Many of us will be happy to see the back of 2021. There are few better ways of getting 2022 off to a winning start than going alcohol-free. Here’s why…
Wherever you were in the world over the course of last year, we can all agree that 2021 was one heck of a time. The end of the year for many will look much like the beginning: Characterised, once again, by Coronavirus and the lingering sense of uncertainty that it continues to bring.
This is not to get things off to a gloomy start, but rather to frame 2022 with a sense of optimism.
After all, a new year brings with it new beginnings, expectations, and ambitions. It’s a new start, a blank page on a new diary that holds with it the possibility of achieving those life goals that you might not have had the chance to get around to in 2021.
We all have those goals in life that we want to achieve. As the American poet Bill Copeland said: The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score’.
Whatever those goals are, the chances are that going alcohol-free in 2022 will get you off to the best start when it comes to achieving those aims.
In this article, we talk about how going alcohol-free won’t just enable you to make a healthier start to your year, but will also motivate you to achieve your other life goals and objectives in 2022. Going alcohol-free is essentially the cheat code to getting a head start to your year, and achieving those life goals. Read on to learn more…
Ok, first things first. Motivation. It’s one of those tricky notions: The fuel that makes you actually do what you know you want to do, the power behind making things happen. For many of us, it’s something of a secret sauce that we wish we had more of. If you’re one of those people that knows what they want to achieve but can’t quite muster up the willpower to get the ball rolling, going alcohol-free can be one of the ways of creating a well of motivation.
In fact, there’s an increasing body of research that has investigated the link between alcohol and the health of our brain, which can have a huge effect on our motivational capacities that affects our motivational capacities.
The most prominent example of this is how alcohol impacts dopamine, the chemical released by our brains when we engage in pleasurable activities like eating chocolate or receiving a really nice hug.
Alcohol pumps our brains with an overabundance of dopamine, blunting our receptors as a result. You can begin to see how overloading the brain with this stuff is probably not a good thing. Dopamine informs the brain of what activities yield those pleasurable feelings, and excessively high levels can have some quite harmful effects.
Frequent alcohol use has been linked to an imbalance of dopamine, which can fundamentally alter our essential brain function.
What’s this got to do with your motivation? Going alcohol-free allows the chemical imbalances in the brain to reset, enabling it to rediscover motivation towards other, healthier habits. A healthy, balanced brain means one geared towards achieving those life goals – and being motivated to do so.
I know what you’re going to say: ‘How can I motivate myself to stop drinking in the first place’?
It’s perfectly possible to acknowledge motivation is both elusive and essential in all aspects of our life. It can be as simple as the motivation to get out of bed in the morning to the motivation to send that end-of-day work email. It’s an omnipresent part of our daily life and it’s normal not to be motivated all of the time.
Here at OYNB, this is something that we understand deeply. We’ve been here before and know how hard it can be to navigate the way through those tangled ropes of motivational success.
But we’ve also come out of the trials and tribulations of making the transition to being alcohol-free and have ended up on the other side. We’re also happier, healthier and more motivated because of it. Struggling with the motivation to stop drinking is something that many people who go alcohol-free struggle from on the initial stages of their transition. But there’s no need to worry. We’ve got you.
Beyond the January Blues
We know that alcohol is bad for us, and can cause a number of health issues: Low moods, bad sleeping patterns, and an inability to concentrate are among some of the most common problems that frequent drinking can cause. And that’s not to mention problems of high blood pressure, heart risk, liver risk and many others.
It’s not hard to see how these issues can have an adverse affect on our ability to achieve our life goals, whatever they might be. With all of these different forces working against your health and favour, drinking alcohol is like playing life on hard mode.
After a festive season characterised by indulgence (and not always for the better, mind), January has become a month of healing and recovery for many. Veganuary and Dry January are two such examples of large scale campaigns that map onto society’s collective repentance for the dietary sins of December.
It’s tempting to opt for Dry January and revert to old habits. Quit the booze for the first month of the year, and then revert back to old habits…no issues, right?
Well, not so fast. The truth is, that the most beneficial effects of going alcohol-free don’t really begin to emerge until around the 90-day mark. Once we understand that our diet, mental health and bodily wellbeing are connected, it’s easier to unlock our peak performance and achieve those aims and life goals. It’s going to take more than a month without alcohol to reap those benefits, but it’s going to be worth it in the long run.
In fact, we here at OYNB asked our members about the effects they experienced after going alcohol-free for 90 days for our ‘90 day challenge’.
The findings were overwhelming: Some 92 per cent felt ‘much happier’, 71 per cent were more productive, 81 per cent felt reduced anxiety and 97 per cent said they’d changed their relationship with alcohol as a result. Not bad, hey?
When it comes to achieving those life goals, factors like these make a massive difference. That’s why going alcohol-free is often associated with triggering a positive ‘domino effect’: establishing a healthy pattern and the improvements will follow, and they’ll impact other aspects of your life.
Of course, that’s not to say Dry January is a bad idea in and of itself. It can actually be a great way to get the year off to a positive start.
The month after the holiday season contains those shorter days and longer nights without any of the festive cheer and bright lights. It’s not unusual to experience seasonal depression during these winter months, as many people do. Good vibes are known to be in short supply.
Against this backdrop, Dry January is very helpful indeed. It’s one of those rare campaigns that a lot of people partake in – around one in seven Americans and 6.5 million Brits, in fact. It’s the easiest time of year to be surrounded by people who aren’t drinking, which can be a powerful kick start to your alcohol-free journey. It’s always easier to get things done when we’re doing it collectively.
Finding the right frame of mind
As we mentioned earlier, understanding the connection between our diet, mental health and bodily wellbeing is the key to unlocking the energy which can help us to achieve our full potential. If 2022 is going to be the year where life goals are the focus, getting this balance right is going to be essential.
Removing alcohol from one's lifestyle is one of the most immediately beneficial things you can get yourself in the right headspace to get started on those aims.
The benefits of going alcohol-free are almost immediate.
A lift in mood is among the instant effects of going alcohol free that most people experience, followed by an improvement in your sleeping pattern.
But the raft of mental health benefits associated with alcohol doesn’t stop there. Several studies have linked an alcohol-free lifestyle to better overall mental health. The Canadian Medical Association Journal, for instance, found that adults who completely give up alcohol experienced a ‘boost’ in their mental wellbeing – particularly among women.
Heavy drinking can also cause the hippocampus – the part of the brain critical to memory and learning – to shrink, according to neurological research. Going alcohol-free can help to reverse these negative effects, which impact other aspects of our cognitive ability including problem solving, memory and attention span.
It all amounts to something that’s instinctively quite straightforward: Prioritising one's own mental health and wellness, something that every life coach will tell you is an essential ingredient to achieving those life goals. Once you begin to put yourself and your mental health first, then you’re better positioned to help yourself, and the rest of those things you’re looking to achieve will fall into place. Going alcohol free is similar to laying a foundation upon which you can build towards other things, and it starts with putting yourself first.
Beyond the resolutions
Look, we’re going to level with you. Giving up anything is a challenge, and this applies just as equally to going alcohol-free. But the more that one explores the benefits of going alcohol free, the harder it becomes not to think of it in terms of your broader life goals.
Take, for instance, what is widely understood to be the most common life goal among adults: losing weight, and becoming fitter and healthier. Quitting alcohol is directly linked to a loss in weight and healthier lifestyle. Other popular life goals, such as the fulfilment of potential, acquiring more skills, achieving a higher degree of self esteem and positivity…all of these can be better enabled by going alcohol free.
It’s a common pattern of the success stories from people who have made the decision to go alcohol-free. Those who have stopped drinking have found themselves more able to pursue other life goals that were perhaps left on the back burner or neglected – unconsciously, perhaps- as a result of their relationship with alcohol.
There’s no time like the present, and there’s no reason why 2022 can’t be the year that you achieve those goals that you’ve set out for yourself. To quote another literary great, C.S Lewis: ‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream’. Make 2022 your year, and make going alcohol-free the first step along the way.