Breaking up with alcohol

By planetm | March 9, 2022

Many of us have started to drink more during the pandemic, so could now be the time to make a change? Ruari Fairbairns outlines the benefits.

We all know that reducing our alcohol intake is a good thing, but it’s not always that easy to do. Challenging yourself to take a break from drinking completely for a period of time – such as Dry January – can result in some major benefits to our health, wellbeing and general lifestyle. It may depend on how heavily you were drinking beforehand, but drinking any alcohol carries some health risks, so cutting this out can help you to lead a healthier life. Here are some of the main areas you’re likely to feel improvements…

Sleep better

Sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy body and mind, but drinking alcohol can alter your sleep cycles and interrupt your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep – the important, restorative kind of sleep that means you wake up feeling rested and ready for a new day. It is also a diuretic, acting on your kidneys which may mean you have more toilet trips in the night than usual. By cutting down on how much you drink, you’re more likely to be able to sleep deeply, waking up feeling refreshed.

Mental health

It’s common for people to reach for a glass at the end of a long and stressful day as a means of relaxation. Alcohol is a sedative, so can offer short-term relief. However, it can unfortunately exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety in the long term, interfering with your natural balance of hormones. Drinking regularly means these hormones don’t get a chance to return to a normal level. By taking a break from drinking, or extending the time between occasions when you are drinking, you are more likely to allow your hormones to settle, reducing chances of feeling that cloud of negative emotions.

Feel good physically

Aside from sleep quality impacting your health, cutting back on drinking can have other positive influences on your overall health and wellbeing. For example, it’s easier to regulate a healthy weight when not filling your body with empty calories in alcohol, in addition to the sugary mixers or the greasy food eaten at the end of the night or while recovering.

Studies have shown that a reduction in alcohol intake can also lead to improved heart rates both during the
day and through the night, reduced risk of strokes, lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, and improved liver function.

Fix your relationships

You may think that alcohol and your relationships come hand in hand, especially if you are used to socialising with your friends and loved ones with alcohol in the equation. However, reducing your alcohol intake can help to improve your relationships. Consider the phrase ‘you can’t fill a cup with an empty jug’, well, this can be applied to trying to be a good friend or family member. It is much easier to be present and emotionally equipped to support someone else when you are feeling happy and healthy yourself. Not so easy on a hangover!

Improved immunity

Consuming alcohol, especially in large volumes or regularly over time, can temporarily knock out your immune system as it impairs your immune cells’ response to external threats.

By reducing your alcohol intake, you’re limiting the damage that alcohol can do to your microbiome, immune cells and the incredibly important fine hairs in your airways that help to clear pathogens – all of which assist in strengthening your immunity.

Be more productive!

If we are sleeping better as a result of drinking less, while our bodies are functioning more normally as our hormones are level, we are removing multiple barriers that might have been holding us back from being productive. Not only are we more likely to be able to concentrate, but equally, we will have the time and energy to focus on hobbies and projects that may otherwise fall by the wayside.

You can see how just one of these benefits could make a big difference to how you feel throughout the day, giving you a new lease of life. So imagine how great it would feel to experience a few, or maybe even all of them? One positive change can have a knock-on effect, allowing you to feel happier and healthier.

Discover more

This article first appeared in issue 21 of Planet Mindful magazine. Want to live more mindfully? Check out more mindfulness techniques here.

Join the Planet Mindful community and make a pact to prioritise your self care – try an issue here for just 99p!