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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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    Last Updated on November 11, 2019

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

    To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

    Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

    1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

    Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

    Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

    To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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    2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

    Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

    If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

    Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

    3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

    Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

    Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

    4. Feed Your Brain

    Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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    This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

    Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

    Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

    5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

    According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

    Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

    Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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    6. Write it Down

    If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

    It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

    You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

    7. Listen to Music

    Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

    8. Visual Concepts

    In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

    Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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    Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

    9. Teach Someone Else

    Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

    Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

    10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

    Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

    So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

    Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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