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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 September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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