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Leading psychologist says Dry January could do more harm than good

'It’s like these crash diets. This all or nothing, feast or famine mentality'

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Neasa Cumiskey

The annual ‘dry’ January event is no different than a crash diet, a leading psychologist has said.

Allison Keating said that short-term breaks from booze could be doing more harm than good.

“A lot of people do dry November because they know they are going to massively drink in December and then go back into dry January afterwards,” she explained on Newstalk Breakfast.

“It’s like these crash diets. This all or nothing, feast or famine mentality when really, what we have to do is stand back and go, ‘Is my drinking healthy?’”

Ms Keating said that she recommends adopting a more mindful approach to drinking and encourages people to be “aware of why and how much you drink.”

“This is about the practice of just being aware of the impact alcohol is having upon you and your body and your mood, your sleep” she said.

“It's just looking at it in terms of health benefits where you go, ‘I’m really not feeling great and it’s really impacting the next day, I’m definitely shorter with people,’ and just bringing awareness.

“You're kind of really curious about it. There’s no judgement, you just say, ‘I really woke up with a banging headache’ or, at Christmas time, ‘What is going on with me that I drink excessively?”

She added that people can practice asking themselves whether they really need to have another drink.

“It’s about looking at the relationship that you have with alcohol and, at a very simple level, if you’re having a drink, to become mindful with it.

“It’s just to practice pausing before you have the next drink and asking the question, in a really curious way, ‘Do I want this drink? Do I need this drink? What’s actually going on for me? Am I stressed at the moment? Am I using it as a form of escapism?’”

“I think it is a good idea to put practices in place that work for you. It could just be, ‘Okay, I’m just going to have a glass of wine at the table but I’m not going to have a glass on the couch.’”

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