Sober October: Rethinking alcohol consumption

By Cary Conway
Senior couple setting table and pouring water for sober october - Vitality

Sober October is a thing: 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 – which should be of even greater concern during a global pandemic.

How much alcohol is considered excessive? This summer, experts working to update the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans for the first time in five years offered guidance suggesting a limit of one alcoholic drink a day for both men and women. This is a reduction from the current advice that men should limit themselves to two drinks per day.

This guidance comes at a time when research indicates that since the start of stay-in-place orders earlier this year people are drinking more than usual. A new study published in the JAMA Network Open found American adults, particularly women, are drinking more, and alcohol consumption has increased by 14% compared with a year ago.

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 normally 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 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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