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Embracing Sobriety in the New Year: Dry January, Sober Spaces, and the Sauna House Experience

Dry January is a Little Extra Special to Sauna House

On January 3, 2024 our CEO and Founder, Andrew, celebrated 11 years of sobriety! Congrats Big guy!!! Andrew has been very open about his recovery journey and how sauna and cold therapy were essential pieces of it. For him, it all started with a 30-day cold water challenge. Thousands of days later, he’s never looked back. “Cold is intense,” Andrew writes, “you can’t sugarcoat that! It’s a shock to your system, and for people unfamiliar with the practice, it seems a little crazy. But cold-water therapy works, and it truly changed my life.”

One of the biggest challenges that Andrew encountered in the early days of his sobriety journey was navigating social life. Meeting up for a drink after work or cutting loose over the weekend are such normal parts of our everyday lives, but for people choosing not to partake in alcohol, those environments can be pretty anxiety-inducing. Keep in mind that a decade ago, fancy mocktails and trendy NA aperitifs were hard to find on a standard bar menu, and the sobriety landscape was a little different.

This lived experience was the foundation for the environment that Andrew wanted to curate in our bathhouse spaces. How do we bring people together in a way that is fun, social, and relaxing but also good for you? How do we change how people think about socializing and create social wellness spaces that become the new and improved local watering holes?

Enter Sauna House. A space to meet up with your community, a space where you’re guaranteed to leave feeling a whole lot better than you felt when you walked in the doors.

Andrew Lachlan - Sauna House CEO and Founder
Andrew at the future Sauna House Charlotte location.

So What is Dry January:

For some of us, our relationship with alcohol is all or nothing, and that’s important to honor. For others, the relationship may not feel as complicated, and that’s great too!

In recent years, it’s become increasingly popular for even just social drinkers to abstain from alcohol for the first month of the year. Why? Simply to examine our relationship with this substance, start our new year off in a more health-conscious way, and honestly detox after the rich holiday season.

The concept of Dry January all started in 2011 with runner, Emily Robinson. To prep for a February half marathon, she cut out all alcohol for the entire month of January. The difference in her race training and overall well being were incredible. During this time, she cut weight, had increased energy, and experienced some of her most succession running times to date.

In January 2012, Robinson joined Alcohol Change UK and decided to repeat her alcohol-free January. This led to increased traction with the concept and more discussions about the benefits of abstaining from alcohol. From here, the idea for the Dry January campaign was born.

The first official Dry January campaign began with about 4,000 participants in 2013 as a public health initiative launched by the British non-profit organization Alcohol Change UK. It has grown significantly since then, with over 175,000 participants in 2023 [2]. A 2019 University of Sussex study found that 71% of people who participated reported having better sleep, 67% felt more energy and more than 50% reported weight loss and healthier skin [3]. The study suggests that reducing alcohol consumption does wonders for your health. For many, it even sets you up to be more mindful of consumption months after the challenge ends.

It is important to note, that the campaign's aim is not long-term sobriety but long-term control over alcohol consumption. It encourages individuals to understand their subconscious triggers and experience the benefits of not drinking to empower them to make the best decisions for themselves throughout the remainder of the year.

As 2024 gets rolling, we have noticed that many are embracing the Dry January movement! We’ve also noticed a broader shift towards health-conscious living in general, with sauna and cold water therapy being huge components of that shift. The New York Times reports that “15 to 19 percent of U.S. adults in recent years pledged to participate in Dry January” [1]. When you look at Google search trends, there is a clear spike in search volume for “dry January,” starting on January 1 after what is typically a night of binge drinking and staying up way past you bed time for New Year's Eve.  Then you see the search volume fall way off after about two weeks in, along with so many other resolutions. This fact leaves us feeling inspired to create spaces, cultures, and communities that help people get over that two-week hurdle, and support them all year long.

The Rise of Sober Spaces:

As of late, there has been an emergence of more sober spaces, and we are so proud to be a part that moment! Alcohol-free zones are redefining socializing, offering inclusive environments where everyone can feel comfortable.

Sober spaces often emphasize building genuine connections and community. When your beer goggles are off, you can argue that our experiences and interactions with one another are far more intentional and sincere.

Sober spaces can take many different forms! Think about your local tea cafe, a run club meet-up, most spaces focused on experience over consumption, and of course Sauna House.

Happy Dry January! Happy New Year! And happy HOT COLD RELAX, friends.

Citing our sources:

  1. Moyer, Melinda Wenner (Jan. 2, 2024). “What Happens to My Body During Dry January? The physical benefits are likely numerous. But there may be psychological ones, too.” In The New York Times.
  2. Alcohol Change UK, “The Dry January Story”. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/
  3. Ford, Anna (January 2, 2019) “How ‘Dry January’ is the secret to better sleep, saving money and losing weight” in US University of Sussex.
January 10, 2024
By: Gavin Jocius