It's easy for our alcohol consumption to get away from us sometimes. One glass becomes two, two glasses become three, and all of a sudden the bottle's gone.
If it's catching up with you, you might be considering 1 month alcohol free.
And with the New Year approaching, there's no better time to look at the benefits to your mind and body of giving your liver a breather.
Not only are there great benefits mentally, physically and financially, but I've got the best mocktail recipes to try so you can still enjoy that Friday afternoon drink.
It's important to remember that not everyone will experience the same things at the same time, or even in the same way. This is just a general guide.
The First 7 Days Without Alcohol - The Benefits
The first 7 days without alcohol can often be the most challenging, especially when Friday afternoon rolls around.
Here are the major benefits you'll notice after a 7-day break from alcohol.
Improved Sleep Patterns
So, you think that extra glass of red is helping you to fall asleep? You may actually be right, but what type of sleep exactly?
The science of sleep is one of constant analysis, but these are the basics.
Our bodies cycle through 3 sleep stages during sleep - Light, Deep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM is essential for good quality restorative sleep.
When alcohol is consumed, you typically fall straight into a deep sleep. This often means missing the crucial rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
While you are supposed to have between six and seven cycles of REM sleep a night, you typically only have one or two when you’ve been drinking.
This can cause you to wake feeling tired, even if you’ve had a full night's sleep. Even one alcoholic drink will have a negative effect on sleep.
Heads up: I cover all of these benefits in even more detail over on my Instagram account. Be sure to head to my reel section to see the weekly breakdowns.
When you consume alcohol, you lose around four times as much liquid as you drink. Dehydration can cause headaches, as your organs take water from the brain due to their own water loss. Salt and potassium levels also reduce, which can impact nerve and proper muscle function while also causing fatigue and nausea.
Giving up alcohol can help you keep well hydrated, which is in turn beneficial for your brain. Your mood and concentration will be more stable, and the frequency of headaches is likely to decrease.
Hydration is also a huge contributor to glowing skin and reducing premature ageing.
You might be surprised by the amount of calories in your favourite alcoholic drink. One bottle of wine has 600 calories (2400kjs) on average, which is equivalent to 1 Big Mac or 2.5 Mars Bars.
By replacing these empty calories with healthy, nutrient-dense food you will be feeling incredible in no time.
Added Bonus: Money Saved
The amount of money saved will be different for everyone, but I recommend you make this month fun by putting aside the money you would usually spend on alcohol.
Treat yourself to something nice at the end of the month.
Or, splash some cash on some of the awesome alcohol free beverages out there.
The Benefits Of 2 Weeks Alcohol-Free
Two weeks alcohol-free brings even more benefits, and by now you should be well into the swing of things.
You'll be experiencing all the benefits of Week 1, plus:
Stomach Lining Returns To Normal
If you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn, you may find it's settling down by the end of the first week. This is because alcohol irritates your digestive system.
Drinking - even a little - makes your stomach produce more acid than usual which can cause inflammation of the stomach lining. Antacids to the ready! By now, your stomach lining should have returned to normal meaning less unpleasant digestive symptoms.
Clearer Mind, Less Brain Fog
We discussed in Week 1 how alcohol can cause a disruption in sleeping patterns, affecting your crucial REM sleep after just one alcoholic drink. After almost 2 weeks alcohol free, your normal sleeping patterns will have returned, resulting in you waking up fresh and energised.
Dehydration can also cause lethargy and a fuzzy brain, so the increase in hydration helps with a clearer mind too.
Skin and Eyes May Begin To Clear
Hydration has continued to improve during Week 2, so you may find by Day 14 your skin looks clearer and the whites of your eyes are whiter. Hydration plays a huge part in skin health, and without decent water intake (or in this case, the alcohol causing the body to lose water) premature ageing can take place.
Another interesting fact is that alcohol can inhibit nutrition absorption, which also plays a huge role in skin health. That green smoothie is only good for you if your body has the ability to absorb it.
Are you one of those people who goes red and blotchy after a few too many? This is due to the alcohol bringing the blood up to the tissue, causing inflammation which is the second most common cause of skin ageing after sun damage.
Enjoy a virgin mojito mocktail in the shade instead!
3 Weeks Without Alcohol - The Benefits
By the end of 3 weeks without alcohol your body is beginning to see some true benefits. Even if you don't notice them straight away - they are happening! You are getting closer to your goal of 1 month alcohol free.
You'll be experiencing all the benefits of Week 1 and 2, plus:
Blood Pressure Reduces
Ever read a headline or an article that tries to tell you alcohol is good for your heart? I'm sorry to break it to you, but it's a myth.
Alcohol does not have any health benefits that can't be obtained by other foods.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause your blood pressure to rise both in the short and long term. After 3-4 weeks without alcohol, your blood pressure will start to reduce. That's good for your heart and your overall health and wellbeing!
A break from alcohol can greatly impact eye health. Binge drinking (which is only 6 standard drinks for men and 4 for women) can cause a number of problems with the health of your eyes, including dry eye and cataracts.
You may also notice your eyes have become brighter and whiter by now.
Sleeping Patterns are Regular and Consistent
By now you may have found a regular sleeping pattern and will be feeling the benefits of truly restorative sleep. You might even be finding you need less sleep and wake feeling more fresh, because the quality of sleep you are getting is so much higher.
Note: if you are still finding it difficult to fall/stay asleep by Week 3, it can't hurt to have a chat to your doctor.
You will likely be experiencing less brain fog and overall be more productive. A big contributing factor here is your better quality sleep and all that refreshing hydration.
You should be noticing that it's easier to concentrate for longer periods.
Better Kidney Health
Alcohol causes changes in the function of the kidneys and makes them less able to filter the blood. Alcohol also affects the ability to regulate fluid and electrolytes in the body.
Without proper-functioning kidneys, our bodies become overwhelmed with the waste in our blood and may start to break down. We need to keep them strong and working their best. With 3 weeks booze free, those kidneys will be feeling great and working much more efficiently.
Benefits of 1 Month Alcohol Free
You're doing so well and you should be feeling amazing!
After 4 weeks alcohol-free, you'll be experiencing all the benefits of Week 1, 2 and 3, plus:
Liver Health Improves
Liver fat will now be reduced by up to 15% after 1 month alcohol free. With the liver playing a part in over 500 vital processes, you give your body a better chance of removing contaminants, converting food nutrients, storing minerals and vitamins, helping to fight infections and maintaining hormone balance by keeping your liver in good condition.
Glucose Stabilises and Cholesterol drops by up to 5%
With your body's ability to better absorb nutrients and filter out the nasties, your glucose levels will stabilise. That's good for reducing your risk of diabetes, glaucoma and organ damage. It's also got the potential to drop your cholesterol by up to 5%.
You might think that having that extra wine makes you feel more relaxed and assists with easing anxiety, but unfortunately it's just making it worse. While it may initially 'take the edge off' and make you feel relaxed, alcohol is a depressant.
Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off.
Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking.
Likely To Be More Mindful of Alcohol Consumption Moving Forward
Statistics show that a 1 month break from alcohol can have a positive effect on the amount someone drinks for 6 months following the break.
This means for the next 6 months (hopefully longer) you will be more mindful of how much alcohol you are consuming, and pay more attention to the knock-on effects. You may even consider abstaining for a little longer.
So you've made it 1 whole month without alcohol!
Congratulations for doing your mind and body a huge favour by taking a one month break from the booze. It might not have been easy but it was no doubt worth it.
You've done so many great things for your mind, your body and your wallet! You're having a better night's sleep, you can concentrate better, your blood pressure has decreased as has your risk of stroke and diabetes, your liver and kidneys are working better, your body is absorbing all those great nutrients more efficiently, you're less anxious and moody, and you've probably saved a chunk of money.
If you're yet to give it a go but those benefits sound really good to you, then what are you waiting for? It's only a month and there are so many delicious mocktails to try, you might find that booze doesn't have the same appeal afterwards.
If you're inspired to keep going a little longer, or you have a friend who might benefit from 1 month alcohol free, please share this article with them!
Have you tried a month off the booze? Let me know how you felt and share any tips or tricks you've got that helped make it easier.
Note: This article applies to moderate drinkers, not those who are clinically dependent on alcohol.
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