Plus a handful of delicious alcohol-free drinks to try this July

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Taking a break from drinking alcohol can be tough to say the least. The best way to keep on track is to focus on what you’re gaining, not what you’re missing out on. Here are some of the top benefits of giving up drinking…

1. Slimmer waistline

Alcoholic drinks are full of empty calories that contribute to weight gain – so your waistline will thank you for taking a break. A beer can contain up to 250 calories, which is around the same as a small block of chocolate. According to FebFast, you would need to do 45 minutes of dancing, half an hour of cycling or an hour of moderate walking to burn off that energy. To work off the calories in a glass of white wine, you would need to walk for just over 2.5km or do Melbourne’s Thousand Steps four times!

2. Better sleep

Having a drink at night might make you feel relaxed and sleepy – but once you nod off, alcohol actually interferes with your sleep cycle, resulting in poorer quality of sleep. Research at the London Sleep Centre suggested this is because alcohol disrupts REM sleep – the deepest sleep stage – which can result in a restless, wakeful night that leaves you feeling unrefreshed in the morning. The more you drink, the worse the impact on your sleep.

3. Clearer skin

Alcohol dehydrates the body – and that includes your body’s largest organ, the skin. Studies suggest that drinking in excess can also deprive the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin A, which is essential for cell renewal and turnover. This can result in the skin having a dull, grey appearance.

When your skin is dry, it is much more likely to wrinkle and make you look older than you are. Plus, alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate which can often leave your skin red or blotchy. Staying hydrated means smooth, supple skin that makes you look bright, young and fresh. Much better!

4. Reduced risk of cancer and other serious diseases

The World Health Organisation reported that alcohol consumption contributed to 3 million deaths globally in 20161, and Cancer Council Australia estimates that about 3,200 cases of cancer in Australia (or 2.8% of all cancers) in 2010 were attributable to alcohol consumption2.

There are also links between alcohol and cardiovascular disease, seizures, gout, dementia, depression, high blood pressure, infectious diseases, nerve damage, liver disease… the list goes on! The simple act of reducing your alcohol intake may be one of the kindest things you can do for your body in the long-term.

5. Improved relationships

Do you have friends you only spend time with when you’re drinking? Try spending some alcohol-free time together and you may be surprised by the more meaningful levels of interaction you can reach. Instead of meeting for a drink, why not organise a walk followed by a healthy breakfast, or perhaps a trip to the beach or a museum? Spending quiet and peaceful time with the people in your life can be a nice break if you’re used to shouting at each other over the noise of the pub.

6. Less stress

Drinking may seem to help you unwind after a stressful day, but there are some suggestions that drinking regularly can make it more difficult to cope with stress. Alcohol can mask stress in the short term, but it does not treat the underlying causes of psychological distress and mental health conditions. In the long run, it can actually make them worse, and there is a strong link between excessive alcohol consumption and depression.

7. Better mood

Again, it seems counterintuitive – for a lot of us, drinking seems to help us loosen up and have fun. However, alcohol is actually a depressant. It slows your body down and changes the chemical makeup in your brain, which can have a major impact on mental health. Consuming on average more than two standard drinks a day can increase your risk of developing mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and interfere with antidepressant medication.

If you’re worried that you may be using alcohol to mask your feelings, it’s important to work through any issues that are troubling you to help you start to feel better. Organise a check in with your GP to get some extra support. Beyond Blue also offers a range of helpful resources and support if you or someone you love is feeling depressed or anxious.

8. Money saved

How much would you normally spend on a night out? $30? $60? $100 or more? Think of all the things you could put that money towards. And it doesn't mean sacrificing on fun, either. There are plenty of cheaper (and sometimes free) ways you can spend a night with friends, and the change might be refreshing. Why not try organising a game of beach volleyball, or a sushi-making night, or a home movie marathon. Think outside the square and just watch the extra money pile up in your bank account.

9. No hangovers

What’s that? A Sunday morning where you can bound out of bed make use of the day? One of the benefits of taking a break from alcohol is the extra time you’ll have that would otherwise be wasted nursing a hangover. Weekends suddenly become much more rich, expansive and enjoyable when you spend them feeling energised and vital.

Alcohol-free recipes to try this July

When the temptation to reach for a wine or beer hits, Hello Sunday Morning’s community have compiled a great list of their favourite alcohol-free sips to try instead. Check out these refreshing drink ideas for ordering at a bar, serving at an event, or if you’re after a go-to drink to wind down with on a Friday night at home.

  • Cranberry juice, blood orange juice, fresh lime, soda water, and fruit pieces
  • Quarter of a glass of apple juice, topped with Indian tonic water and a few mint leaves
  • Soda, lime, and bitters
  • Soda water, a spoon of maple syrup, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dash of cayenne
  • Lemonade, pineapple juice and a splash of lime cordial
  • Ginger beer, a splash of fresh orange juice, ice and lots of mint leaves
  • A frozen banana, milk of your choice, a shot of espresso, and a small teaspoon of coconut sugar (low GI)