Drink less alcohol?
If you really want to make a difference to your health, forget ‘Dry January’.
Alcohol consumption advice that can make a lasting difference to your health
A new year means a fresh start, which is why so many of us spend this time thinking about how we can atone for the sins of the recent festive season with ‘sackcloth and ashes’ activities like Dry January or joining a gym.
The problem is, of course, that these things rarely do us any good at all in the long term. Like those ‘wonder diets’ which come and go with monotonous regularity, Dry January is a fashion or fad that doesn’t really achieve anything much, except perhaps to make people feel virtuous for a few weeks.
People decide that they will have a Dry January not because they want to, but because they feel that this is what they should be doing. This kind of motivation – extrinsic rather than intrinsic – is too negative to ever be effective, and this is why it is rarely successful. All too often, Dry January is often followed by wet February, and so on into a repeating cycle. We would be much better advised to focus on things that are actually going to make a long-term difference to our health and well-being.
It is almost a social norm to consume over and above the safe limits of consumption and there is constant pressure to drink more than is really good for us. So a more empowering thing to do in January is to take back some control, by becoming more aware of how alcohol is and has been affecting our body. With this knowledge, we will be in a much better position to make a choice about what we drink, as well as when and where we drink it.
The old saying about old habits dying hard is so true, which is why we need some strategies to help ensure that what we do now, we will continue to do throughout the year. Establishing a pattern of balance which allows for moderate alcohol consumption will give us a much better chance to make a lasting difference to our health, especially when done in the context of establishing regular, achievable exercise activities.
Let’s look at going out for a meal, for example. While it is perfectly acceptable to have some wine with our meal, this needn’t be the first thing we drink. It is a good idea to take a glass of water before or instead of the pre-dinner aperitif. And whether it’s water, tomato juice or some other non-alcoholic beverage, think about taking it in a tall glass rather than a small one. Doing this also bypasses the ‘Dutch courage’ scenario in which we take a first drink to relax or ‘put us in the mood’. And if we’re driving, it’s actually easier to decide not to drink at all, rather than thinking about how many units are going to take us near the legal limit.
These kinds of regular behaviour patterns are much more likely to succeed and help us to experience having a good time sober, enabling us to feel good and sleep better. And just as heavy drinking increases feelings of anxiety and depression, it can also have negative effects on our sex lives.
We may drink to feel confident in a relationship, but because alcohol consumption lowers natural inhibitions, it can make us more vulnerable and more prone to making decisions about unsafe sex that we wouldn’t dream of making when sober. Drinking can also affect men’s sexual performance, decreasing testosterone levels and increasing the chance of erectile dysfunction).
Recent research, such as this study on moderate alcohol consumption on female reproductive function, suggests that we may have underestimated what has generally been considered to be safe consumption levels. This is also reflected in the government’s revised safe drinking guidelines.
But while most of us are also aware of the longer term health risks – high blood pressure, hormonal imbalance, cancer, liver disease and cirrhosis to name a few – the effects of reducing our alcohol consumption to moderate levels can be felt and seen almost immediately. As with a beauty treatment, more moderate drinking will enhance how you feel and how you look. Your eyes will be brighter and you will have more energy, physically and emotionally.
So this January, don’t go overboard and punish yourself for over-indulging in the festive period. Life is for living and enjoying and alcohol in moderation can help with that. See the Christmas excesses for what they are and try instead to establish long-term habits that will lead to more moderate consumption.
If you’d like to discuss any of this further you can call me on 01438382957, or get in touch via my CONTACT page:
You can check out my “Drink Less Alcohol” download – a course consisting of 4 recordings to help you take control of your drinking:
Happy New Year,