Dry January, Week 1: Tapping into Social Support

Studies show participating in Dry January (no alcohol the entire month) results in reduction of drinking up to six months later. Of course, if you want to take a break from alcohol, you can do this any month, or any 30-day period. But doing it this month, you’ll get an added benefit: social support.


Almost every single one of my clients tells me they worry what others will think and say if they don’t drink alcohol.


They worry others will think they have a drinking problem.

They worry others will think they’re no fun to be around.

They worry it’ll be awkward to explain why they want to cut back and it’ll be uncomfortable.

They worry others will judge and think less of them.


They worry so much, it actually inhibits them from cutting back.


I’ve written an entire blog about this topic and created a special video “What to Say When People Ask Why You aren’t Drinking.”


We’re social creatures. We’re wired to want to fit in and be part of the pack. It’s part of our evolution. It used to be that if you were outcast from your tribe, it literally meant death. Being accepted as part of the group feels necessary for survival in our brain and gut.


I think this is why the number one factor for longevity isn’t your weight, or whether you smoke, eat out of Styrofoam containers or have desirable cholesterol levels.


The biggest factor in how long you live is social connection. And it’s an extremely powerful motivator.


During Dry January, there is social proof you’re part of a group of people who think it’s a good idea to cut back on drinking.


So when your friends ask you why you aren’t drinking, whether they’ve heard of Dry January or not, you can tell them you’re participating in a social movement as a challenge to yourself or with a group.


Actually doing it with a group isn’t really necessary, although if you feel you want or need one you only have to look as far as your FaceBook newsfeed to find people doing it.


The important part is having a ready reason/excuse/explanation that makes you feel “normal” and socially accepted in your own mind.


Imagine you’re out with friends at a bar or restaurant and you order a nonalcoholic beer or a mocktail. Your friends do a double take and look at you shocked, like you’re insane.


Instead of feeling awkward about it or imagining they think you obviously must have a drinking problem if you’re not drinking (which makes no sense, but I digress), you simply say, “I’m doing Dry January.”


You can predict they’ll react negatively or positively, but it doesn’t matter because you don’t have to explain any embarrassing personal reasons why you’re not drinking.


Instead you’re simply participating in a bet or experiment as a way to help others. It’s like doing the Whole 30. No shame.


There’s social proof it’s a good idea. You’re part of a pack.


And that makes you feel safe.

For more help on how to actually do Dry January, visit www.julieernst.com and take my free course: Stop Overdrinking in 3 Steps.  

Julie Ernst