“Not drinking is the best diet in the world. And when you stop drinking, people will not shut up about how good your skin looks.”
– Author and sobriety advocate Sarah Hepola
Even if you don’t feel you meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, there are numerous benefits of stopping or cutting back on your alcohol consumption. Alcohol abstinence is not only great for your and complexion and waistline, but studies have shown that livin’ la vida sober can decrease stress and boost happiness levels, fertility, and even libido (yes, recovery is good for your sex life. Who knew?).
Read on to learn more about why you should quit drinking and give teetotalism a try.
1. You’ll Lose Weight
While it’s no secret that dropping alcohol from your diet can help you drop the pounds (after all, two beers is the equivalent of 400+ calories), quitting drinking can also help you consume less overall as well.
According to research published by the American Obesity Society, alcohol heightens people’s taste buds, which results in people eating more than they should (30 percent more, according to the study’s results). Remove the nightly booze binges, and there’s a good chance you’ll remove those 3am pizza cravings and stubborn extra pounds, too.
2. You’ll Sleep Better
Although it might seem like you’re getting a good night’s rest after a couple of drinks (it’s called a nightcap for a reason, right?), in reality, the opposite is true. Although alcohol makes you sleepy and can help you fall asleep faster, a review of 27 different studies have suggested that drinking actually disrupts Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which makes you feel less rested. Humans need an adequate amount of REM sleep in order to recharge from the day’s events. If REM sleep is reduced, people wake up feeling tired and unable to function as well as they would have if they’d gone to bed sober.
3. You’ll Have Younger-Looking Skin
Alcohol has been known to aggravate psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. A survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society found that as little as one drink caused rosacea flare-ups in two out of three of the study’s participants. Trade the glass of wine for a glass of water and you’ll likely see a decrease in acne and problems associated with dry skin.
4. You’ll Be Happier
If you’ve been a heavy drinker for several years, you may experience mood swings when you first stop drinking. Fear not. This is normal. Depending on how long and heavy you’ve been abusing alcohol, it may take several months or even a year or two for your body and mind to readjust.
The results of two studies suggest that once this readjustment period is completed, you may find yourself feeling happier and more content:
Study 1: (Un)Happy Hour—While many may not realize it, alcohol is a depressant, and when you drink, your serotonin levels are lowered, which is why you can sometimes feel sad while drinking. In fact, a 1991 study found that after 45 minutes of drinking, a person’s serotonin levels are lowered to that of a person who has clinical depression.
Study 2: Drinking to Depression—While some may habitually drink in excess because they are depressed, a 30-year study found that most of the time, it’s actually the other way around: People are depressed because they drink in excess. Drinking heavily over a long period of time can cause depression.
5. You’ll Have Less Stress
Many people use alcohol to de-stress and unwind after a long day at work, but when done in excess, drinking can actually lead to more stress, not less. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol causes your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol—and the more you drink, the more cortisol your body produces. One study found that people’s hormone levels rose by three percent for every additional unit of alcohol consumed in a seven-day time period.
6. Your Sex Life May Improve
Although alcohol can increase sexual arousal and pleasure in women, alcohol abuse can cause erectile dysfunction in men, sometimes resulting in permanent damage. For women, alcohol abuse can reduce their chances of conceiving.
7. Abstinence Can Be Good for the Soul
People often drink in order to cope with stress and anxiety-provoking situations. Walking alone into a party full of strangers can be tough, so we make a beeline for the keg as soon as we walk in the door. Working in a job that we don’t enjoy can be stressful, and so we cope by hitting Happy Hour with coworkers. While using a substance to tolerate life’s little and big discomforts is not necessarily a bad thing, it robs us of what could be important learning and personal growth opportunities. Instead of practicing being brave by singing karaoke sober, for example, we drown our inhibitions in too many Rum and Cokes. Instead of quitting that job we hate and pursuing our passion, we numb our pain with weekend TV and Tequila binges.
Perhaps the Buddha put it best when, speaking about alcohol and other intoxicants, he said: “The mind is confused enough as it is and doesn’t need any help.”
Abstinence (even if just for a few weeks or months) can give you some much-needed mind clarity, and you may find yourself making some positive life changes as a result.
Should You Quit Drinking? What to Do If You Can’t Decide
Many people become paralyzed with indecision when debating whether or not to quit drinking. “Am an alcoholic?” they wonder, “Or do I just like to party?” This ‘am I or aren’t I’ line of questioning can leave people unsure about what the next step should be. They know they’d probably be happier and healthier if they stopped, but labels like “alcoholic” just seem so serious and permanent.
If you find yourself in this predicament, it might help if, rather than focusing on the name for your relationship with alcohol, focus on the desired result instead. What are you hoping to accomplish by quitting? Do you wish to lose weight? Do you want to take a break from the continual merry-go-round of parties and put your career or relationship first? Whatever your reason may be for quitting, the ‘whats’ and ‘for how longs’ part of the equation aren’t important. If you want to give sobriety a try, then do it! Take it a day at a time and see how you feel.