'Alcohol has become such a normal part of life that it is so easy to drink in excess without even noticing it. A good tip is to jot down all alcoholic drinks consumed in a week's period and you might be shocked at the total. As mentioned in the article, alcohol can have huge impacts both medically and socially, however with a few easy techniques you can control your intake and improve your lifestyle'
Dr. Marissa Vassiliou
What does alcohol actually do?
Alcohol disrupts the delicate balance of chemicals and processes that your brain relies on to keep thoughts, feelings, and actions, in balance. The first drink you have will depress the part of your brain linked to inhibition, which will make you feel more relaxed and confident, but it will also encourage you to drink more. The more alcohol in your bloodstream, the more likely that a negative emotional response will take over.
When you do drink more alcohol than usual, your observations become limited and you will find it hard to respond to the cues around you. This means that you’re more likely to pick up on elements of a situation that are threatening, rather than processing the less threatening or neutral information. For example:
· You’ll focus on a partner talking to a person you’re jealous of, and not process that they’ve also been talking to everyone else.
· You’ll notice every negative comment directed towards you without processing the positive.
Top tips for drinking less:
1. Know your limits
Knowing your limits is an important way of keeping alcohol a social aid rather than a damaging habit. Be strict with yourself and limit your intake to one or two drinks during every social outing. The more you pay attention, the easier it will be to say no.
2. Beat the routine
You can easily start to rely on or expect alcohol if it has become part of your routine. It can be easy after a particularly stressful day at the office to end up at the pub. If you think this is becoming a habit, mix it up and head to the gym for a relaxing sauna instead.
3. ’Rounds’ – don’t get caught
The rounds system is popular if you’re drinking as part of a group, but it can also lead to drinking more than you would otherwise choose to. It’s easy to lose track of how many drinks you’ve had, and harder to leave when you feel you’ve had enough (especially if you’re yet to buy).
4. Avoid cocktails
The alcohol content in cocktails is disguised by a lot of sugar. When you can’t taste the alcohol it’s easy to forget you’re drinking at all. Because they mix different types of alcohol, making it harder to predict how your body will respond, cocktails can be dangerous. Instead stick to single alcohol mixers to make judging your limit easier. You can still make them feel like a cocktail by choosing to mix with fruit juices.
5. Make it a soft drink
Often we feel left out if all our friends are drinking alcoholic beverages, but if you still enjoy a pub or bar culture and want something in your hand, opt for a soft drink. Bars often serve ‘mocktails’, smoothies or soft drinks and this can be a non-alcoholic and healthy way to participate in social drinking. If you do find yourself in a ‘rounds’ situation, make sure that you alternate alcoholic drinks with soft alternatives. This will keep you in the loop without losing control.
The health benefits of cutting back
Take action now and life a longer, happier, healthier life. Some key benefits include:
- Staying in shape, as drinks have ‘invisible’ calories that easily add up
- Avoiding hangovers
- Better quality sleep
- Lowering stress
- Improving complexion
- Increasing energy levels
Your performance at work, and relationships with friends and family could also improve by drinking less. In the long-term, you’ll do your liver a favour and reduce your risk of diabetes, heart-disease and alcohol-related cancers.
By Katalina Watt and Dr. Marissa Vassiliou