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Published on September 21, 2018

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

Drinking alcohol is a big part of the social fabric in the United States. Just last night, my wife and I had friends over to our house for a drink before dinner. We were going to try a new restaurant that had gotten some great buzz. And the hype was well deserved, the food, atmosphere, and service were amazing. As part of the social activity of the evening, we had a drink before the dinner and another one 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 quit drinking.

Here we will look at how to the consequences of drinking to much and how to quit drinking for a healthier body and mind.

How much alcohol is too much?

This is a great question to ask in our discussion of how to quit drinking for a healthy body and mind. Let’s look at several definitions of how much drinking is too much and when it can become a problem.

A recent study that was published in 2018 says it has found the magic number. After analyzing data of 600,000 people who drank between zero and 350 grams of alcohol per week they came to the conclusion that 100 grams per week was the magic number.

People who drink more than 100 grams of alcohol per week, the equivalent to 6 glasses of wine, had increased risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, and fatal aortic aneurysm.

There is also research that has been done that suggests a different number. In other studies excessive drinking is defined as either drinking too much in one sitting or over the course of a week.

For men the number is 5 or more drinks in one sitting or 15 drinks over the course of a week. For women that number is 4 drinks at one sitting or 8 over the course of one week.

According to this definition 29% of the population can be defined as “excessive drinkers” but 90% of those do not fit the definition of alcoholism. So even though someone is characterized as an “excessive drinker” by these studies, they don’t meet the definition of an alcoholic. Interesting.

I used to be neighbors with a guy that drank 12-18 beers a day and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and was never sick. I know another person who felt she was an alcoholic, quit drinking, and joined AA 15 years ago even though she never drank more than 2 glasses of wine at a time. I think it depends on the person.

If drinking is adversely affecting your life in some way, you are most likely drinking too much. It could be that you are too tired and hungover to do the things you like. Maybe you call in “sick” to work more often than you should. You speed through time with your kids in order to get to the beer quicker than you should.

Whatever it might be. If drinking is adversely affecting your life in some way, you might want to take a look at how much you drink.

Now on to exciting ways of how to quit drinking for a healthier mind and body!

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What alcohol does to your body and mind

It’s pretty intuitive that alcohol probably isn’t the best thing for us. We’ve all read or heard about how alcohol in moderation can be good for us. There’s probably some truth to this but it’s best to seriously look at the research before putting too much stock in it. Many of these studies suggest that drinking in moderation equals 1 drink a day for women and 2 per day for men.

When you drink alcohol, what does it do to your mind and body?

When you first drink alcohol, it triggers the release of endorphins which are chemicals that produce feelings of pleasure. This is a good thin, right? Maybe, but alcohol also does other things to you.

Here are some things that drinking alcohol does to your mind and body:

Your body on alcohol

There are many ways in which alcohol affects your body in the short term. Let’s start with the always fun hangover.

A hangover is caused by several factors including dehydration, the fact that alcohol upsets your stomach lining and opens up blood vessels which leads to a greater chance of a headache, and the fact you don’t sleep very well after a night of drinking.

Other short term effects of alcohol on your body include dulled senses, lack of coordination, slurred speech, blurry vision, poor balance, dizziness, nausea, and bad sleep to name a few.

Let’s not forget that the lowered inhibitions can lead to making dumb decisions such as smoking which is bad for your body as well as doing really dumb stuff like driving when you shouldn’t. This puts not only yourself at physical risk but others as well.

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 issues.

Your mind on alcohol

When you first drink alcohol, you may feel more social and talkative. This is the classic “loosen up with a few drinks” feeling. And it’s true that many people become more vocal and outgoing while drinking alcohol.

It’s good to remember though that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The depressive effects of alcohol can be seen when people drink too much and suffer from slurred speech.

The pleasant feeling many people get 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 their short term memory becomes impaired.

If someone drinks too much, they may experience a “blackout” which is not being able to remember what happened. In general, short term effects on the mind are short term memory impairment and blurry thinking. As many of us know it also loosens inhibitions and of course there could be potential consequences of that.

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If you a heavy drinker for years, there are long term effects of alcohol to the brain. One of the biggest ones is developing deficits in brain functioning.

Long term drinking can alter your brains hard wired ability to think, even if you have stopped drinking. In other words, it can cause permanent damage to your brain. The brains of long term drinkers can also diminish in size. Scary.

It’s important to remember that not all of alcohols effects on the mind, both short term and long term, are known. This is an area that is still being studied.

How your body and mind benefits from not drinking

Here’re several ways your body and mind benefit when you decide to quit drinking;

You will sleep better.

This benefits both your body and your mind. Even though alcohol is a depressant and makes you feel more tired in reality, you don’t sleep as well with it in your system.

The reason is it disrupts your alpha waves. When you quit drinking your body will rest better which not only improves your energy level but also your concentration, mood, and mental performance.

You’ll lose weight.

Alcohol is full of empty calories. An average beer contains approximately 150 calories. If you are a weekend drinker and typically have 5 beers Friday and 5 beers Saturday, that’s 10 beers and 1500 calories saved in a week. That’s pushing a full days worth of calories right there.

Not to mention losing the bloated feeling. When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I quit drinking as well. I lost 12 pounds in 3 months.

Your skin will look better.

Since alcohol is a diuretic, you urinate more when drinking on a regular basis. This causes you to be less hydrated than you should be. When you quit drinking, you’ll be more hydrated and this shows up on your skin in a positive way.

You are able to concentrate better.

Several studies have suggested that your concentration levels can improve up to 18% and your work performance can go up by 17% after a month of not drinking any alcohol. That’s substantial.

Your immune system improves.

Know how heavy drinkers are more susceptible to serious infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia? That’s because alcohol suppresses both the innate and the adaptive immune systems.

When you quit drinking, your body is much better at fighting off infections because the immune system is no longer suppressed.

Your head will feel clear and alert.

Alcohol can disrupt the way neurotransmitters work in your brain. You chalk up the foggy brain to a hangover but there’s more happening than that.

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Your neurotransmitters aren’t working as well, especially if you’ve been a heavy drinker for a long time.

After you’ve put alcohol in the rear view mirror for several months, your head will feel more clear than it has in a long time.

Your muscles will thank you.

If you are someone who works out and enjoys staying in shape, your muscles could benefit if you quit drinking. For one thing you put a lot of hard work into building up muscle and staying in shape.

Drowning your muscles in beer and wine only helps add empty calories. There has also been recent studies that suggests that alcohol my decrease the production of human growth hormone which is a key part of muscle building and repair.

How to quit drinking for a healthier body and mind (Step-by-step guide)

So how to quit drinking? It’s all about changing habits.

Let’s review some of the major steps:

Step 1: Admit you have a problem.

Awareness is the first step in wanting to change any situation and it’s just as 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 you have an issue with drinking too much.

No shame in admitting it. Many people have issues doing too much of lots of things.

Step 2: Think about why you should quit.

When we think about the long term effects such as cirrhosis of the liver, it’s not usually enough to make us quit. The reason is because it’s not real yet.

Think about the very real short term effects drinking has. If you drink 4 drinks at a time, 3 days a week and each time takes 2 hours, you’ve “lost” 6 hours a week to drinking. Add in the cost of the alcohol, say $30 a week (and that’s being generous) times 52 weeks a year; you realize you’re spending over $1500 a year on booze.

And then toss in the things you miss out on by drinking it becomes much more real.

Step 3: Focus on being sober.

When you decide to quit drinking alcohol, that has to be front and center of your attention all the time. It has to be the driver of you day, the foremost on your mind.

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Figure out how you are going to achieve not drinking and stick to it. It has to be the framework for your life until you get established as a non-drinker.

Step 4: Change your environments

This is a tough step. You have to change multiple things that have been central to the way you live your life. Probably the most important is some of the people you hang out with.

You can’t go to happy hour anymore or similar type situations. You’ll most likely have to not only cut certain people pretty much out of your life but also alter the places you go.

Step 5: Keep adjusting your attitude

When drinking is a big part of your life, it is difficult under the best circumstances to quit.

You will get mad at people who think they are “helping” you. You will most likely get down on yourself and beat yourself up internally. You might have trouble falling asleep and your mind will think about drinking a lot.

Keep pumping yourself up and know that you are working towards a goal that you know is right for you.

Step 6: Get help from rehab or support groups

Many people are not able to quit drinking on their own. If you find yourself unable to quit drinking on your own, you might want to consider checking into a rehab facility. Another option is joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

There a variety of support groups and rehab facilities that can help you on your road to quitting drinking.

Step 7: Keep on keeping on

If you decide to remove alcohol from your life for good, it will be an ongoing process. Once you get through the initial stage and then are a non-drinker, you will have to work on it as long as you want to not be a drinker.

This isn’t as bad as it sounds though. This is really true of any situation you want bad enough.

If you want to be in great shape, that takes ongoing commitment. If you want to make a million dollars, that takes consistent and ongoing hard work and hustle.

Any major life improvement is constant hard work.

The bottom line

We’ve taken a look at how to quit drinking for a healthier body and mind. It’s readily apparent how much alcohol is woven into the fabric of our society. Like everything else in life that’s a choice and there’s a lot of people who don’t drink.

If you decide that drinking isn’t for you, you are on your way to a healthier body and mind. And don’t forget another way that quitting drinking will benefit you — you’ll save money!

Featured photo credit: thom masat via unsplash.com

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How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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