People drink alcohol for a variety of reasons, from escaping inhibitions to being social and celebrating accomplishments.
Whatever the reason, Niki Kiepek, an assistant professor in Dal’s School of Occupational Therapy, says January is a good time to consider re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol.
She says it’s often too easy to justify what can be potentially unhealthy and unsafe habits.
The ‘Dry January’ public health campaign, initiated in the U.K., advocates for abstinence from alcohol for the entire month of January.
Dr. Kiepek explains that long-term exposure to alcohol can impact heart and liver function. Although your physical well-being won’t drastically change after only a month of sobriety, she says it’s important to note that it can also be beneficial for your mental health and challenges you to be more comfortable with your substance-free self.
Additionally, participating in Dry January won’t necessarily harm a participant’s social life. In actuality, it encourages participants to plan more creative social and stress-relieving activities (i.e. ice skating, attending exercise classes, going to a museum, etc.).
As Dr. Kiepek says, it challenges us to leave our comfort zone and ask, “What other ways can we let loose?”
Moving beyond an all-or-nothing attitude
The stress of academia paired with the social atmosphere at university can sometimes lead to binge drinking, says Dr. Kiepek. She says it’s essential to remember that heavy drinking can impair decision making, which puts ourselves at higher risk.
Additionally, she says people under 25 years old should consider avoiding binge drinking as it can impact cognitive development in the brain, which is not yet fully developed.
One of the criticisms of Dry January is that some participants believe they can have completed the challenge and then use it as justification to binge drink afterwards.
Dr. Kiepek says there’s a need to move beyond unhealthy binaries that suggest that drinking alcohol can only be all or nothing.
While participating in Dry January can be beneficial for your health, your social life, and even your financial situation, the real value behind it is that it pushes participants to challenge themselves to re-evaluate their relationships with alcohol and start the New Year with some introspection.
It also encourages people to consider alternative forms of stress relief.
Students at Dal wanting to plan a dry event with a student group or society can contact the Dal After Dark program, which funds social events that are alcohol-and substance-free and serve to educate attendees about the dangers of lower and higher risk alcohol use.
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