Can Dry January Make You a Better Leader?

Can Dry January Make You a Better Leader?

Delphinium - Can Dry January help you become a better leader

Abstaining from alcohol throughout January has become an extremely popular way of starting the New Year. In fact, according to a YouGov study from December 2018, over four million of us are planning to ditch alcohol for the first month of the year. But, can partaking in dry January make you a better leader.

There are a number of reasons why people choose to go teetotal in January. For some, its part of a New Year’s Resolution to drink less, for others it’s a way to detox after overindulging during the festive period, and for some, it’s a way to support a charity and the personal benefits that come along with dry January are merely an added bonus.

Olympic athletes do all they can to ensure their bodies stay in peak condition to ensure that they can perform to their full potential. As a business leader, you need to treat your mind in the same way. Let’s consider how dry January could improve your performance in business and make you a better leader.

Alcohol and Sleep

Alcohol affects the neurotransmitters in the brain and central nervous system, making you feel relaxed. Due to these effects, some people like to have a drink to help them “drop off” in an evening.

Although having a drink or two may help you fail asleep sooner, the alcohol then prevents you from having a good quality night’s sleep:

  1. Drinking alcohol prevents the body from staying in a deep sleep and entering REM (rapid eye movement) cycles, causing you to feel tired the next day. REM sleep is also important for memory and emotional processing. Therefore, you may also have trouble recollecting information, retaining information and managing your emotions.
  2. Once the body has metabolised the alcohol, the sedative effects dissipate, and you move into a lighter sleep, increasing the likelihood of waking up in the middle of the night.
  3. The relaxation of the muscles causes the air passages in your mouth, nose and throat to narrow resulting causing them to vibrate and result in snoring or increasing the volume of your snoring. If you don’t wake yourself up, you may receive a kick or an elbow from your partner if you are keeping them awake!
  4. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic meaning that you are likely to need to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, even when you haven’t had much to drink before bed, further disturbing your nights.

Alcohol and the ability to respond

While the effects of alcohol on the neurotransmitters make you more relaxed, they also cause you to think and respond slower. Therefore, if you pop out for a pint or a glass of wine at lunch, it is likely to impact your performance in the afternoon.

But it’s ok if you’re drinking in an evening? Unfortunately, it isn’t. The effects of alcohol can take 48 to 72 hours to disappear completely, so even that bottle of wine with your evening meal or your gin and tonic before bed could impact your performance in subsequent days at work.

How can this affect you as a leader?

Decision Making

Decisiveness is widely considered one of the top 10 skills of a great leader. As a leader, you need to be able to understand how to make decisions that positively impact you, your employees, your customers and your organisation on the whole.

Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly, relying on your ability to think clearly and interpret information accurately.

To be a strong decision maker you also need to be able to recollect information, think quickly and be able to control your emotions effectively, all of which are more difficult if you are still under the effects of alcohol or a lack sleep.

Creative Thinking

When faced with making decisions, you may find yourself confronted with unique challenges for which there are no ready-made solutions, in which case you will need to think “outside the box” and come up with some real-time solutions. The skill of creative thinking is invaluable in such situations. However, you need to ensure that you can focus on the problem at hand.

There is a belief that lack of sleep or alcohol use can spark creativity among writers, artists composers and problem solvers. However, there is little research to show how creative processes change in such circumstances.

What research has shown is that alcohol and lack of sleep have an effect of your working memory that prevents you from screening out peripheral information, which may lead to some great ideas and you experiencing “light bulb” moments. Now, this sounds great if you are waiting for inspiration to hit on your latest novel or you’re involved in a general brainstorming session. However, research has also shown that because you are unable to screen out peripheral information, it makes it difficult for you to focus on the task at hand and the information you need to help you solve the problem.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is defined as “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions” and is another essential skill of being a great leader.

Regardless of how well you carry out your management tasks or how technically proficient you are, effective emotional understanding is a must to create and maintain high performing teams. Your teams will not be as productive as they could be if they do not feel valued, respected and supported.

If you are suffering from the effects of alcohol or sleep deprivation, not only will you find it more difficult to manage your own emotions, you are less likely to be pick up on changes of emotions within your team. This could be extremely detrimental if the organisation is going through a period of uncertainty or change.

Leaders lead by example

People follow by example more than they follow instructions and therefore, you need to ensure that you are leading by example. If you want your team to turn up to work engaged, highly energised and provide quality results, then you need to do the same. You can’t simply talk the talk, you need to be able to, and be seen to, walk the walk. A good leader should walk the talk.

Other reasons why you may want to ditch the juice

Your Health

It is well known that excessive drinking can lead to numerous health concerns such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, an increased risk of liver problems, breast cancer, heart disease and suffering a stroke.

Your bank balance

Drinking less can also spare your bank balance. Ask yourself: If you were to abstain from drinking alcohol for the next month, how much would you save?

If you like the odd pint at lunch, a couple after work on a Friday and a big night out on a Saturday, you’d be looking at saving around £250.  If you’re a wine lover, three bottles of wine in a bar will see you £60 down!

If you are interested in calculating how much you could save, try this calculator from Cancer Research UK.

Dry January or Dry Gin

Whether you should partake in dry January or not is entirely up to you and I’m not going to dry and pursued you one way or the other? All I am aiming to do is with this article is to give you some food for thought.

Personally, I’m not a fan of fad diets, detoxes or gimmicky health regimes as I don’t believe that they are sustainable in the long term. Many people who do partake in dry January follow it by some form of binge drinking in early February.

Furthermore, if you enjoy a drink, and there is no other reason for you not to drink, there is no reason to completely deprive yourself of alcohol. However, if you do drink you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

Do I drink out of pleasure or habit? It’s very easy to automatically order that pint with lunch or open that bottle of wine with dinner as you normally If you are enjoying it and it compliments the meal, fantastic. If not, do you really need it, or would an alcohol-free alternative be just as good?

How many units do I consume a week and how often? The recommended drinking levels are 14 units a week spread over 3 or more days. How do you fare against these recommendations?

When do I drink? If you have a tipple to help you sleep at night, look at other things you can do to help yourself get off to sleep. Options include avoiding stimulant before bed, meditating, snooze foods and switching off technology in advance. If you like a glass of wine to wind down after a stressful day, how about a yoga class or gym session?

How much am I spending on alcohol per month? Use the Cancer Research to calculate how much you are spending on alcohol. Is it more than you thought? What else could you be doing with that money?

How much sooner will I reach my fitness goals if I reduce my alcohol intake? If your New Years Resolutions or goals for 2019 include fitness or weight loss, it’s important to know that you are making it much hard for your body to build muscle mass.

If you would like to discuss ways in which you can improve your leadership skills email me at or telephone me on 0161 949 9736.

If you would like further information regarding recommending drinking levels, support for reducing the amount of alcohol you drink or useful contacts relating to the consumption of alcohol support can be found on the NHS’s website.