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    Mindful Living

    Learn to “Un-Wine” this January

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    More and more people are jumping on the Dry January bandwagon to kick off a clean, healthy year. Try these tips for success.

    If you’re used to ending the day with a glass of red wine or beer, learning how to relax without alcohol can be a challenging part of a Dry January. These seven ways to relax without wine lets you come out of a dry January rejuvenated and refreshed.

    It starts with pumpkin beers on Halloween, then red wine with your Thanksgiving turkey and finally eggnog on Christmas Eve. By the time January 1 rolls around, you may be more than ready to take a break from saying, “cheers.” Let Dry January begin.

    “In recent years, more and more people have chosen to start their year off with Dry January,” says Sarah Church, PhD, clinical psychologist and executive director of Wholeview Wellness addiction treatment center in New York City. “Dry January can be both transformational and challenging for individuals who want to kick off the new year with a healthier lifestyle,” she says.

    But if you’re used to relaxing with a glass of merlot or an IPA, it can be difficult to know how to unwind. “Adding relaxation techniques can make for a more successful and enjoyable Dry January,” Dr. Church says. Here are some alternative ways to relax without alcohol:

    Sweat it out. “Engaging in physical activity can reduce stress and release endorphins to naturally lift your spirits and reduce anxiety,” Dr. Church says. If you crave a cocktail, distract yourself with a hot yoga session, run through the park or take a nature walk.

    Practice deep breathing. “Deep breathing can instantly calm you down so you can refocus,” says Jeremy Klemansk, CEO of Gateway Foundation addiction treatment centers in Illinois. Deep breathing doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. When you feel anxiety or an alcohol craving taking hold, take deep, even breaths and inhale and exhale slowly. For some tips on deep breathing and other de-stressing techniques, check out:

    Relax your muscles in sequence. In a technique called progressive muscle relaxation, you inhale and tense specific muscle groups. Then, as you exhale, you relax those muscles. Most people work on their muscles in a specific order, such as hands, upper arms, shoulders, face, back, stomach and legs. It’s an excellent way to release tension and relax your whole body, Klemansk says.

    Tap into your social network. “Join online groups where like-minded people share their Dry January experiences and tips,” Dr. Church says. Or rub elbows with fellow Dry January friends. Going through the experience in a supportive environment can be motivating and create a sense of camaraderie to make the month seem less isolating.

    Break old patterns. Old habits die hard, and a nightly cocktail is just that—a habit. “If you find yourself caught in a cycle of anxious thinking that you would normally derail with an alcoholic drink, interrupt that cycle with a different action,” Klemansk says. “This can help you regain a sense of control,” he says. Try drinking a glass of water, going for a walk or run, listening to music or a podcast or writing down your thoughts in a journal.

    Revisit a beloved hobby or try something new. Embracing a hobby can provide a fun distraction, so you’re less tempted by alcohol. Try painting, cooking, playing board games, watching old movies or practicing a musical instrument. “These activities not only relax your mind but also contribute to personal growth,” Dr. Church says.

    Fake it ’til you make it. “Exploring alcohol-free alternatives, such as mocktails, flavored seltzers or herbal teas, can add an element of novelty and enjoyment to social gatherings, so you won’t feel left out if you aren’t drinking alcohol,” Dr. Church says.

    Although it’s festive, the pace of the holiday season can create the need for a wellness reboot. Many people find abstaining from alcohol for the entire first month is a great way to start off the year.

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