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According to the latest medical advice, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Time for a dry January, then. But is that really such a good idea?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – January is one of my favourite months. It is a month of recovery and a month of change. I speak for myself, of course, but there seems to be a rhythm or a pattern in the way we respond to different parts of the year. I’m not at my best in November. I find it very hard to get motivated. I can never initiate anything new or start a new project. Everything has to wait until Christmas is out of the way. After Christmas, January comes as a huge relief.

I don’t eat or drink vastly more during the Festive Season than I would normally. But I do indulge a bit more and I’m a bit less active. And that takes its toll. I feel more tired, sometimes a bit jaded. The cool, quiet month of January washes all that away.

This particular January has been a trial for some people. Many family homes have been devastated by floods. And even here in the South East, where we have been relatively fortunate with the weather, the grey skies and frequent rain take a toll on the mood of some people. Not me. The soft light of January, the dark greys and greens of the winter countryside, never fail to raise my spirits. Routine returns, along with normal patterns of consumption. The body regains its equilibrium.

For many people, January is a time to take action. This is the month to take up jogging, to see that the inside of a gym looks like, to cut out this and give up that. And, because there are no national holidays or feast days (with the exception of Burns Night, not celebrated in this neck of the woods) this is an ideal month for a “dry” spell. If all drinking is bad for you then a dry month has got to be a good idea, hasn’t it?

That depends. If you’re drinking relatively heavily each day then medical advise seems to suggest that cutting down gradually might be safer than suddenly stopping. Obviously I’m talking about more than a couple of pints every night. If you’re drinking, say, a bottle of wine, or more, every night then it might be wiser to reduce alcohol consumption for a period rather than stop suddenly.

And if you do stop drinking for a period, what happens after that period has elapsed? If you go dry for a month after drinking regularly for a long period then changes will take place in your body. Your resistance to alcohol will reduce. And that means that if and when you start drinking again your body will react to the alcohol more strongly. You will feel the effects of alcohol far more quickly and, I’m afraid, you’ll be rather more prone to hangovers.

So does a dry spell really do any good? It may not do any harm, but I’m not convinced that it does much long-term good if such a “dry spell” is simply followed by a return to old habits. A dry January may purge the Christmas toxins – but what then?

And this leads to the central problem at the heart of all habit issues, one which, as a hypnotherapist, I encounter all the time. Real change can only happen if you want it to happen. But if you do want it to happen then any change, no matter how radical, is possible. This is particularly problematic with alcohol as many people don’t really know where they want to be with their drinking habits. For people of my generation, social life tended to revolve around alcohol. To a large extent it still does. And – let’s be honest about it – to drink alcohol is a pleasant activity. The unpleasant bit comes from drinking too much or from drinking more than one is used to. Moreover, alcohol enhances other activities, such as eating, socializing, listening to music, and so on.

You want to alter your drinking pattern? (I’m not talking about alcoholism, by the way. Alcoholism is a very serious condition which requires a variety of medical and psychological interventions). Then you need to know exactly what you want to change and why. And you need to want it. Hypnotherapy can help you really to want what you (think you) want! Gradual modifications, over a period of time, are surely more beneficial than the odd dry January!

Happy New Year everyone!

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