Whilst my days of binge drinking as a student are thankfully far in my past, alcohol is still an ongoing, yet much more minor, part of my life.
Like many millennials (and I'm sure it must be the same for other generations too), we got used to it as a mechanism for socialising. Whether this is meeting friends after work, going out for dinner with family, or spending time in the pub or at home with a significant other.
Throughout my life I've been lucky enough to meet or work with people who just don't drink. And although it's taken me a while, I'm certainly starting to see why. The thought of feeling that you have to drink in order to enjoy one's self is clearly ridiculous, and if someone does find this to be the case then it may be a sign of more fundamental issues.
Whilst I understand and appreciate the relaxing effect of alcohol, I've recently begun to wonder about whether this outweighs the down-sides. Some of the negative effects I've begun to personally notice after consuming alcohol, or related in general, are;
- Sleep: my sleep quality (and subsequent potential the following day) is significantly reduced. It's known that alcohol can inhibit the brain's ability to "deep sleep" even if you appear to be asleep.
- Fitness: my workouts are less impactful, and things become harder than they should. This inhibits progression.
- Weight: generally, alcohol is calorific and does not fill you up like food does.
- Hangovers: whilst only after a (thankfully) less-frequent particularly heavy night, these just cancel out the next day. Even "light" hangovers can severely impact morning productivity. These are also accompanied by depression, shame, and other negative emotions I don't need or want.
- Mindfulness: my mood, ability to deep think, and motivation are impacted.
There are also things I can't observe directly myself that I am sure must be affected, such as the effect on my health (both physical and mental).
I don't intend to give it up entirely (it's always nice for celebrating with others or for special occasions), but I'm going to spend at least a few weeks alcohol-free and see how things go with social events and seeing family. It will alter my routine a little (e.g. instead of meeting friends in the pub I will suggest coffee instead), and perhaps it'll change the way others in my peer and family group see me, but I'm excited to hopefully see and feel some day-to-day benefits that will enable me to be more informed in weighing-up some of my decisions going forward.