This week, many will be celebrating Thanksgiving – offering us the prime opportunity to consider what we are grateful for on our Alcohol-Free Challenge.
Things to be thankful for on your alcohol-free journey:
- The beautiful, crisp winter mornings
- Increased space for new opportunities
- Improved health
- A supportive community
- Increased mental clarity and capacity
- No regrets
- Pride in your achievements
Want to amplify the benefits of going alcohol-free? GET GRATEFUL ABOUT IT! Research has found that practicing gratitude can increase physical and emotional health, form stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure and better sleep, to higher levels of positive emotions and increased optimism, as well as more compassion.
Not only that, but gratitude can also help you achieve your alcohol-free goals by boosting patience and getting you closer to your target by increasing ‘effortful goal striving’ compared to those who don’t practice gratitude.
But feeling grateful isn’t always easy, so if you’re struggling to celebrate the good, not sure of the positives an alcohol-free life has to offer, or are just want to feel good on your alcohol-free journey, here are our seven things to be grateful for in a booze-free life…
The beautiful, glorious, crisp, cool, bright, early mornings. The mornings that you never knew even existed before – when, even if you were awake, from a little grogginess after a few glasses of wine the night before, to the full blown hangover that inevitably accompanies too many shots and a 5am bedtime, mornings didn’t feel so glorious. Every alcohol-free morning is an easy win when it comes to gratitude, and possibly the first one you notice, because from day one nothing feels as amazing as a crisp, cool, clear headed daybreak in all its vibrancy.
Taking a break from alcohol can free up the time it consumes and monopolises, creating a huge amount of space in our lives for bigger, better, and more gratifying things (and so many more opportunities to feel grateful, hurrah!).
It can be daunting to fill the time we once used to spend drinking when we first embark on an alcohol-free journey – social events often involve drinking, and it can be easy to worry that the nights previously spent out partying will be empty and lonely. But all you need to do is hop onto the OYNB Facebook group to see the amazing things that members in the OYNB Challenge have taken up since starting an alcohol-free lifestyle. Many have taken up fitness and running challenges – 5k’s, 10k’s and marathons, or started yoga. Others have found they finally had time to sign up to the volunteering they had always wanted to get involved in. And many have found they have more time to spend with family and discovered that their relationships improved. They to gratitude here, is to focus not on what you’re missing, but on what you are gaining…
A few weeks into an Alcohol-Free Challenge, something wonderful often happens in the form of three little words: “You look amazing!”. Drinking causes dehydration and inflammation, which can lead to ageing of the skin, but a few weeks into the Challenge, many people have found their skin bouncing back and their reflection looking visibly younger and brighter. And it’s probably of no surprise that the rest of your body will be in better health too; the NHS website doesn’t mince it’s words when it comes to physical health and alcohol: “Alcohol is a powerful chemical that can have a wide range of adverse effects on almost every part of your body, including your brain, bones and heart.” In short, taking a break from alcohol, or choosing an alcohol-free life is a far healthier, not only in terms of how we look, but also how we feel, and that’s something to be grateful for on a daily basis.
A supportive community
It is clear to see one of the biggest aspects of OYNB is the community. Having not one, not two, but hundreds if not thousands of people at your finger tips to share experiences, offer words of encouragement and rally you to continue if you fumble and can be the key to a successful Challenge.
“I am so grateful to the OYNB group for the support and motivation to help get me to this place. The online community is a fantastic place and I feel like I have started to form new friendships which have helped me immensely.”
“I will forever be grateful to those that shared their experiences because it helped me help myself. I don’t need to prove to myself that alcohol is not good for me. I am better off without it. It’s already been proven for me.”
Overtime, alcohol changes our brain chemistry both while we’re drinking, and afterwards. And with it, we can lose our mental clarity, in terms of memory, mood and mental health. In mindfulness, as in gratitude practices, we are invited to notice the small things – to simply observe the small moments in our day, from watching the kettle boil, to noticing a ladybird happily crawling across a leaf. Alcohol, and the space it takes up in our lives and our mental clarity, takes us away from those small moments and so it takes us away from being able to access the benefits of practices like mindfulness and gratitude. You will probably find that your alcohol-free lifestyle gifts you these moments of mental clarity to see the beauty in the world around you, as seen in this fantastic video with our founder Andy Ramage.
No one has ever woken after a night out with friends, devoid of a hangover, feeling fresh, clear and ready to take on the day ahead… and regretted it. Our penultimate point of gratitude for a break from alcohol is the lack of regret it provides us. No more beer fear, no more flashbacks of dirty dancing next to your boss, no more regrets over things said or actions taken while under the influence. No more guilt for causing yourself hangover sickness, or letting your family down the next day. Just pure, contented shamelessness, and it’s one of the only times we get to feel smug without karma coming back to get us!
Every day closer to your goal in the OYNB Challenge is something to be proud of. Taking a break from alcohol in a society which uses it in every situation from celebrating to medicating, is no easy feat, but it’s one that comes with a great many benefits and a huge sense of achievement. And then there are the challenges you pick up along the way, as your sense of achievement accumulates and you realise you’re capable of much more than you first thought – the 5k run, the volunteering, the skydive, the change in career.
The final and most important thing to be grateful for in your alcohol-free journey, is yourself, your strength, your resilience and bravery in dealing with life, rather than hiding from it.