I’ve always enjoyed having a drink or three at the end of a night, even on a random weekday. For the most part, I’m responsible. I never drink and drive, and I rarely overdo it. Yet, recently I started to feel like drinking regularly was dragging me down — physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Of course, the positive impact of drinking less is proven, but not all the benefits are related to health — drinking less can result in lower stress and more money in your pocket (let’s face it, even the cost of drinking at home adds up).
Going forward, I plan to drink less overall because the effects have improved my life in several ways.
As someone who was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder later in life, I work hard to find new tips and strategies for increasing my productivity. After a few weeks of not drinking, I realized I was starting to get more work done during the day.
It turns out that alcohol can hinder productivity in a multitude of ways. First of all, alcohol is a depressant and can lower your blood sugar — both factors that can contribute to a lack of motivation. Secondly, the morning after drinking, I was generally more fatigued when I woke up and less interested in answering emails or working on an upcoming assignment.
A review of 27 different studies came to the conclusion that having a nightcap before bed actually makes you sleep worse, not better. That’s because while alcohol can help put you to sleep, it also is very disruptive once you are asleep. So while I may have passed out quicker after having a beer or two before bed, I wasn’t actually getting enough quality ZZZs, and I felt the effect the next morning.
Drinking is expensive. I know I’m not the only one who’s gone out for a drink or two and ended up with a $30 bar tab. That can quickly add up — over time, a lot of your weekly budget can end up going toward alcoholic beverages and related purchases.
In fact, some writers suggest that if you gave up drinking, you’d save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year, and a few people even claim to have saved up for a vehicle down payment with the money they kept in their pocket by not drinking for a period of time.
I often told my wife that a reason I wanted a beer at night was so I could unwind after a long day, but the truth is that, in the long run, alcohol doesn’t help you de-stress.
In fact, alcohol can actually help increase stress by compounding it. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that “alcohol use itself exacts a psychological and physiological toll on the body and may actually compound the effects of stress.” (They also found that men deal with stress by turning to alcohol more often than women do.)
That’s why, if you’re going through a particularly stressful time in your life, cutting back on how much alcohol you consume could actually help you become a more relaxed person — even if that might seem counterintuitive in the moment.
According to Alcohol.org, “Drinking too much over time can cause chronic physical and mental health issues. Heavy drinking can cause or contribute to liver damage, cardiovascular disease, and multiple types of cancer.” Others illnesses include high blood pressure and a fatty liver.
Heavy drinking is much more common than you might think and increases these risks. The Mayo Clinic defines heavy drinking as “more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks a week for women and for men older than age 65, and more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks a week for men age 65 and younger.”
I know that I am no stranger to four drinks in a night, especially when I go out with my friends, and it was a wake-up call to learn about how this could have an adversarial impact on my health.
I don’t plan to ever give up drinking, especially for special occasions or at certain social gatherings, but my experiences with cutting back on alcohol have been very positive. I don’t often miss having a beer or two at night like I thought I would, and overall it improved my mood, productivity, and the thickness of my wallet.
I’m starting to wish that I would have cut back a while ago.