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

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Become 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.

    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. He 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.

    He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” 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.”

    He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

    Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    He 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.

    He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    He has no real motivation; he 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.

    His 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.”

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    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:

    “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:

    • He riles 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.
    • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

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

    Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances 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!

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

    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.

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    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.

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

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (He’s 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. 

    Becoming the Master of Your Mind

    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!

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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