Move over Dry January, there's a new alcohol-limiting trend going viral on TikTok and it could change your relationship with booze forever. Say hello to damp drinking.
If giving up alcohol completely in one of the most depressing months of the year sounds a tad too extreme, you might be interested to hear about damp drinking – the new wellness trend currently taking over social media.
A wellbeing change that is about embracing a healthier relationship with alcohol through mindful drinking, the #damplifestyle hashtag now has 10.3 million views on the app and is creeping up rapidly by the day.
But what exactly is damp drinking and how does it differ from ditching the booze completely?
Here's everything you need to know about damp drinking in 10 points.
What is damp drinking? Whereas dry January is about abstaining from alcohol completely throughout the month, damp drinking is more about switching to mindfully drinking less. “For some people, the idea of giving up alcohol altogether can feel a little too extreme," explains Dr Catherine Carney at private rehab clinic, Delamere.
"The damp lifestyle trend is not about quitting alcohol, but instead about being more conscious of how much you are consuming. This includes drinking in moderation, creating a healthier, well-balanced relationship with alcohol and changing our views on drinking culture."
What's driving the damp drinking trend? We have already seen a huge shift in attitudes towards drinking over the past few years, with recent stats from the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba), showing a quarter of the UK now doesn’t drink, while one in three have chosen to reduce their alcohol consumption.
"Since the pandemic ended, there has been a big shift in drinking behaviour in the UK, with Delamare's research showing that 60% of people have decided to reduce their alcohol consumption in an effort to improve their health and wellbeing," Dr Carney adds.
TikTok has also played a part in the rise. Trending Tiktok hashtags “damp lifestyle” and “sober curious” – both of which have millions of posts detailing how to enjoy alcohol more mindfully, only further prove that many are moving away from the binge drinking norm to more measured and controlled ways of drinking.
“Over the past year, we have recognised a growing trend in adults embracing a more positive approach to alcohol consumption. More individuals are looking for ways to change their drinking behaviour,” explains Dr Carney.
TikToker Hana Elson coined the term for the movement. She now runs a TikTok page all about the trend. "Small habit changes lead to big results and create your lifestyle," Elson says about living a "damp lifestyle."
Damp January is a more realistic goal than Dry January, say experts, making it ultimately easier to stick to.
“A Damp January is a less extreme and potentially much more sustainable version of the challenge that is focused on reducing our alcohol intake during the month of January,” Vedant Pradeep, the CEO and co-founder of alcohol reduction app Reframe told Better Homes & Gardens.
By not cutting out alcohol completely, those who attempt damp January may find that it’s easier to continue the trend beyond the first month of the year, and therefore increase the possibility of sticking to your booze-less goals.
Is damp drinking more beneficial? There is some evidence that the sustainable approach of Damp Drinking may be more beneficial to health long-term than abstaining from alcohol completely, with a 2021 study finding that Dry January participation led to more drinking in the future.
The research, which analysed Dry January participants in the UK between 2015 to 2018, found people felt “at greater liberty to drink to excess at other times of the year”.
What are the health plus-points of damp drinking? Better sleep for a start. Alcohol is often used as a sleeping aid to help you drift off, but despite helping to relax you, drinking in excess can affect the quality and pattern of your sleep due to headaches, dehydration and the increased need to urinate.
Damp drinking could mean better mental health. Alcohol is a rather deceiving depressant; while you may feel relaxed or excited during the time of consumption, alcohol actually has a significant impact on mental health.
"Drinking alcohol, particularly heavy consumption, interferes with the chemicals in the brain that maintains good mental health, meaning that after drinking, you may experience feelings of depression and anxiety, sometimes referred to as 'beer fear' or 'hang-xiety'," explains Dr Delamare.
"By embracing a ‘damp lifestyle’, on the occasions you chose not to drink, levels of alcohol will no longer affect the balance of chemicals in your brain, meaning mental health can improve."
Stopping binge drinking could lead to better health overall. Drinking in excess can often lead to feeling groggy, lethargic and generally unwell the next day because it interferes with the day-to-day functioning of the body.
"During the periods that you choose not to drink you may find that you have more energy to do things that you normally wouldn’t, like being more active," Dr Delamare explains.
Drinking in excess for a prolonged period of time can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels which could lead to more complicated health problems associated with high blood pressure and alcohol consumption, such as strokes, heart disease and chronic kidney disease.
How to start being a damp drinker. In her various videos about the damp lifestyle movement, Elson describes the importance of understanding that small habit changes can lead to big results.
And she has a number of tips for adopting a damp drinking mindset including switching your glass of wine for a mocktail while getting ready to head out.
She also recommends having a water between each alcoholic drink and opting for lower ABV (Alcohol by volume) options once you’re out drinking.
Cutting out shots completely, not having spirits and sticking to the same type of alcohol all night are other adaptations that have worked for her in adopting a damp lifestyle.