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How Even Moderate Drinking May Negatively Affect Your Brain

How Even Moderate Drinking May Negatively Affect Your Brain

Many people believe they can engage in moderate drinking without much risk to their brain health, especially since alcohol is often presented as having some health benefits. However, reports of the advantages of moderate drinking may well have been exaggerated. Alcohol is a powerful toxin, and every bit of booze you drink has a profound effect on the brain.

How Alcohol Works In The Brain

Alcohol disturbs normal brain function by interfering with neurotransmitters. These powerful brain chemicals relay signals between nerve cells, allowing your body to function optimally. Neurotransmitters have an important role in regulating mood, movement, thinking, vital bodily processes, and behavior.

You only have to look at the slurred speech, difficulty balancing, and mood swings of a drunk person to see the evidence that alcohol affects your brain. While you may think moderate drinking doesn’t do any damage, science may suggest otherwise.

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“But I’m Dot Nrunk!”

If you’re not slurring or swaying down street, it is tempting to deny the impact of alcohol on your brain. You may think you have learned to ‘hold your liquor’ if you’ve built up a tolerance to alcohol through moderate drinking.

It is true that regular drinkers may feel less drunk and incapacitated after a tipple. But research shows that drinking moderately still has an impact on judgment and brain performance — without drinkers being aware of it.

A 2013 study, carried out by the University of Waikato in New Zealand, measured driving performance at various periods of time after drinking alcohol, as well as participants’ subjective experience of how drunk they felt.

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As testing went on, volunteers reported feeling like the effects of alcohol were wearing off, yet their driving and cognitive performance was significantly worse than before. This effect was shown with even a moderate level of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05.

Some Sobering Studies

Studies of adolescents have shown that brain structure and function can be compromised by drinking as few as 20 drinks per month, with important brain networks affected.

Moderate drinking and building tolerance are no safeguards against damage to perception, cognition and judgment. A 2008 review published in “Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology revealed that while you can learn to think more quickly as your tolerance builds up, you are just as likely, if not more likely, to make alcohol-related mistakes.

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Further evidence shows that people who are mildly tolerant to alcohol may cope with tasks learned while intoxicated, but can be completely confused when faced with unfamiliar tasks. Just because you feel confident getting home safely from your regular bar, don’t expect to be as competent if you have a drink elsewhere.

Long-Term Effects Of Moderate Drinking

Drinking alcohol can inhibit the production of new brain cells, according to a study published in “Neuroscience” in 2012. Lab rats exposed to moderate amounts of alcohol every day produced 40 percent fewer brain cells than a control group of teetotal rats over a two-week period.

Researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Jyvaskyla discovered the anomaly in a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. The worry is that these rats showed no impaired motor responses in the short term, highlighting the risk of moderate drinkers not taking the impact of alcohol seriously.

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The researchers indicated the need for more studies to show whether moderate drinking could have an adverse effect on learning and memory in the long term.

The Myth Of Moderation

The media often quotes statistics to ‘prove’ that people who drink moderately live longer and have healthier hearts than those who abstain, but these results could easily be interpreted differently.

Rather than alcohol (known to be a toxin) conferring some kind of miraculous health benefits, it is just as likely that people who choose to drink moderately tend to be relaxed, sociable people with healthy, balanced lifestyles — which will make you live longer.

Learning how to find balance, relax, and manage stress is more effective at protecting your health than moderate drinking. Developing your inner resources and strength is always better than relying on a bottle for stress relief or relaxation.

Featured photo credit: Dustin Gaffke via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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