Mental Health Benefits Of Being Alcohol-Free

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It’s a fact: alcohol is everywhere.

No matter where you go, there it is.  Every restaurant you walk into, and at every celebration, you best believe there’s an opportunity to indulge in an alcoholic beverage.  It doesn’t take much thought- drinking is a huge part of everyday culture.  It’s expected, and in fact, it can even be confusing to people when you tell them you don’t drink.

But do you ever stop and think how alcohol affects your brain

On a sunny Saturday, probably not.

As I walked through the Greenway in Boston the other day (one of my favorite urban gems), I passed not one, but two areas designated for outdoor boozing.  Then, a couple of days later, I passed a beer garden in the Charles River Esplanade.

I used to absolutely love these opportunities.

However, as an ex-drinker, my days of beer gardens and brunch always began much happier than they ended- in fact, the mere idea of drinking was always better than the actual consumption.

For over 15 years, little did I know that I was quite literally drinking a depressant.

While drinking, I was snappy, agitated, and impatient.  I was anything but mindful, always awaiting what was next- the next drink, the next bar, the next thrill.

Over the years I’ve realized that my drinking was directly linked to my mental health.  Mental health is just as important as recognizing a physical problem.  Anxiety, depression, and PTSD are serious health conditions that can be just, if not more, crippling as a physical disease.

For me, my anxiety and PTSD are heightened when I consume just one alcoholic drink.  I used to think something was seriously wrong with me.  I would wake up in the morning feeling empty.  I was nervous about the people around me.

Then, when I stopped drinking, those nervous feelings stopped.

I’m not alone.  Millie from Sober Girl Society (one of my favorite Instagram accounts) shared with The Telegraph:

“I knew quite early on that hangovers affected me mentally just as much as they did physically. I’d wake up feeling on edge, like I’d done something wrong or upset someone – even though my friends all told me I’d been perfectly well behaved. Towards my late twenties, even just having a glass of champagne would make me feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Hangover anxiety began to permeate my everyday life. I lost all confidence, motivation, and some hangovers even left me bedridden; not because I was sick or tired but because my mind had gone into overdrive and I was sweating and shaking in panic.”

Our society is quick to provide “quick fixes” for mental health, including medication, material gratification, or even more alcohol to calm the nerves. Having a drink after work or popping a Xanax probably isn’t the answer for long-lasting change, but I can say from experience that meditation, spending time in nature, exercise, and- gasp- abstinence from alcohol- have provided a solace in my soul better than any quick fix.

I’m confident these simple things can work for you, too.

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More Meditation, Less Medication

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In this day and age, there seems to be a pill for everything.  Not only are people running to their doctors for relief, the providers themselves are over-prescribing, patients are misusing their prescriptions, and often times, they become addicted to their medication.

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common disorders, which are treated by a variety of medications- some addictive, some not.  Although antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills can be helpful, they don’t solve the biggest problem- the root cause of the discomfort.

Researchers and a growing number health care professionals are encouraging patients to practice meditation in addition to their medical treatment and therapy.  Although many disorders are a chemical imbalance, most don’t consider how meditation can help re-wire their brain.

What if treatment facilities and doctors prescribed more meditation, and less medication?

I’ve had anxiety throughout my life, which is something I’ve never been treated for.  My social anxiety was so terrible growing up that it caused me to eat lunch in the library when I didn’t know who to sit with, skip classes or school events, and, as soon as I began college, I started drinking heavily to self medicate.  I may not have taken pills to relieve my discomfort, but I drank my worries away so I wasn’t aware of my surroundings.

I eventually went to therapy and tried antidepressants to keep my depression in check.  I didn’t take the medicine long enough to know whether or not it helped me- life situations had improved and I was abstinent from alcohol- but I also added something else to my life:

Mindfulness and meditation.

Between therapy, group support, and meditation, my anxiety and depression have been alleviated. I learned that spending more time inward was the solution to my issues.  If you break down depression and anxiety, it’s quite simple:

Depression is living in the past, and anxiety is living in the future.

Living in the present is being happy.

Whether you choose to medicate or not, consider adding meditation to your daily routine.  There are many apps that can get you started if you’re a newbie to the practice, such as Calm and Headspace, and even a variety of YouTube videos to guide you along your way.  Meditation has changed my life, and I know it can change yours, too.

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Gemini New Moon Intentions: Everything is About to Change

This New Moon is special.

It’s time to stop and smell the roses- for life is beautiful.  Society is what makes life stressful.  Not life itself.  We all have the power to live the life we love- the problem is, most people don’t realize this.

Falling under the sign of Gemini, associated with communication and the conscious mind, today’s June 13th New Moon at 3:43PM EST is the beginning, and the end, of the rest of your life.

Sounds kind of drastic, doesn’t it?

Honestly, not really.

These changes are internal.

Remember how you used to hold back as a kid, second guessed the things you said, or avoided creativity for the fear of what others may think?  Well, everything is about to change.

Big projects will come to fruition, you’ll gain confidence to use your voice, and things that used to scare you won’t any longer.

You’ll stop numbing your feelings and start using them as strengths.  You’ll use your struggles as lessons, and you’ll stop making the same mistakes twice.

Rushing will be a thing of the past, because you’ll start to recognize that what’s for you will not pass you.  Missing the train, rejection from a job, getting dumped by your boyfriend- these are all for reasons.

There is something bigger and better for you on the horizon.

So, sit back, and relax for once- with clear intentions, hard work, and clear communication, you will make your mark.

Just wait.  Trust the process.  Life is about to become even more beautiful.