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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 November 20, 2018

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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2. You put the cart before the horse.

“Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

3. You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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6. You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

7. You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

8. You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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9. You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

10. You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
  • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
  • The more encouraged you’ll be,
  • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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