Dry January

The first challenge I chose for my 365 Days of Thirty Day Challenges project was pretty easy to choose, if perhaps not so easy to do.

Dry January.

Dry January is a challenge that started in the UK nine years ago, led by Alcohol Change UK, an organization that exists to reduce the harm done by alcohol. Its first challenge in 2013 saw 4,000 participants. This year, organizers report that over 130,000 people are improving their lives by reducing their alcohol intake for the month of January.

The purpose of the challenge is to help people get a handle on potential problematic drinking. The really cool thing is that, according to their website, scientific studies support the value of taking a month off this particular vice.

New research from Royal Free Hospital backs up just how good a month off the booze is for the body; improvements in concentration and sleep patterns, as well as positive impact on blood sugar levels, blood pressure and the liver.

alcoholchange.org.uk

Furthermore, independent research by the University of Sussex backs up the value of the challenge, reporting that among participants of Dry January,

There was a significant weakening of drinking motives, and significant reductions in drinking at 6-month follow-up… and participants reported improvements in their general health, sleep quality, concentration, energy levels, and skin. Many also reported losing weight.

Richard de Visser, PhD, Nina Lockwood, PhD – School of Psychology
University of Sussex

You may be wondering why I, in particular, chose this specific challenge, and it’s a fair question. Confession time… I’ve been using alcohol as a coping mechanism for quite a while now. Not just during the pandemic (although the last three years have certainly exasperated things), but also due to other stresses in life. Add all of that to the over-reliance of alcohol consumption in the international expatriate community, where too many people use alcohol to manage the stress of being a foreigner dealing with learning new cultures, languages, jobs, and mindsets.

All of this brought me to the point where I recognized that I need to back off. I’m hopeful that Dry January will give me an organized excuse as well as an online support community that will help me do what needs to be done to improve this area of my life.

It helps that the organizers of Dry January have some great support materials available. On their website, you can sign up for daily emails to encourage you along the way. They’ve also developed the Try Dry app, a free app that tracks your progress throughout the month. For added incentives, the app lets you know how much money and calories you’ve saved by not drinking. It’s good to have both of those facts displayed!

I might come back to my personal motivations for participating in this challenge later in the month, but for now I’ll just say that I’m really glad to be participating. If you’d like to do a reset with your own alcohol consumption, please join me! Drop me an email at info@thimblerigsark.com and we can talk about supporting each other during the month.

Other Challenge Updates

I’m glad to report that I was able to complete my daily challenges in all four of the challenges in which I’m engaged on this, the first day.

Finances

For my financial challenge, I spent a bit of time writing out all my fixed expenditures and all of my assets, as well as examining if we’re saving properly for retirement. It was good to have it all laid out in front of me, and it will be the baseline moving forward in the month.

One chart which I found to be very helpful, and may be helpful to any of you who might be on the younger side, dealt with compound interest.

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/business/saving-money-for-retirement

Essentially, this means that the earlier you start investing the better off you’ll be when you retire. It makes sense, but the difference made by starting ten years earlier really blew me away.

Spiritual

For my spiritual challenge, I chose to start with a month of mindfulness. My first challenge was short and easy: to sit quietly for two minutes and focus on sounds. I sat out on my front porch, and realized a couple of things: First, a stiff breeze rustling the leaves is one of the most pleasant sounds you can hear.

Second, tinnitus really sucks.

I also had a separate positive experience for my soul. My wife and I hiked to a nearby scenic overlook, and it was incredibly restorative to be out in nature for a couple of hours.

Creativity

I’ve struggled with being creative these past couple of years, so to help ease back in, I decided to participate in #Creatuanary, a drawing challenge where participants create a new creature each day based on a given prompt. Today, I was challenged to draw a piranha dog. Here’s my final sketch.

Day 1 down. 364 to go.

Onward!
Nate

365 Days of 30 Day Challenges… And So It Begins…

I really don’t know how I decided to do this.

I vaguely remember the idea occurring to me when I was sitting and having a cup of coffee. Or maybe I was walking the path at our local park. Or, it might have been when I was taking a shower.

Like most things over the last couple years, it’s fairly hazy.

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I do know it started with National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge in November in which I’ve participated for several years. My son, who is an artist, had also participated in Inktober, and one day while I was sipping a coffee or walking the trail or rinsing some suds, I thought – would it be crazy to do Inktober in October then follow that up with Nanowrimo in November?

What 30 day challenges are in December? What about January?

Then, it just snowballed.

And now I find myself on December 31, 2021, preparing to attempt to spend the next twelve months participating in several monthly challenges each month.

To be honest, I think something may have snapped in me because of the pandemic, but I figure it’s better to do something like this as a result of the snapping rather than being videotaped yelling at a stranger in public, as so many snapped people have done.

I can imagine what some people might think of this idea… that it is just another attempt to make resolutions, and everyone knows that resolutions typically fail, and this one is destined to fail spectacularly.

But don’t most resolutions fail because they’re so open-ended?

“In 2022, I want to lose weight.”
“I want to learn to play the violin.”
“I want to do 20 pushups a day.”

Doing something for only 30 days is imminently possible. And maybe along the way I will find something I want to do for more than 30 days. Or maybe some aspect of my life will improve because I took the time to try.

I think it’s worth the shot.

So, here’s the challenge I’m proposing for myself.

Each month, I’m going to pick four(ish) challenges. I will do my best to pick months that are chosen specifically for the month (like Inktober or Nanowrimo), but they may not always be. I’m also going to try to focus on four areas each month… health, finances, creativity, and spirituality. Then I’m going to write about how the 30 days are going on this newly formed blog as some kind of public accountability.

For example, during the month of January, I’ve chosen to observe Dry January for my health (as I said, the last two years have been rough), a thirty day challenge for finances, expressing my creativity by drawing a new creature each day during Creatuanary, and observing 31 Days of Mindfulness for my spirit.

Y’all, I do realize how insane this sounds. It’s hard enough to do one extra thing a day for a month, let alone four. But we’ll see how it goes. Honestly? Maybe I’ll burn out by April and be done with the whole project. Maybe by March I’ll realize that I bit off too much and take it down to one challenge a month. Or, maybe I’ll find my life improving in some ways as a result of this insane sounding idea, and I’ll actually do it for the full 365.

Time will tell. But, I invite you to join me in this ride by subscribing to this blog and following my year. And if you know of any good free monthly challenges for the upcoming months, let me know, because I’ve started assembling a database of monthly challenges, and I’ll be looking for interesting things to do for 30 days. This includes fund-raising challenges. It would be cool if this project could help raise some money for some good causes, too.

Finally, if you’d like to join me on any of my challenges, let me know. I’d love some company! I’ll do my best to post them about a week before the following month begins so folks can prepare.

So, I’ve got one more day until the challenges begin. Wish me luck, and here’s hoping The Rescues are right about next year.