Whether you’re on a boat with the wind blowing through your hair or soaking up some sun at Folly Beach, alcoholic beverages tend to call from every cooler and corner bar. Ever think about skipping the sipping? Even if you’re just a social drinker who feels relatively unaffected by casual cocktails, there are still many benefits to breaking up with booze.
There’s a new trend in which people are choosing to drop drink menus in favor of alcohol-free challenges or enjoying a mocktail at their favorite dry bar. What in the wonderful world of whisky would possess someone to do that, you ask? According to Dr. Alaina Payne, a primary care doctor with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners, the list is longer than you might think. Here are the top five:
1. Secure some sweet sleep
“Some people believe that a drink before bed will help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep, but it actually does the opposite,” says Dr. Payne. The alcohol has negative effects on your melatonin (sleep hormone) levels and rapid eye movement sleep (REM), which decrease your ability to get quality sleep. Using alcohol as a sleep aid can also lead to alcohol dependency.
2. Avoid Anxiety
Many people who quit drinking experience a decrease in anxiety and an increase in overall happiness. “Mental health struggles and alcohol have very close ties,” says Dr. Payne. Alcohol is a depressant, so if you find yourself feeling a bit low, consider taking a few days off and see if your mood or outlook changes.
3. Cut Calories
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but dropping several hundred calories out of your diet each day/week means that you’ll likely be dropping shirt sizes before too long. If you drink three to four beers a day, you’re looking at an extra 600 – 800 calories. Consider this math: 3,500 calories equals one pound of body fat.
4. Reduced Disease Risk
When you stop drinking, you reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, including mouth and throat, larynx, breast (in women), bowel and liver cancer. Also, a healthy liver (from not drinking) dramatically reduces your chances for alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.
5. Healthy Hippocampus
Dr. Payne urges her patients to cut back on alcohol to decrease the long-term risk of brain damage. Studies show that drinking for long periods of time can kill neuronal brain cells and permanently affect your memory.
You’ve got a lot to lose
Let’s see: there’s weight, anxiety, brain fog, risk for disease and more. If you’re looking for that cocktail experience, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a drink without the negative effects. According to The Zero Proof , more than half of Charleston area restaurants are currently serving up mocktails like Charleston Grill’s Bold Fashioned or The Cocktail Club’s Mean Green.
If you feel like tracking your progress or joining a challenge might help, several apps are available to help you stay on track if you want to quit. Check out I am sober, Sober Tool and Nomo to get started. They have lots of great features and some even have support groups with like-minded quitters like you.
Talk with your primary care doctor about your alcohol use and its effect on your health. If you don’t have a doctor, you can find one at rsfh.com/findadoc or call (843) 402-CARE.