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AN ENGLISH ROSE IN GEORGIA –

By Lesley Francis

NEW YEAR AND DRY JANUARY

So here we are at the beginning of another New Year. Time to get back on track and do penance for all my festive indulgences. Back to watching what I eat and trying to exercise more. Although the holidays are fun, there is part of me that gets excited about a new start at the beginning of January as well as getting back to reality with less socializing, cooking, and frenzied activity. Also in January’s favor is that as a spring and summer loving person, the days are slowly getting longer and we visibly start to move closer to my favorite seasons.  

Several years ago, I wrote a column about New Year resolutions and, according to a new survey from Forbes Health, the themes have not changed much in recent times. Like my own good intentions for 2024, the most common New Year resolutions are about fitness, diet and health, and more women than men make resolutions. However, two big changes in the past few years are that mental health is now being emphasized more and that more people are using technology, especially apps, to track their progress towards fitness. Studies show that only about one in ten people manage to maintain their resolutions and carry changes in behavior on to the end of New Year, but I think it is good that many of us do think about self-improvement and at least give it a go. 

I am not a big drinker, but I do enjoy a few egg nogs with rum, and of course what would the holidays be without a bit of champagne, wine and a few cocktails? Personally, I find it easier to cut out alcohol than cut down on foods I love, and I always say that I would rather eat a few extra carbs and sugar than drink them! This leads me to the subject of ‘Dry January’: a tradition of cutting out the booze that began in the land of my birth over ten years ago and since 2019 has become more popular around the world. Several other European countries had tried similar efforts for temporary, widespread abstinence but in 2013, the UK charity Alcohol Change began the program known as Dry January, or Dryanuary! The idea was to build on the fact that many people overindulged and overspent in December, and British pubs always had less business in January anyway, so why not formalize the idea? It became a fundraising idea, challenging Brits to ask friends and family to sponsor their sobriety for 31 days in support of their favorite charity.   

Since I left England 15 years ago, the British now drink 18% less as a nation today and around the world it has become much more socially acceptable to abstain from alcohol with mocktails and other newly created alcohol-free adult drinks. This is a good thing in my opinion. I remember as a young woman in the 1990s in the heavy-drinking British business culture in London, I often ordered soda water with lime because it looked like gin or vodka so I wouldn’t be pressured to have a “real drink”. 

Americans have taken to Dry January and there are many social media posts about the health benefits of joining in this new tradition. Up to 35% of U.S. drinkers participate in a Dry January, according to surveys published by Morning Consult Pro. Dry January is not targeted at people who need to address a serious addiction to alcohol, but a surprising number of people continue with an alcohol-free life after the initial 31 days of January. A few years ago my husband kicked off a Dryanuary but continued on to a self-imposed target of 1,000 days, the end of which coincided nicely with a special “round number” birthday celebration. He says that it is good to know he can happily enjoy life and socialize without an alcoholic beverage. 

If you still need convincing about Dry January, the medical benefits of not drinking alcohol are well documented and include better sleep, clearer complexion, improved blood pressure, weight loss and liver health. There is a lot more information at www.bbc.co.uk and www.forbes.com.  

I leave you this week with great quote about New Year’s Day from Grammy award winning, American country music singer-songwriter Brad Paisley: “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” 

God Bless America and Happy New Year. 

– ENDS – 

Lesley grew up in London, England and made Georgia her home in 2009.  She can be contacted at lesley@francis.com  or via her full-service marketing agency at www.lesleyfrancispr.com.