We drink to be social. We drink to relieve stress, or to celebrate, or when we’re sad. We drink because our kids are driving us crazy. We drink at the beach, when a margarita sounds good. And sometimes, this drinking gets to be a little too much. Taking a week (or month) off once in awhile is an excellent way to downshift. It lets us heal the body, and check in with ourselves to ensure we’re using alcohol, rather than abusing it. But as with most “good for you” missions, a sober week can be hard to stick with. It’s easy on Monday, sure, but come Thursday night dinner with friends, or Friday night happy hour, willpower might not be enough. For this week’s Healthy Habits, I’ve got seven inspiring reasons to take a break from alcohol—one for each day of the week of abstinence. They should help in moments when it’s hard to say, “No, thank you.”
- I’ll sleep better. Alcohol causes a wonky sleep pattern where alpha and delta brain waves actually clash, according to a study at the University at Melbourne. The results? You wake up feeling poorly rested, and have symptoms like headaches and irritability.
- I’m supporting my immune system. Alcohol increases inflammation in your body, according to one study. It also changes how your body processes valuable immune-boosting nutrients and can reduce the ability of white cells to kill germs.
- I’ll feel happier. Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps to regulate mood, reports the organization Drinkaware. Less drinking means less anxiety and depression.
- I’ll have more get up and go. According to research by Dr. Jerry Spivak of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, alcohol, even the smallest quantities, damages the bone marrow, where red blood cells are produced. Red blood cells play a key role in delivering oxygen throughout your body, so you’ll feel fatigue if the system isn’t working right. The good news? Red blood cells return to normal when the alcohol leaves the body, according to Spivak.
- I’m babying my heart. Cutting down on alcohol will likely lower your blood pressure, according to The American Heart Association, which notes that too much alcohol can contribute to high triglycerides. “Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats.”
- I’ll be a little lighter. A glass of white wine contains 128 calories, for example, while a martini has nearly 300. Plus, drinking can lead to a loss of inhibition, so people tend to make healthier choices when they are eating sober.
- Heal your liver. Excess fat deposits in the liver build up after prolonged use of alcohol, leading to fatty liver disease. But the liver is the only organ in the body able to regenerate new cells, and the damage can be reversed if it’s not too far along, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Tell us in the comments section, what helps you abstain when you are doing so?