Curious About the Benefits of Taking a Break from Alcohol?

Curious About the Benefits of Taking a Break from Alcohol?

Curious About the Benefits of Taking a Break from Alcohol?

Wonder what taking a break from alcohol can do for your mind and body? Maybe even more than you think. New research suggests that drinking even modest amounts of alcohol isn’t good for you. You don’t have to have a problem with alcohol to gain health benefits from skipping it.

To cut the risk of all alcohol-related issues, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that adults should choose not to drink. If you do drink, experts used to say to do it in moderation. That means two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women on days when alcohol is consumed.

But recent studies show that even moderate consumption is risky. leaving site icon No level of alcohol use is safe for our health, says the World Health Organization. leaving site icon Part of the reason: Your chances of getting some common health problems like colon and breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and other health issues increase the more alcohol you consume. Alcohol use is also linked to higher risk for injury from car crashes and violence.

Taking a Break

Many people, from occasional drinkers to daily drinkers, are exploring the benefits that come from giving up alcohol. There is even a term for it — sober curious. Millions of people get started during the Dry January challenge each year. People give up alcohol use for the month to welcome the new year with a focus on improving their health and life.

There are benefits to skipping alcohol for long or short periods any time of the year. That’s because even small amounts of alcohol can have a big effect on your body. From the very first sip, alcohol enters your bloodstream and quickly impacts your body.

In addition to lowering your risk for diseases and injuries, skipping alcohol can help your body in other ways, says UC Davis Health. leaving site icon Two big benefits include:

  • Weight loss: Those extra calories in alcohol can contribute to weight gain. This can lead to other health issues.
  • Better sleep: Research shows that alcohol disturbs sleep patterns. It also lowers REM sleep, the most restorative phase.

Moderate to heavy drinkers will gain extra benefits from stopping:

  • Better mood, energy and physical activity levels
  • Reduced risk of cancer and blood pressure problems
  • Lower blood sugar

Cutting the amount of alcohol you drink can help your short- and long-term health. Everyone can benefit from drinking less alcohol or not drinking at all. And even small changes can make a big difference. Try the Check Your Drinking leaving site icon online tool to see how you can benefit from quitting.

Getting Started

Ready to get started? Try some of these tips:

  • Write down why you want to stop.
  • Set a goal for how much, if any alcohol, you will have. Track your progress.
  • Clear out the alcohol from your home.
  • Pick certain days of the week that will be alcohol-free days.
  • Drink slowly and switch to water or juice after each alcoholic drink. And don’t drink on an empty stomach.
  • Keep busy, and watch out for peer pressure in group settings. Plan what you can say if asked why you aren’t drinking.
  • Ask for support. Friends and family can help. They may even want to try cutting back or being alcohol free, too. And don’t forget that professionals, like your health care providers, can help.
  • Pay attention to what makes you want to drink. Some emotions and situations can be triggers for drinking. Make a plan for how you can manage those situations and feelings in a healthier way.
  • Stick with it. Many people who have successfully cut down or stopped drinking had to try several times.

If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, reach out for help. You can start by talking with your primary care doctor.

Sources: No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health, leaving site icon World Health Organization, 2023; Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2022; How to Start Drinking Less, leaving site icon CDC, 2023; Dry January: Giving up alcohol can mean better sleep, weight loss and more energy, leaving site icon UC Davis Health, 2023; 11 ways to curb your drinking, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2022