There has never been a better time to prioritize your mental and physical wellbeing. Lockdowns are starting up again and bringing another level of stress and anxiety with them. It’s hard to imagine that we’re experiencing a round two of something we never expected to experience in the first place, but here we are.
Lockdown round one saw record highs in alcohol sales compared to the year prior. According to Nielsen, total alcohol sales (outside of bars and restaurants) increased by 24% during the COVID-19 pandemic, and sales of spirits rose by 27%. Zoom happy hours and quarantine cocktail parties are just a piece of the new normal, but prior to covid-19, in-person happy hours and events were just as common. The troubling part is that many people are turning to alcohol as a coping or comforting mechanism.
The sober-curious movement certainly isn’t anything new, but it is something big. Alcohol has become ingrained in a part of society despite its potentially harmful effects – the sober curious movement just pokes holes in this idea to help you question why it’s not normal to go sober. If you’re struggling with alcohol, it’s crucial that you talk to an expert who can help you to navigate the new normal in healthier ways. If you’ve been flirting with the sober curious movement, these ten benefits might just win you over.
Going Sober for Your Mental and Physical Well Being
- Get Better Sleep: New studies have revealed that the pandemic is destroying our sleeping habits. Between the lack of routine, the shortened daylight exposure, and higher rates of anxiety, our sleeping schedules are really taking a hit. Alcohol compounds these problems by disrupting the slow-wave and REM stage of sleep. Skipping screen time and the after-dinner drink can help you to get better sleep which has benefits for bodies and brains.
- Improve Cognitive Function: In short, it could make you smarter! It’s no secret that alcohol impairs cognition when drunk, but it could also negatively affect our cognitive function for days after drinking! A glass of wine or beer a night won’t do too much damage, but long term heavy drinking can shrink the frontal lobes of the brain.
- Lose Weight: There are a number of factors that come into play when considering weight management and alcohol consumption. Drinks are often filled with sugar and carbs, alcohol can stimulate more hunger when consumed before a meal, and it can make your brain more sensitive and responsive to the smell of food. This often results in overeating and weight gain, especially for moderate drinkers. This is because in people who regularly over-imbibe, the body becomes less efficient at getting energy and nutrients from food, thus letting more go to waste. At any stage, cutting alcohol out of your diet can help you to take control of your weight in good health.
- Help You Look Younger Longer: Alcohol increases oxidative stress and exposes us to more free radicals, AKA the things that cause our bodies to age quicker. These free radicals break down collagen and slow down skin cell renewal, causing the skin to sag and form wrinkles. For a fresh, youthful face in the morning, skip the glass of wine and reach for a square of dark chocolate instead to get free-radical fighting antioxidants!
- Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease: Consuming alcohol can raise our blood pressure to unhealthy levels both as we drink and in the days following it. In fact, daily excessive drinking can raise it to such a consistently high number that in some cases, cutting out alcohol “cold turkey” can cause blood pressure to increase even higher. In this case, it’s best to wean off of alcohol slowly over the course of a couple of weeks. For moderate drinkers, heart-healthy results can take place almost immediately.
- Regulate Sugar Levels: Going sober is especially powerful for diabetics. Alcohol can damage the pancreas which is responsible for determining our insulin levels and response to glucose. This can result in both too much and too little blood sugar, worsening the side effects of diabetes and our body’s ability to regular blood sugar in the future.
- Strengthen Immune System: It’s startling to think that the very thing many people are using as a coping mechanism during the COVID-19 pandemic could make us more susceptible to it, but it’s true. Alcohol can leave us with a higher risk of contracting respiratory diseases due to damaging our immune cells and destroying the good bacteria in our gut that strengthen our immune response. There’s never been a better time to cut it out!
- Promote Healthy Digestion: As we hinted at above, alcohol inhibits the healthy gut microbiota from doing their job and regulating what our body absorbs from our foods. This can lead to bloating, diarrhea, and worsen the symptoms of IBS. To make sure you get the most out of your meals and digest them quickly, allow your gut to heal and repair by taking it easy on the drinks.
- Reduce the Rate of Infertility: Consuming alcohol in excess can cause women to miss their periods and put them at greater risk of infertility. The same is true for men! The good news is that going sober is easier with a friend.
- Have Better Sex: Alcohol can often lead us to the bedroom, but it leaves us hanging when we get there; an increased libido is met by an inhibited central nervous system. This makes our nerve endings less sensitive and dehydrates our bodies which could lead to less vaginal lubrication. There are plenty of reasons to have more sex, but it’s better sober!
Since middle school, many of us have heard about the dangers of alcohol in an attempt to scare us away from drinking. We know what it does, we know that it can be dangerous, and yet alcohol use, even in excess, has become normalized to an unhealthy level. Whether you have a couple of drinks per night or have been tempted to drink more during the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming a bit more curious about sobriety can lead you down the path of better mental and physical wellbeing. As the sober curious movement gains traction, zero-proof “spirits”, sober bars, and mocktail recipes are abounding.
You can join the Facebook group of women who are prioritizing their bodies, brains, and bliss at Women’s Health Conversations to get tips on how to start your own sober journey or to find an alcohol-free “drinking” buddy. If you’re struggling with sobriety or want to learn skills to better prepare yourself for an impending second round of lockdowns, you can reach out to the professionals at SAMHSA for help.