With the holidays behind us, have you considered joining the millions of Americans who forego drinking alcohol for a month? An estimated one in seven U.S. adults participate in Dry January. A leading neuropsychologist, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, of New York City, says that starting your new year by taking part in the dry January trend is a win-win prospect.
“How much you benefit from not drinking for a month will depend on how heavily you drink,” the expert tells Newsmax. “If you are a heavy drinker, the health differences you will notice will be profound, such as some weight loss, more mental clarity, increased energy and better sleep.”
Hafeez, director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services and its website, Comprehend the Mind, adds that your liver will start a detoxification process that could reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. She warns, however, that people who battle with alcoholism should not stop drinking “cold turkey” and should work with a healthcare provider to ensure a safe process.
The health benefits going booze-free for the month of January include:
1. Save on money. A survey by OnePoll last year estimated that Americans’ social spending around the holiday season more than doubles, and alcohol is part of that spending. If your wallet felt the alcohol as much as you did this season, the math could be reason enough to pause the drinks and close your tab for a month. Hafeez says an average person could spend around $100 a night drinking, including tips. “Throughout a single month, this could cost you a good chunk of change,” she says.
2. Rejuvenated skin. While alcohol consumption doesn’t directly cause acne, it destabilizes hormone levels and immune function, which can lead to dull skin, breakouts, flushed complexion, and puffiness. “A part of being successful when reducing alcohol intake is the compliments you receive, the energy you feel, and the changes you see in the mirror. These can all be fuel to help you live a healthier life in the new year,” says Hafeez.
3. Weight loss. Research in the Journal of Obesity says that when people abstain from alcohol they eat less, simply because drinking heightens the senses and numbs reasoning. When you remove alcohol intake, it diminishes the calories you consume. Drinking less, or not at all, for a month, will improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels and help optimize your organ function, which will help you be more active and in a better mental state, says Hafeez.
4. Increased energy and endurance. “One great benefit of going alcohol-free is renewed energy. You will not be giving up your day to recover from last night’s drinking. Waking up earlier will help you establish better morning habits that prime your brain for productivity and creativity,” says Hafeez. “You will also see improved concentration and endurance as the day goes on because your energy level will not be in a deficit before the day even begins,” she says.
5. Less depression. This mood disorder can cause feelings of sadness, rage, grief, and emptiness. More than 16 million Americans suffer from major depressive disorders, while anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Hafeez says that long-term alcohol use leads to lower serotonin levels which makes anxiety and depression worse.
6. Better sleep. Alcohol affects your sleep pattern by inhibiting your REM sleep and affects your circadian rhythm. “REM sleep is incredibly important to the quality of your rest. When blocked by alcohol, you could lose out on the most restorative part of your sleep, which can affect the way you think, concentrate, and process information the next day,” explains Hafeez. Another issue with alcohol is that it makes you wake up during the night to go to the bathroom. “Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning an agent that prompts the passing of urine. This means that at nighttime, instead of sleeping throughout the night, you may need to get up repeatedly to relieve yourself. This will make it even harder to get the rest you need. In the absence of alcohol, your sleep is more comfortable and energizing,” says Hafeez.
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