10 tools for a successful Dry January

Lauren Booker | January 2018 | 9 minutes

You've signed up, you've downloaded the app, you've hidden all the leftover Christmas booze so you're all set for a great Dry January! But is there anything else you can do to make staying dry in January even easier? Well, yes, actually. Lots of research has been done into what keeps people motivated when they're taking part in a challenge, and we've distilled it (no pun intended) into a list of helpful ways to make this Dry January a breeze.

1) Why are you doing this?

Make a list of all the things you hope to gain. All of them. Then rank them in order of importance - give them a score out of 10. Take a look at your list and focus on how you'll achieve all these wonderful things. Yes, you'll probably lose a bit of weight and save a bit of cash but what has really inspired you to take this journey? How will you feel when you succeed? Put it all down on paper and stick it somewhere visible as a reminder throughout the month.

2) How many different ways can you think of to say "no" to a drink?

You don't need to justify your choice to stay dry in January of course, but sometimes it helps to have a ready-made reason if someone gets pushy and insists you join them in a tipple. Maybe "I'm doing Dry January" won't always be your go-to reason so what else would work for you - I'm driving/running a marathon tomorrow/looking after the kids in the morning? Just make sure if someone offers you a drink out of the blue, you've got your answer ready. It's oh, so much easier than trying to think of a reason when someone puts you on the spot. If you stay firm, mates are less likely to try to convince you to change your mind.

3) Keep a diary

Record what's new, what's different, what's better every day. You can look back at previous entries and see just how far you've come. Making time each day, even just a couple of minutes to remind yourself of your Dry January journey will really help you to see it through to the end. Why not blog about your Dry January experiences? This might be something to inspire your colleagues or family or just to keep you thinking about your Dry January adventure.

4) Have you ever thought about why you drink?

Sure, it can be social and taste great and is on offer whenever you go out but what are the things that make you really, really want a drink? For many people the triggers fall into one of four categories - Social Occasions, Treats, Negative Emotions or Defences Down. These can be internal (thoughts, feelings or sensations) or external (things going on around you). Take a look at the boxes below and see if you can identify which things make it harder for you to say no. Knowing your triggers can really help you to plan for tempting times.

Social occasions

When someone offers you a drink at a party

When you see other people enjoying a drink

When excited, or celebrating an event


As a reward for a job well done

A pick me up after a hard day

When someone unexpectedly buys you a drink

Defences down

When you're tired

When someone is pestering you to drink with them

When you feel a craving for alcohol


When you can't sleep

When you're worried or nervous

When you're angry or after an argument

When things go wrong

5) Make a switch

Once you've got a grip of when you might find it more difficult to say no to a drink, you can decide on some alternative strategies. So, if you like a "The weekend has landed" Friday night drink, what else could you do to celebrate the end of a hard week at work? Give yourself something to look forward to on Friday so you won't feel you're missing out. If you're more of an out-on-the-town means out-on-the-booze drinker do a bit of research - are there any local bars/clubs that offer a range of mocktails or alcohol-free beers? As with most thinks in life, the secret is in the planning.

6) Let's face it, drinking isn't all bad

After all, millions of us drink every week, so there are definitely pros and cons. You must have had at least one reason for giving Dry January a go so why not write a pros and cons list. Scribble down the reasons you might have a drink in January and alongside this list, note down all the reasons why you want to go dry for a month. Take a look at both lists. If the dry list is longer, great - there's your motivation to keep going! If not, think about how important each one is to you right now.

7) Phone a friend

Doing Dry January with a friend can make all the difference. You can inspire and encourage each other and have someone to turn to if it gets a bit tough. Better still, get the whole gang involved. Not wanting to let others down and feeling inspired by what others are achieving are both great ways to stay committed. People who join with a friend are much more likely to succeed. If it's a friend you're competitive with, even better.

8) Make a public commitment

It can be tempting to keep your Dry January to yourself, especially if you're worried you won't make it through the month but telling others is a good way to keep you accountable. Post your intention on social media. If you're going out, let your friends know in advance that you won't be drinking. You'll find that lots of others are doing it too so you'll have a ready-made support group. Enlist support from your nearest and dearest.

9) Has anyone asked why you're doing Dry January? What did you say?

Most people have towards and away from goals. If you give your response as a towards goal - "I want to lose weight, sleep better, have more time at the weekend", you're more likely to succeed than if you have away from goals - "I want to avoid hangovers, I'm sick of being late for work, my sleep pattern is rubbish". Similarly, when thinking about the benefits you're noticing as the month goes on, focus on the towards: I have so much more energy in the morning rather than "I haven't had to call in sick all month."

10) Remember that you always have a choice

If you're feeling tempted, if you're craving a drink, if others are trying to persuade you, don' forget: YOU CAN HAVE A DRINK. After all, no-one is stopping you. The thing is, YOU are the one whose decided not to drink in January; YOU are the one whose going to feel sooo much better after a month without alcohol.

Still want a drink? Then how about aiming for a Drier January? Why not cut out the "Oh-go-on-then/wine-o-clock/oooh-look-free-booze" drinks and just have the drinks you really want. Take a pause before each drink to work out whether it's for enjoyment or just habit. That way, not only will you cut down but it'll give you a new appreciation of the drinks you do decide to have.