Giving up alcohol, so you’ve made the decision from the start of the new year, you might by now be starting to miss your nightly glass of wine or three. Used by many in a similar vein to coffee—an evening glass of red is often used as an emotional crutch, to fend off the negativity of a bad day or to simply unwind and help you relax. While this is fine in moderation, it’s likely you’ve overindulged during the festive period and are looking for a bit of a rest and reset in the form of a booze-free month, however difficult it might feel at the time.
In the spirit of support, we’ve identified the major health benefits that can be had from giving up alcohol for a month (and beyond) to help keep you on the straight and narrow.
1. Immune system support
Well what do you know, it turns out that taking a break from the alcohol is actually working wonders for your immune system. Inherently an immune-system suppressant, alcohol can make you susceptible to a range of illnesses (and we’re not just talking hangovers). If you’re a regular drinker, taking a break can give your immune system a much-needed chance to get back to its regular strength, which will also hopefully mean less pesky sniffles and under-the-weather feelings for you.
2. Improved sleep quality
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times—alcohol seriously interferes with the quality of your sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drinking alcohol before bed is linked with more slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity—the kind of deep sleep that allows for memory formation and learning. At the same time, another type of brain pattern—alpha activity—is also turned on. Alpha activity doesn’t usually happen during sleep, but rather when you’re resting quietly.
Together, the alpha and delta activity in the brain after drinking may inhibit restorative sleep, by interrupting your circadian rhythm, blocking REM sleep (the most restorative kind), or aggravating breathing problems that make a peaceful slumber difficult.
3. Better digestion
If you’re a big drinker, you’ll no doubt be well aware of the dreaded hangover poop the morning after—a key indicator that your insides aren’t thanking you for last night’s bender. Put simply, alcohol irritates your digestive system. Drinking—even a little—makes your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can, in turn, cause gastritis (the inflammation of the stomach lining). This can trigger stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and irritable bowel symptoms.
Okay okay, so this might be quite “cup half full” of us, but if you’re suffering from FOMO following the festive season, use the time wisely and channel your energy into trying to spin those negative feelings on their head. JOMO—the joy of missing out, is all about choosing to do what makes you happy instead of saying yes to every event because you feel like you have to. Unlike FOMO, JOMO stems from a positive emotion rather than a negative one.
Re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol:
If you’re really struggling your way through booze-free months—it’s even more important to check in with yourself and assess how alcohol makes you feel. If you feel as though you’re dependent on it—particularly in social situations—it’s high time you take a look at how you interact with alcohol.Consider it a welcome opportunity to improve yourself, and take care of yourself emotionally, mentally and physically.