If this is the year Dry January extends well beyond winter, you’re on the right track. Science shows choosing to be sober, or avoiding alcohol, has myriad positive impacts on your overall wellbeing at every age. As society begins to adopt the idea that opting for the non-alcoholic beverage over the cocktail is one of the better choices you can make, it’s important to tout the positive effects of sobriety on your health.
Physical Health Benefits
Improved Organ Function
Taking care of your organs is one of the positive effects of sobriety. Your organs work hard to keep your body running smoothly. Drinking alcohol can stress or impair these functions, leading to organ damage. The good news is, quitting drinking, even if it’s for only a month, allows your body time to heal. This is particularly true in the case of your liver. Being sober greatly contributes to liver health and regeneration. When your liver doesn’t have to process alcohol, it can maximize its effectiveness at processing blood and aiding digestion.
Leaving alcohol out of your daily life also contributes to your overall cardiovascular health, and reduces your risk of heart disease. And if that wasn’t enough reason to hit the ground running toward sobriety, enhanced lung function and a decrease in respiratory issues might be. In short, not drinking alcohol greatly contributes to happier, healthier organs and body systems.
Increased Energy and Vitality
We all love a good night’s rest, but drinking alcohol can disrupt sleep. This might seem counterintuitive. Alcohol’s sedative properties can initially make you feel drowsy, and allow you to fall asleep quickly. However, drinking before bed can cause you to wake up once your liver enzymes begin to metabolize the alcohol. The result can be waking up in the middle of the night or waking up tired, which leads to more caffeine intake, which can then lead to more drinking in the evening to offset the compensation. It can become a vicious cycle. Instead of battling limited sleep, skip the evening drink and replace it with tea, a carbonated beverage or a mocktail.
To this end, sobriety also enhances your physical stamina and endurance. Your body is able to absorb more nutrients when you’re not drinking alcohol, and your metabolism also improves when not bogged down by a daily drinking habit. Additionally, your immune system functions better when you’re sober, which contributes to decreased susceptibility to illness. The healthier you are, the easier it is to get after your fitness goals!
Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
Enhanced Mental Clarity and Cognitive Function
If you’ve ever had a few too many, you know that feeling: a foggy brain, inability to focus and anxiousness. So it makes sense that removing alcohol from the equation and staying sober facilitates better emotional stability and mental health. Alcohol is a depressant, which can disrupt the neurotransmitter balance in your brain. It also affects the part of your brain that controls inhibition. The result is immediate relaxation and more confidence, but these feelings quickly give way as the chemicals in your brain change due to drinking, resulting in increased negativity, anger, depression and anxiety.
Staying sober keeps your brain active and engaged, reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving mood regulation and emotional resilience, and enhancing your overall mental well being and happiness. A clearer, healthy mind typifies the positive effects of sobriety.
Strengthened Relationships and Social Connections
While we might think a little “liquid courage” improves our ability to communicate, making us feel bold and brave, the opposite is typically true. Not drinking improves communication skills, and for those who have dealt with addiction and alcoholism, it offers an opportunity to rebuild trust and repair damaged relationships. As sobriety takes greater hold in our larger social construct, it’s becoming a great way to establish healthy, supportive social networks.
Long-term Health Benefits
Decreased Risk of Chronic Diseases
Chronic drinking can lead to chronic disease, so it goes without saying that not drinking helps reduce those risks. People who are sober greatly decrease their risk of liver cirrhosis and liver damage. Studies also show those who don’t drink can reduce their chances of developing certain cancers and neurological disorders.
Longer Lifespan and Improved Quality of Life
The short-term benefits of sobriety, including increased brain function, better physical performance, and better sleep hygiene, all contribute to a lifetime of enhanced physical and mental wellbeing. Those who don’t drink alcohol benefit from improved life expectancy and a more fulfilling and active lifestyle. When a better, happier, longer life is the payoff, it makes a strong case to give up alcohol for good.
Holistic Approach to Health and Wellness
Incorporating Healthy Habits
Of course, for many, staying sober is easier said than done. Some people come to rely on alcohol as a coping mechanism. If you want to become sober, it can be important to establish the kind of healthy habits and guardrails that make it sustainable. Incorporate regular exercise and physical activity to help keep your body moving and avoid anxiety and depression that can lead to alcohol abuse. Explore mindfulness practices and stress management techniques alongside healthy coping mechanisms and self-care routines.
Seeking Support and Accountability
For those who don’t want to be alone in their sobriety, it’s worth finding a nearby or online support group or therapist who can help you. You can more easily sustain the positive effects of sobriety with a supportive community. Make note of online resources and helplines for particularly difficult times. Look to family and friends for your support to help ensure it’s a lifelong pursuit.
If sobriety is part of your lifelong journey, or if you’re just sober-curious – giving it a try for a month or two at a time – the benefits of not drinking alcohol are undeniable. Sobriety improves physical, mental, emotional, psychological and financial health. It cultivates healthier personal relationships, and it enhances creativity and productivity. The benefits make it well worth incorporating into your daily life.