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4 Effects You Didn’t Know Alcohol Had on Your Brain

4 Effects You Didn’t Know Alcohol Had on Your Brain

Depending on how much you drink, alcohol can seem like an easy way to unwind with friends or a terrible substance that leads you to make rash decisions. When you learn about these 4 effects that alcohol has on your brain, the reasons behind your experiences will become more obvious.

Alcohol Suppresses Glutamate

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that increases brain activity and energy. When you have the proper level of glutamate in your brain, you can think clearly and quickly.

Alcohol suppresses the production of glutamate, leaving your brain in a lurch. Without the right amount of this excitatory neurotransmitter, your brain cannot process information as quickly as it normally does.

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That means slow, sluggish thinking that could lead to poor decision-making, like texting your ex in the middle of the night. This is also the reason its not good to drink and drive. Your reaction time is slower and you are more likely to cause an accident. Anyone who has had a few drinks too many certainly knows what that feels like.

Alcohol Increases GABA

GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, does the opposite of glutamate. GABA tries to keep the brain calm. This balancing act is essential for daily life since your glutamate helps you concentrate at work and GABA helps you relax at the end of the day.

When you drink alcohol, your brain starts to create excess amounts of GABA. That’s why so many people pass out after they’ve had too much to drink.

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Increasing GABA further handicaps your brain, which is already suffering from suppressed glutamate. By slowing the brain’s functions, imbibers can become confused, disoriented, and out of control.

Alcohol Increases Dopamine

If alcohol only slowed the brain down by messing with GABA and glutamate neurotransmitters, far fewer people would abuse it. Instead of feeling happy and enthusiastic, you would probably just feel tired and confused.

Since alcohol also increases dopamine, your brain feels rewarded when you consume a drink. Ideally, dopamine would only reward you when you’ve done something good like exercise or form a new friendship. The neurotransmitter plays a crucial role in those healthy activities, too, but alcohol confuses the system by creating a reward for unhealthy behaviors.

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The increased dopamine is the part that makes people want to drink alcohol. This is also how drugs like cocaine and crystal meth make people feel good. Dopamine is the reason people become addicted to alcohol. It gives them that feel-good sensation and helps them forget about their problems.

Unfortunately, the more that you drink, the more dopamine your brain releases. As you stumble around the room, speaking incomprehensibly, the high levels of dopamine tell your brain that everything is great.

Alcohol Gives the Brain Diminished Returns

Drinking alcohol on occasion might not cause any real harm to the brain, especially if you drink in moderation. Frequent drinkers, however, run into problems as they continue to expect the same positive feelings from alcohol.

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If you’ve been drinking heavily for a few years, your brain’s dopamine production slows. It takes more and more alcohol to create that “feel good” sensation. Once that happens, many people become alcoholics who can’t regain control of their lives without centers for alcohol detox. That’s a frightening way to live.

If you or someone you know cannot stop drinking, that person has probably progressed to the point where his or her brain doesn’t produce adequate dopamine. Consider seeking counseling or rehab to help yourself or that someone you know who has reached this point.

The next time you are out enjoying a few drinks with friends, keep in mind this information. It can help you make better decisions while drinking.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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