of the voices inside the sober curious movement.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures set the stage for a more thorough evaluation of the role alcohol consumption plays in their lives. According to an American Psychological Association poll of 3,013 adults, 23% reported drinking more to cope with stress during the pandemic.
Anyone who’s experienced a nagging hangover or a restless night of sleep after consuming alcohol can attest to the toll it takes on your body long after you’re enjoying those cocktails at happy hour. In a podcast for the American Psychological Association, addiction researcher and psychologist Katie Witkiewitz, PhD, discussed those effects and more in detail.
“What we know is that alcohol is toxic,” Dr. Witkiewitz told the APA. “It actually requires work from the liver to clear it out. It impacts all systems of the body… the brain as well. Our latest work is showing that any reduction in drinking is associated with mental and physical benefits. Even reducing by one drink a day, or reducing from four drinks to two drinks, you're going to see benefits.”
Dr. Witkiewitz noted that people who gave up alcohol for a more extended period of time reported improvements in their quality of sleep and sleep patterns, as well. According to the CDC, some of the long term health effects of excessive alcohol consumption include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, weakened immune systems, memory problems, and mental health problems. With reports of more overall energy and surface level changes like a more improved complexion, it makes sense that more people are switching to an alcohol free (or reduced) lifestyle to reap the benefits.
Despite the reasoning of why people are gravitating towards alcohol-free lifestyles, at the core of sober curiosity is a movement of people deciding to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol and as a result, take a more mindful approach to their well-being. This focus on mindfulness and staying tuned into undesirable symptoms is an approach you can take to the way you handle your overall health and wellness needs.
Because you’re tuned in to your body’s symptoms and needs in a way nobody else can be, being proactive is the first line of defense of feeling your best. That means whether you’re someone who participated in Dry January, you’re ready to enjoy your next happy hour, or you have interest in pursuing a sober curious lifestyle, the decision to advocate for your own health and wellness needs is one that will always be on trend.