When we tell you that Americans drank more than usual in 2020, you probably won’t be surprised. Most of us have shuttled more cans and bottles to the recycling bin in the last year than ever before, so we’re well aware of the (somewhat literal) weight of that trend. What you might not know, however, is that women and men have not been impacted equally. In a survey of more than 1500 adults aged 30 to 80, reports of heavy drinking by women increased by 41%. Overall, women’s alcohol consumption was up 17% – three percentage points higher than the average. While most people are drinking to relieve boredom or stress, coping with the fallout of a tough year, the experts are concerned. Alcohol, and particularly alcohol dependency comes with its own host of potential problems. One of these is depression, which means that our coping mechanisms could actually be doing more harm than good. If there was ever a year to participate in abstaining from Alcohol it’s not too late to sober up and take a break from booze.
A short period away from alcohol doesn’t just ward off those bad effects; it increases the good. Even better, it takes as little as 30 days to see the benefits of sobriety. In a 2016 British study, participants gave up alcohol for one month. In the end, they largely reported good outcomes like better sleep, weight loss, and a sense of accomplishment. Another small study conducted in the Netherlands showed improved liver health over the same amount of time.
Results of a booze break will vary from person to person and may depend on the individual’s level of alcohol consumption beforehand. However, there are a few additional benefits you could see when you embark on a month or longer of sobriety:
Your immune system, metabolism, and mood will get a boost when you sober up.
Better immunity, metabolism, and mental well-being in a pandemic? Those three things alone may impact how we fare, physically and mentally, over the remainder of this health crisis (and beyond)
You’ll look better.
Alcohol dehydrates the body naturally, which tends to then cause other issues, like breakouts.
You will start thinking clearer.
We’re not sure if this is the alcohol, or if it’s the impaired sleep related to the alcohol, but we’ll take it.
You’ll lower your risk of disease.
Cancer and cardiovascular (heart) disease are two major issues linked to alcohol consumption. Reducing your drinking can reduce the risk of both.
You’ll have a chance to evaluate your relationship with alcohol.
The hard truth is that not everyone can just take a break from alcohol. If you find it extremely difficult or even impossible to resist booze over one month, you may need help to get your drinking under control.
Even for those that are able to return to moderate alcohol consumption after the month is up, the time can provide a sobering (pun intended) examination into their own drinking habits and motivations. This hard look opens the door to make adjustments as necessary to eventually enjoy it safely.
Whether your break ends with you in the “sometimes sober” or “always sober” camp, know that you don’t have to give up everything related to a boozy lifestyle. Across the country, alcohol-free bars have popped up to allow people to socialize without the pressure to drink. And while we’re still at home, you might try an alcohol-free “mocktail” for your Zoom happy hour!