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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.