Drinking alcohol is an important part of the social fabric in the United States. Just last night, my wife and I had friends at our house for a drink before dinner. We were about to try a new restaurant that had aroused great enthusiasm. And the hype was well deserved, the food, atmosphere and service were amazing. As part of the evening social activity, we drank a drink before dinner and another at the restaurant.
Part of a very common social scene. But when drinking has become an addiction or is affecting your health, it's definitely a good idea to stop drinking.
Here we will see how the consequences of drinking a lot and how to stop drinking for a healthier body and mind.
How much alcohol is too much?
This is a big question to ask in our discussion of how to stop drinking for a healthy body and mind. Let's have a look at different definitions of how much drinking is excessive and when it can become a problem.
A recent study that was published in 2018 claims to have found the magic number. After analyzing the data of 600,000 people who drank from zero to 350 grams of alcohol per week, they came to the conclusion that 100 grams per week were the magic number.
People who drink more than 100 grams of alcohol per week, the equivalent of 6 glasses of wine, have increased the risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm.
There is also a research that has been done that suggests a different number. In other studies, excessive drinking is defined as drinking too much in a session or during a week.
For men the number is 5 or more drinks in a single session or 15 drinks in the course of a week. For women that number is 4 drinks in one session or 8 in the course of a week.
According to this definition, 29% of the population can be defined as "excessive drinker", but 90% of these do not correspond to the definition of alcoholism. So even if someone is characterized by an "excessive drinker" from these studies, they do not meet the definition of alcoholic. Interesting.
I was a neighbor with a boy who drank 12-18 beers a day and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and never got sick. I know another person who felt alcoholic, stopped drinking and joined AA 15 years ago, even though he never drank more than 2 glasses of wine at a time. I think it depends on the person.
If drinking somehow negatively affects your life, you're probably drinking too much. It could be that you are too tired and hungry to do the things you like. Perhaps you call "sick" to work more often than necessary. You face the time with your children to get to beer faster than you should.
Whatever it may be. If drinking in any way affects your life negatively, you may want to take a look at what you drink.
Now let's move on to exciting ways on how to stop drinking for a healthier mind and body!
What alcohol does to your body and your mind
It's pretty intuitive that alcohol probably is not the best thing for us. We have read or heard about how alcohol in moderation can be good for us. Probably there is some truth in this, but it is better to seriously look at the research before putting too much stuff into it. Many of these studies suggest that drinking in moderation equals 1 drink a day for women and 2 a day for men.
When you drink alcohol, what does it do to your mind and your body?
When you drink alcohol for the first time, it triggers the release of endorphins that are chemicals that produce feelings of pleasure. This is a good thin, right? Maybe, but alcohol also does other things for you.
Here are some things that alcohol does to your mind and your body:
Your body on alcohol
There are many ways in which alcohol affects your body in the short term. Let's start with the hangover always fun.
A hangover is caused by several factors including dehydration, the fact that alcohol upsets the lining of the stomach and opens up the blood vessels leading to a greater chance of headaches, and the fact that you do not sleep very well after a night of drinking.
Other short-term effects of alcohol on the body include dull senses, lack of coordination, distorted language, blurry vision, poor balance, dizziness, nausea and bad sleep, to name a few .
Let's not forget that lowered inhibitions can lead to stupid decisions like smoking that is harmful to your body and also to doing stupid things like driving when you should not. This puts not only yourself at physical risk but also to others.
The long-term effects of alcohol on your body include stomach ulcers, immune system deficiencies, nerve damage, liver disease, pancreatitis, damage to the heart muscle, cancer, vitamin deficiencies and other cardio vascular problems.
Your mind on alcohol
When you drink alcohol first, you may feel more sociable and sociable. This is the classic feeling of "loosing a few drinks". And it is true that many people become more vocal and extrovert while they drink alcohol.
It is good to remember however that alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system. The depressive effects of alcohol can be seen when people drink too much and suffer from slurred speeches.
The pleasant feeling they experience when they drink alcohol is due to the effect it has on the dopamine site in the brain. This is short-lived. When someone continues to drink, short-term memory is compromised.
If someone drinks too much, they might experience a "blackout" that is unable to remember what happened. In general, the short-term effects on the mind are the impairment of short-term memory and fuzzy thinking. As many of us know, it also loosens inhibitions and obviously there could be potential consequences.
If you are a heavy drinker for years, there are long-term effects of alcohol in the brain. One of the biggest is developing deficits in the functioning of the brain.
Long-term drinking can impair the brain's ability to think, even if you've stopped drinking. In other words, it can cause permanent brain damage. Even the brains of long-term drinkers may decrease in size. Frightening.
It is important to remember that not all the effects of alcohol on the mind, both short and long term, are known. This is an area that is still under study.
How your body and your mind benefit from not drinking
There are many ways in which your body and mind benefit when you decide to stop drinking;
You will sleep better.
This benefits both your body and your mind. Even though alcohol is a depressive and makes you feel more tired in reality, you can not sleep well in your system.
The reason is that it disturbs your alpha waves. When you stop drinking your body will rest better, which not only improves your energy level, but also concentration, mood and mental performance.
You will lose weight.
Alcohol is full of empty calories. A medium beer contains about 150 calories. If you are a weekend drinker and you usually have 5 beers on Friday and 5 beers on Saturday, there are 10 beers and 1500 calories saved in a week. This is pushing a whole day of calories right now.
Not to mention losing the feeling of bloating. When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I also stopped drinking. I lost 12 pounds in 3 months.
Your skin will look better.
Since alcohol is a diuretic, you urinate more by drinking regularly. This makes you be less hydrated than you should be. When you stop drinking, you will be more hydrated and this will show up on your skin in a positive way.
You are able to concentrate better.
Several studies have suggested that concentration levels can improve by up to 18% and work performance can rise by 17% after one month of not drinking alcohol. It is substantial.
Your immune system improves.
Know how heavy drinkers are more susceptible to serious infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia? This is because alcohol suppresses both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
When you stop drinking, your body is much better at fighting infections because the immune system is no longer suppressed.
Your head will be clear and alert.
Alcohol can disturb the way neurotransmitters work in your brain. It calculates the foggy brain for a hangover, but it happens more.
Your neurotransmitters do not work well, especially if you've been a heavy drinker for a long time.
After putting the alcohol in the rearview mirror for several months, your head will feel clearer than it has been for a long time.
Your muscles will thank you.
If you are a person who works and enjoys staying fit, your muscles might benefit if you stop drinking. First you have to work hard to build muscle and stay fit.
Drowning the muscles of beer and wine only helps to add empty calories. There have also been recent studies suggesting that alcohol decreases the production of human growth hormone, which is a fundamental part of muscle building and repair.
How to stop drinking for a healthier body and mind (step-by-step guide)
So, how to stop drinking? It is about changing habits.
Let's examine some of the main steps:
Step 1: admit you have a problem
Awareness is the first step in wanting to change any situation and it is equally true here.
When you find yourself thinking more and more often that drinking is creating problems in your life, it's probably time to admit that you have a problem with drinking too much.
There is no shame in admitting it. Many people have problems doing too much.
Step 2: Think about why you should stop.
When we think of long-term effects like cirrhosis of the liver, it's usually not enough to make us stop. The reason is because it is not yet real.
Think about the real short-term effects that drinking has. If you drink 4 drinks at a time, 3 days a week and each time takes 2 hours, you have "lost" 6 hours a week to drink. Add the cost of alcohol, say $ 30 per week (and this is generous) times 52 weeks in the year; you realize you're spending more than $ 1500 a year on alcohol.
And then throwing things that you miss by drinking them becomes much more real.
Step 3: Concentrate on being sober.
When you decide to stop drinking alcohol, it must always be at the center of your attention. It must be the driver of your day, the first in your mind.
Find out how to achieve not drinking and sticking to it. It must be the framework for your life until you are established as a non-drinker.
Step 4: Change your environments
This is a difficult step. You have to change more things that have been central in the way you live your life. Probably the most important is some of the people you go out with.
You can not go to happy hour or similar situations anymore. You will probably have to not only cut certain people from your life but also alter the places you go to.
Step 5: Keep adjusting your attitude
When drinking is an important part of your life, it is difficult, in the best of circumstances, to quit.
You get angry with people who think they are "helping you". Most likely you will get knocked down and beat yourself internally. You may have trouble falling asleep and your mind will think to drink a lot.
Keep pumping and know that you are working to achieve a goal that you know is right for you.
Step 6: Get help from rehab or support groups
Many people can not stop drinking alone. If you can not stop drinking alone, you may want to consider checking into a rehab center. Another option is to join a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous.
There is a variety of support groups and rehabilitation facilities that can help you stop drinking.
Step 7: Keep moving forward
If you decide to remove the alcohol from your life forever, it will be a process in progress. Once you have passed the initial phase and then you are a non-drinker, you will have to work on it until you want to be a drinker.
This is not as bad as it seems though. This is true for any situation you want bad enough.
If you want to be in great shape, this requires constant effort. If you want to make a million dollars, this requires hard work and continuous and constant work.
Any major improvement in life is constant hard work.
The bottom line
We gave a look at how to stop drinking for a healthier body and mind. It is immediately evident how much alcohol is woven into the fabric of our society. Like everything else in life it is a choice and there are many people who do not drink.
If you decide that drinking is not for you, you are on your way to a healthier body and mind. And do not forget another way to stop drinking will benefit you – you'll save money!
Photo credit in the foreground: thom masat via unsplash.com