On January 3rd this year, I decided to go alcohol-free for 40 days. I was going to be in Indian the first week of February, and it felt like a good time to experiment.
I’ve always had a healthy relationship with alcohol. I enjoy good wine, get excited about special cocktails, and appreciate a craft beer. And while in general I wasn’t drinking heavily, I did notice that between Happy Hours, date nights, and the occasional night cap, I was having a drink more than I realized – often 4-5 nights per week.
I take care of my body well, and hangovers were few and far between, but I still wondered: would cutting alcohol out for an extended period of time significantly alter my happiness, health, or well-being?
And so I did it. 40 days, no alcohol. Here’s what happened.
My first surprise: how little I missed it. I honesty didn’t crave alcohol throughout it, and the one or two times I had a sip of my boyfriend’s drink, I was actually pretty turned off by the flavor.
What I also realized: it was easier than I thought to not have drinks when out with friends. Now, there are potentially two confounding factors here:
- I surround myself with kind, loving people that won’t give my crap for not drinking.
- I usually have a good excuse to pass: “I’m teaching yoga early tomorrow.” You know it and I know it, downward facing dog doesn’t feel good hungover. And so I use it as my go-to reason if anyone does mention the fact that I’m not drinking.
But even these two factors aside, I realized that *I* was the one putting the pressure on to be drinking, not other people.
The hardest part: dining at nice restaurants. I realized that there’s such an expectation to get a drink, and I feel like I’m not being a “fun, cool customer” if I don’t. I have still managed to say no at multiple restaurants, without any catastrophe happening (and my boyfriend and I realized that fancy dinners are a lot cheaper when you get rid of the booze), but I also got to try some pretty fantastic mocktails (some of which we both agreed were better than my BF’s boozy drink!)
Now 8 months in, my drinking looks WAY different than it did before. I’ll have a sip of something if it looks good. I may drink a glass or two at a fancy meal. But in general, I can go weeks without really drinking any alcohol, and my life hasn’t gotten any worse. Plus, there have been some good things too…
The benefits I’ve experienced by not drinking alcohol regularly:
Of course, we have to talk about the benefits of not drinking. For me they’ve been three-fold: energy/enjoyment, money, and throwaway calories.
Benefit of Not Drinking #1: energy/enjoyment. I thought that not drinking at parties or dinners would make me a buzz kill, but I was delighted to find quite the opposite. Keeping my wits about me actually made me able to enjoy the entire event, and I don’t get tired nearly as quickly. My energy stays more even through the evening, and definitely is much better off the next day.
Benefit of Not Drinking #2: money. This one seems obvious, but I was overlooking it. If I think back to all of the drinks I have not bought at bars or at dinner over the past 8 months…I have easily saved $400 , if not more.
Benefit of Not Drinking #3: less throwaway calories. It’s true, not having an extra 1000-2000 calories per week in my diet makes room for the food I enjoy and love. This isn’t the most important one for me, but it is nice to know that there truly is a little more room for dessert.
BONUS Benefit: NEW FUN RECIPES! One of the best parts has been getting creative in the kitchen with delicious mocktails and beverages that I love. Last week I posted my favorite summer beverage – a watermelon mint spritzer, but there are more fun recipes to come.
What I love most about this is that it was truly an experiment. It was easy to stick with because I knew that if I wanted to go back to business as usual after 40 days, I could. I was able to evaluate how I felt and simply get curious about how this simple change could impact my life and wellbeing.
I may not have this same relationship to alcohol forever. But at this time, it makes more sense to me to be mentally “with it” as much as possible, so I can be the best I can be.
So I’d love to hear from you – has your relationship to alcohol changed over the years? Would you consider a 40 day experiment to see how you fare without it? Or is there another experiment that could have a positive impact on your health?
Can’t wait to hear your insights!Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.