Sober October: Rethinking Alcohol Consumption

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Sober October is an opportunity to reduce consumption or take a break from alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to health issues, including high blood pressure, liver disease, depression and anxiety, cancer and obesity. It can also cause a weakened immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.

How much alcohol is considered excessive? Experts recently updated the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which now suggest a limit of one alcoholic drink a day for both men and women. This is a reduction from the previous advice that men should limit themselves to two drinks per day.

The updated guidance is important, especially as recent research indicates that the stay-in-place orders early in the pandemic were associated with people drinking more than usual. A study published in the JAMA Network Open found that American adults, particularly women, were drinking more, and alcohol consumption had increased by 14% compared to one year prior to the pandemic.

Alcohol abstinence months first started gaining traction in 2013 with Dry January and, more recently, Sober October, offering participants added motivation and a good excuse to decline a drink. Taking a month off from alcohol offers an opportunity to evaluate and reset what may be a regular drinking habit, help moderate drinking moving forward, and, for some, motivate them to abstain for the longer term.

Are you considering giving it a go for the rest of the month? If so, here are suggestions for taking a break from or reducing your alcohol consumption:

  • Try non-alcoholic beers at fall festivals and sports gatherings.
  • Plan or seek out Halloween activities that don’t involve alcohol, such as hayrides, pumpkin patches or trick-or-treating with your children.
  • Recruit friends and family to join you, making it easier to plan outings that are not centered around drinking.
  • Replace the nightly cocktail or glass of wine with a mocktail or a fancy glass of sparkling water.
  • Change up your routine. If you would typically watch Netflix with an alcoholic beverage, go for an evening walk, read a book, FaceTime a friend or family member, or work on a hobby instead.

Taking an entire month off or just reducing your alcohol consumption through “Mindful Drinking” can offer big improvements in your health, including better-quality sleep, clearer thinking, improved weight and fitness, and a stronger immune system. Making healthy changes is not always easy. Regardless of whatever modifications you may choose to make, Vitality will be nudging (and cheering) you on to good health along the way!

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