The Link Between Mental Health and Alcohol: What Giving up Can Do for You

The Link Between Mental Health and Alcohol: What Giving up Can Do for You

Whether you’d been directly affected or not, there’s no denying that the recent pandemic undoubtedly took its toll on everyone both physically and mentally. Restrictions forced us to change our behaviours, rearrange our lives and live under a new normal. Hours spent stuck indoors inevitably led to bad habits, eating more, exercising less and drinking more alcohol.

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In the UK, more than 1 in 6 adults increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic. In a recent study, it was observed that there was a significant association between an increase in alcohol intake and poor mental health. There’s two explanations for this, either those with poor mental health are more inclined to drink more in a bid to ease their sadness, or regular alcoholic consumption ultimately causes depression and anxiety.

It’s more than likely that the two intertwine and an individual with poor mental health will find that the short-lived relief of a drink doesn’t last long, leading them into a deeper depression. This vicious cycle is difficult to disrupt but recognising the link can help people break free and learn that there are other more effective ways to manage mental health.

First few days

It depends on how much you normally drink and if you do have an addiction, it’s important to seek advice from your GP first before stopping altogether. However, if you’re a moderate yet regular drinker, there’s no better time to quit than now. Merely days after quitting, you’ll notice a marked difference.

In the first few hours after quitting, your body will aim to remove a unit per hour. If you would normally go a day or two without drinking, you probably won’t notice any real changes at this point but the key is to persist.

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As the days pass, you’ll notice fewer bad nights of sleep, a marked improvement in your memory and improved ability to function on a day to day basis. It’s a well-known fact that having better quality sleep improves your mental health. Good sleep enables us to consolidate our memories, replenish cognitive function and regulate our natural body processes such as cell regeneration and toxin removal. Your body will thank you for it and will reward you accordingly. Better physical health leads to better mental health and you’ll find that your mood will be slowly improving as your body learns to recover.

After one month

Persistence is key and if you’ve made it to the one month mark, the chances are you’ll be far more successful at quitting in the long-term now you’ve seen improvements. Don’t be put off by the fact that your body will be grappling with this new change and therefore will need time to adjust. Expect fluctuations in your mood as your body adapts. Once you’re past the month mark, not only will you see your sleep continue to improve considerably but you’ll notice that your appearance is starting to look better too. Brighter skin and less inflammation are two more things you’ll notice once the drinking stops. You’ll also feel your mood lift as your body

becomes better rested and more hydrated. Quitting for just one month can have a huge impact on your health and also helps you save money. It’s no surprise then that having more money, more energy and better skin can improve your overall mental wellbeing.

Long-term

It is no surprise to hear that quitting can overhaul your health, mind and body. We should treat our minds with care and remember that whatever we choose to eat or drink can have a lasting impact on our mental health. Alcohol is often within easy reach for people struggling with their thoughts. Depression and anxiety can be soothed with alcohol for a short time and that instant gratification is what keeps people looking for more.

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Truthfully, the benefits are short-lived and once those negative feelings return, it can be easy to reach for the bottle again. This cycle can lead to dependence and rarely helps the situation. Not only does this have a devastating impact on the body and mind but it can lead to addiction and have devastating effects on an individual's ability to maintain work or relationships.

Remember that no two journeys are the same. If you’re trying to quit with a friend, don’t feel disheartened that they’re thriving when you’d quite literally sleep all day and yell at anyone that dares look at you. The key is to keep going and to take each bad experience in your stride. The more effort you put in, the greater the rewards will be, just remember to keep going.

Social Pressure

We all have reasons for why we may or may not drink. It can be incredibly difficult to quit when everyone around you drinks and insists you do too. Telling a friend you don’t drink can summon stares and questions making you feel as though there must be something wrong with you. It doesn’t seem to garner the same reaction if you tell someone you don’t eat a certain food or drive a certain car, so it seems unusual that others would care so much.

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The truth is that drinking has become so ingrained into British culture that it can be hard to avoid. Afterwork drinks, celebratory prosecco and post-match beers, alcohol plays a part in almost every social gathering. Having the strength to say no can be tough but you need to remember why it is you’re abstaining. It’s important not to fall victim to the pressures put on you by everyone else.

This is your journey, your body and your mind at stake. Keep going and don’t let yourself fall to temptation. Giving up for now does not need to be forever but it’s important that you see the real benefits before you throw in the towel. If you’re finding it hard to stay positive right now and you’ve seen better days with regards to your mental health, try giving up alcohol and see where the journey takes you.

 

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