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Young Europeans and Dry January: An excuse for abstinence

Young Europeans and Dry January: An excuse for abstinence

Image source: © canva
Maja Kozłowska,
25.01.2024 14:00

Dry January is a popular challenge practised worldwide. It requires participants to refrain from consuming alcohol for the entire first month of the year.

As January draws to a close, it's a good time to reflect on the first month of the new year. Did it go according to plan? Were we able to achieve some of our resolutions? Has our initial enthusiasm for new activities continued throughout the month?

While the new year is a great time to start fresh, there's no need to wait for a specific date to make positive changes in our lives. If you want to start reading more books, start now. If you plan to return to the gym, don't wait for your friend to agree to join you. If you were hoping to travel more this year, start planning and looking for opportunities.

Remember that making changes can be both motivating and challenging. How you approach those changes will determine how successful you'll be.

Being sober in January = being sober all year long?

Dry January is a challenge that takes place worldwide at the beginning of every year. It requires participants to give up drinking alcohol for the entire month of January. The challenge is a test of willpower and has several health benefits, including improved mental and physical health. Additionally, it may be a stepping stone towards reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption.

"I didn't take on the Dry January challenge, but I do have several 'sober' months throughout the year during which I give up stimulants completely. I do this mainly to feel better about myself. Refusing alcohol, especially at parties, gives me a sense of being in control. In January, I made a rule that I don't drink alcohol at home and no more than once a week when I'm out. So far, it's working, and I hope this trend will continue. However, I feel no pressure - I know I'm doing it for myself, and it doesn't matter if it's the whole month of January or two weeks in the summer when there are more temptations," says Maja from Poland.

Vilija from Lithuania shared, "I've heard about this campaign many times but haven't tried it personally. I believe it wouldn't be difficult for me since I rarely consume alcohol. Perhaps I should suggest this challenge to my friends and take it up collectively, as I think one month without alcohol would be sufficient to experience its benefits. It could motivate people to give up alcohol for good."

"I haven't heard about it before, but I think it's a great idea and an excellent opportunity to break free from bad habits. Personally, I am interested in taking up the challenge, especially since there are many non-alcoholic alternatives available if you want to drink for company," says Miglė from Lithuania.

"I discovered this challenge on Instagram and TikTok and decided to participate. As a student preparing for mid-term exams, I realised that alcohol was not the best option for me during this period. Therefore, I resisted the temptation and focused more on my studies. I devoted my time to studying from morning till evening," said L. from Bulgaria.

"Drinking alcohol occasionally and in small amounts is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is important to be aware of the negative effects it can have on the body, mental health, and relationships. There are no proven benefits associated with alcohol consumption, and therefore, campaigns that raise awareness about the dangers of drinking or promote abstinence can be very beneficial. Alcohol is still too widely accepted in our culture and has devastating effects on many families. This is especially true in Poland, where many households have at least one member with an alcohol problem. For this reason, I believe that initiatives like Dry January are worth promoting and praising," concludes Kuba.

"I set my mind to it, but unfortunately, I failed by a rather large margin on the first day. It's tough," admits V. from Bulgaria.

Dry January is a perfect opportunity to give up drinking alcohol
Dry January is a perfect opportunity to give up drinking alcohol (canva)

What do young people in Europe think about drinking alcohol?

According to the 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) data, the countries with the highest alcohol consumption are the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Lithuania. The study revealed that 8.4% of Europeans aged 15 and above drink alcohol daily. Furthermore, 28.8% consume alcohol weekly, while 22.8% drink it monthly. The survey also indicated that 26.2% of respondents either do not consume alcohol at all or have not had a drink in at least a year.

"Drinking alcohol at a young age is very risky because it damages the nervous system and its neurons, and during adolescence, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judging situations, making important decisions and controlling emotions and impulses, is still developing. Until the brain reaches full maturity, the risk of making irresponsible decisions is elevated. Therefore, consuming alcohol while the brain is still developing can have serious and long-lasting consequences," notes Nutautienė of Lithuania.

Nutautienė from Lithuania emphasises the importance of being cautious when it comes to drinking alcohol at a young age. "It can be very dangerous because it can harm the nervous system and its neurons. During adolescence, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for making important decisions, judging situations, and controlling emotions and impulses, is still developing. This means that until the brain fully matures, the risk of making irresponsible decisions is increased. Therefore, consuming alcohol while the brain is still developing can have serious and long-lasting consequences," she notes.

Alcoholism continues to be a problem, but abstaining from drinking is becoming more popular. Despite this, many young people have their first alcoholic drink before they are legally allowed to. However, Zoomers are becoming more aware of the adverse effects that alcohol has on their mental and physical health. Dry January is just one example of abstaining from alcohol for a month, but it's possible to deny yourself alcohol or other stimulants every day if you choose to.

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