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6 Surprising Health Benefits I Experienced After Giving Up Alcohol

6 Surprising Health Benefits I Experienced After Giving Up Alcohol

Just over a year ago, I gave up drinking for good. I’d tried unsuccessfully to quit twice before, but I’m proud to say that this time, I stuck with the decision. Giving up alcohol was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The hardest part for me wasn’t the alcohol itself, it was the criticism and ostracism I faced from others. Many people view it as an insult and anti-social move when you’re not drinking and they are.

Drinking alcohol is so deeply ingrained in our culture, many people couldn’t picture a life without it. People also assume that because alcohol is legal and everyone else does it, that it is safe. However, alcohol is said to be the most harmful drug of them all according to David Nutt, MD, a neuropharmacologist at Imperial College in London.

Dr. Nutt rated 20 drugs based on the various harms caused by each drug, both to the individual and the harm caused to others. Alcohol topped the list over heroin, crystal meth and crack as the most harmful drug anyone can take.

The editorial and the Nutt study appear in the Nov. 1 Online First edition of The Lancet.

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    Furthermore, alcohol is said to play a role in 40% of all violent crime in the USA.

    If this isn’t enough to give you second thoughts about alcohol, here are six ways my life has improved by quitting.

    1. My confidence improved

    Alcohol is known as a social lubricant, and I had come to depend on it in order to feel comfortable in a social setting. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually using alcohol to cover up my shyness.

    I felt very awkward the first few times I went out sober, but it was surprising just how quickly I became used to it. I now enjoy nightclubs and bars more sober than when I used to drink. It gives me confidence knowing I don’t have to be drunk to start a conversation with someone. This is the kind of confidence that stays with you and isn’t gone by the morning when you have sobered up.

    2. Peace of mind

    Alcohol impaired my judgement and caused me to make some really bad choices. I will admit it, I have driven drunk more than once and had unprotected sex with girls I met in bars. I played Russian roulette with my health and freedom and I’d been let off the hook more than once.

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    There are many people around the world that will be paying for one bad, alcohol induced, choice for the rest of their lives. I was strong enough to quit while I am ahead.

    3. My body fat percentage dropped

    After a few months off the booze, my body fat dropped from 15% to 10%. My pot belly and love handles shrunk and now my muscles feel more firm. I don’t know if this was down to me quitting drinking, or not stopping at McDonald’s for an oversize Big Mac meal on the way home from a big night out. It’s probably both combined.

    4. I gained an extra productive day per week

    I have to say the thing I like best about not drinking is waking up  fresh and feeling great on the weekend. I don’t miss the hangovers – which had become two-day affairs now I am over 30 – and I cant think or work when I am hungover, so all I want to do is stay indoors and watch movies. A hangover day becomes a completely wasted day. Now that I don’t drink, I have gained an extra day a week to catch up on whatever I need to get done.

    5. I saved thousands of dollars

    I used to spend a lot going out. A night out would cost me in the range of $100 – $300. I weigh over 200lbs, so to get me drunk takes a lot. On an average night I would spend between $100 – $150 on booze. Then I would get generous and buy others drinks too, and then we always had to stop on the way home for McDonalds or Mexican food.

    Not drinking for one year has saved me somewhere upwards of $8k. Think of the holiday you could buy yourself at the end of the year with the money you saved.

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    6. My overall health and mood improved

    A surprising thing that happened after around one month of no drinking was that I found myself with this amazing mental clarity. I now feel more focused and clear about everything. I used to get so depressed the day after I drank, I’d start to question my life direction and it made me feel terrible.

    Now I feel healthier, my liver is working better and my whole system is thriving because it’s not getting poisoned two times a week.

    Don’t forget that that’s what alcohol really is, it’s legal poison.

    The 30 Day No Drinking Challenge

    The holidays are the best time of year. The downside is, too much of the good life during the festive season can leave you feeling sluggish, bloated and a bit flabby around the mid section. If you have been contemplating getting back in shape, there has never been a better time to take the ”30 Day No Drinking Challenge’. Nothing will whip you back into shape faster than a good fitness program and a month off the booze.

    So I hereby challenge you to take the ’30 Day No Drinking Challenge’. If alcohol doesn’t have control over your life, then surely you can survive without it for 30 days? If you can’t quit any vice in your life for 30 days, you need to reconsider who or what is really in control in your life. In fact, many people don’t realize they are addicted to something until they try to quit.

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    What you can expect…

    • The first few nights will feel weird, although you will be surprised at how quickly you become used to not drinking.
    • The cravings will be at their worst when you encounter one of your triggers, such as watching a football game with your friends or being at a social gathering where everyone else is drinking.
    • It will feel strange to be at a party and not have a drink in your hand. It almost feels like you are naked. You can get around this by substituting your alcoholic drink with an iced water with lemon – so as not to attract too much attention – most people will assume it’s alcohol.
    • Remember, to get the benefits of weight loss, you wont be able to substitute alcohol with soft drinks. It needs to be a low calorie drink.
    • Weekends will be the hardest time. Remember, you only have to get through four of them. The hardest part of quitting for me was on Friday nights. After working the whole week, it was really hard not to want to have a beer to celebrate a successful week.
    • I have found going to the gym on a Friday or Saturday night helped. After I finished a good workout, I didn’t want to ruin it by drinking.

    Tips

    • Don’t avoid social gatherings altogether, but do let everyone know your are doing the 30 day challenge and it is important to you that you do not cheat. This will make it less likely people will try to pressure you into having a drink.
    • Try to find a buddy to do the challenge with and hold each other accountable.
    • Put your money where you mouth is. Give your friend $100 that they get to keep it if you cheat.
    • Keep the end goal in mind. Think of how proud you will be after 30 days.

    So I challenge you to give it a try – stop drinking for at least 30 days and see how good you feel. You may find that you are indeed better off without it after all.

    Feel free to post your comments and progress in the comments section below. Good luck!

    Featured photo credit: David Blackwell via flickr.com

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    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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