If you’re considering cutting alcohol out of your life, we’re here to offer a few reasons why it might be worth it. A lot happens to our bodies and brains when we drink, and you may have heard about the benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation. But even the mild advantages you can receive from light drinking don’t cancel out the effects of alcohol we all experience over time. Here are 12 changes you can expect to see if you decide to stop drinking alcohol:
The Benefits of Not Drinking
1. You Look Better
One of the first things people who quit drinking notice is how different they look. The liver breaks down alcohol and releases a toxic by-product called acetaldehyde that dries out your skin and dehydrates other body tissues. Red skin and a flushed face after a couple of drinks isn’t the only setback, though. Alcohol also causes inflammation, so your enlarged blood capillaries can give way to more blackheads, whiteheads, and general breakouts.
If alcohol causes your skin to develop more clogged pores, untreated acne can turn into cysts or lesions that result in permanent scarring. You may already struggle with your skin. If so, quitting drinking may have some unexpected wonders. Your brighter complexion will probably surprise you and those around you within the first week of not drinking.
2. You Feel Better
Imagine no more hangover headaches, dry mouth, and dark circles under your eyes. People who quit drinking report lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, more energy throughout the day, and better concentration and work performance.
Even if you aren’t a daily drinker, a weekend at the pub or a couple of glasses of wine every night can still have negative impacts on your health and mental abilities. Abstaining gives you an opportunity to see just how much alcohol impedes your day-to-day performance and how much better you can feel without it.
3. You Have More Control Over Your Emotions
Despite the fact that people turn to liquor to take their minds off their struggles, alcohol can worsen depression and anxiety. A study by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine revealed that drinking can rewire the brain’s neural pathways and leave people more susceptible to anxiety problems.
Alcoholism and mental health issues tend to go hand in hand. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, the initial calming effects of alcohol are easy to get addicted to. Unfortunately, drinking builds up a tolerance over time, and eventually weakens your brain’s reward system. You need more and more alcohol to feel good, though you can never quite feel as good as you used to when you first started drinking.
A big part of recovery for alcoholics is realizing that there are other ways to cope with mental issues. Developing affirming and healthy outlets for stress and negative emotions enable people to become more resilient and live more productive lives without drinking.
4. Your Mental Health Improves
Alcohol is a depressant that upsets our brain’s chemistry and can leave us emotionally imbalanced. For people who already have a mental health problem linked to brain chemistry, such as Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the effects of drinking can be devastating.
It’s natural to feel more relaxed and less worried after a few drinks, but self-medicating with alcohol can cause us to feel worse every time our buzz wears off. Lowered serotonin levels post-drinking worsen depression, and the mood swings associated with alcohol can cause us to experience painful memories and unresolved feelings while intoxicated. These feelings only make us want to drink more.
People with mental health problems are more likely to suffer from addiction. Quitting drinking puts you on the right path toward better mental health and greater self-awareness.
5. You Can Lose Weight and Get in Better Shape
People who drink daily can consume hundreds if not thousands of extra calories every week. Alcohol has no nutritional value, so the “empty calories” you always hear about really are empty. In fact, your body wants to expel alcohol, so it’s more likely to focus on that rather than reducing fats or carbohydrates and sugars.
Cutting back on drinking or quitting entirely can significantly reduce your caloric intake and help you get in better shape. It is also a great time to take up a daily exercise routine, so you’ll be able to channel your thoughts and energy into something healthy while slimming down.
6. You Sleep Better
Alcohol helps a lot of people fall asleep, but it doesn’t contribute to better sleep. Increased sleep disturbances cause drinkers to suffer from poorer sleep quality than non-drinkers. Less time spent in the REM stage of sleep means our bodies are not as restored and refreshed as they could be every morning. Lack of proper sleep can also contribute to memory problems, concentration issues, reduced cognitive performance, and greater fatigue throughout the day.
7. You Have a Lower Risk of Developing Certain Types of Cancer
You’ve probably heard that drinking small amounts of alcohol can help prevent heart problems and cancer, but stopping drinking can do the same. Alcohol has been linked to several different types of cancer including liver cancer, bowel cancer, and head and neck cancer.
Alcohol isn’t cancer-causing (carcinogenic) in itself. However, a study by the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge showed how alcohol and acetaldehyde can cause the breakdown of white blood cells and alter DNA sequences that increase the likelihood of cancer.
8. More Time to Focus on Things That Matter
You won’t have to waste mornings sleeping off a hangover or lose your evenings to another drinking session at the pub. Instead of structuring your social calendar around alcohol, you can invest your energy into spending quality time with family and friends, pursuing a new hobby, and developing yourself as a person.
9. You’ll Have a Better Sex Life
The idea that alcohol is an aphrodisiac is a myth. In fact, alcohol may actually be harming your sexual performance. Alcohol has been linked to erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and reduced sensitivity. Without booze in the mix, you’re less likely to make impulsive decisions as well. This means you’ll be less likely to end up having sex with someone you don’t know.
10. You’ll Have Fewer Mood Swings
As we explained earlier, alcohol alters our brain chemistry and can cause us to react in extreme ways. Alcohol’s link to aggressive behavior also contributes to greater conflict, which damages our relationships. When you’re sober, you are able to enjoy a more stable mindset and focus on acting out of reason versus pure emotional response.
11. Your Brain Performance Will Improve
Drinking takes a toll on our cognitive performance, so going without can lead to better concentration, productivity, and an all-around more active life. The frontal lobe is most likely to be impacted by alcohol addiction, and brain cell recovery when you quit drinking can continue for years. As your brain boosts back and you rewire important neural pathways alcohol-free, you’ll enjoy a better memory, greater behavioral control, emotional regulation, and problem-solving abilities.
12. You’ll Save More Money
With many people spending over £50,000 on alcohol over the course of a lifetime, it’s safe to say that quitting drinking will do wonders for your wallet. Consider putting the money you save toward a good cause or into a special savings account that can go toward a dream vacation.
How to Reduce Drinking
A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to stop drinking until they try. It’s not even that far-fetched to realize you have a drinking problem until you have to go without alcohol for a while. Luckily, there are some great tips out there on how to reduce drinking and cut back on alcohol. Here are a few of our top recommendations:
- Start with one alcohol-free night and add on a day each week.
- Limit your alcohol consumption to only one drink at dinnertime.
- Learn recipes for mocktails so that you can still enjoy a tasty drink without alcohol.
- Drink slowly and make every second drink non-alcoholic.
- Avoid salty foods that make you thirstier, and only satisfy thirst with water.
- Be aware of standard drink sizes.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Recovery Options
You don’t need drinks to have a good time, and you can live an active and fulfilling life toasting with water instead of champagne.
It may seem hard to imagine your life without drinking, but if you believe you have a drinking problem and want to get help, there are professionals ready and willing to talk to you about your options. Not everyone needs to go to rehab for their alcohol problem, but learning about the various treatment options and recovery process for alcohol addiction can inspire and encourage you to take the next step.
Alcohol abuse recovery starts with the decision to learn more. Reach out to those you trust and talk to them about your drinking problem and desire to get better. While it may take some time to reach a point where you are able to live entirely without alcohol, your choice to sober up for the month and reduce your drinking can set you on the path toward a happier, healthier, and, most importantly, sober existence.