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by Erin Bates September 29, 2020
Similar to the well known “Dry January”, Sober October is another month that gives us ample opportunity to take a break from the booze. 30 days off the sauce can seem daunting, but this month might be the best month to give it a go. With our 2020 routines being anything but normal, taking a break to reevaluate habits and reconsider priorities might be in everyone’s best interest.
So how did Sober October come to be? It actually started with an Australian non-profit called Life Education, which titled the event “Ocsober” as a way to raise money for their organization. Another charity in England, Macmillan Cancer Support, coined the “Sober October" phrase, and encourages those who participate to help raise money for their cancer support systems.
While the month started as a way to help fund these charities, it has now expanded into it’s own entity. Many are now choosing to participate as a way to simply take a break from alcohol before the holiday season. But why should you stay sober for all of October? We’ve got a few good reasons for you to consider.
Depending on how much and how often you drink, taking a break from alcohol can actually offer numerous physical and mental health benefits. One organ that is hugely affected by drinking is the liver, which can turn into cirrhosis in those that drink excessively. However, the liver is considered a tolerant organ, so as soon as alcohol intake stops, the organ can work to function normally again within a few weeks. This allows it to focus on more important jobs, like breaking down other toxins in the body. Even if you don’t drink to excess, it can be a good idea to give your body (and liver!) a much needed break.
Another beneficial reason to cut out booze for a month? The reduction in calorie intake could make weight loss an easier goal. The average glass of red wine has 125 calories, while the average IPA beer has 200 calories. Sip on two or three drinks a night, and you’re easily packing in an extra 500 calories to your daily diet. If you’re looking to make some health gains, Sober October is a great place to start.
Cutting out alcohol can also improve your sleep, which can translate to improving things like concentration and memory. Drinking before bed can cause issues throughout the night, like increased brain activity and more trips to the bathroom. Alcohol also disrupts REM sleep cycles, which is crucial to feeling well rested the next day. If you do choose to take a break, be sure to note the quality of your sleep and how you feel in the morning. You may just notice you feel more awake and energized.
Alright, I know we’ve all had our routines shaken up to some degree earlier this year, but Sober October’s timing couldn’t be better. We’ve had several months to fall into our “COVID-19 routines”, but now may be a good time to shake that up as well. While masks, social distancing and working from home may be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, we can still find ways to change up other habits (like drinking).
And, shaking up your routine is actually good for you and your mind. Research has shown that changing your habits can help to “rewire” the brain and create new connections through something called neuroplacticity. This is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. In order to grow and change these networks, we must offer ourselves new or different sensations and experiences. By avoiding alcohol, you may be on your way to rewiring your brain from that routine.
But routines exist for a reason- they make our day to day lives easier and help us stick to healthy habits. However, when that routine becomes mindless or strays away from being beneficial, it can be good to reassess its purpose. Just take some time to reconsider some of those actions, especially when it comes to drinking. If you’re reaching for a beer as soon as you clock out, take some time to ask yourself "why”.
Sober October is also a great month to take a break and truly evaluate your relationship with alcohol. Think about why you drink- is it to reduce stress? Is it so you can hang out with friends? Because you enjoy the taste or because you like being drunk? There are literally endless reasons why we may or may not choose to drink, but taking time to address the whys may give us a better idea of what we want out of alcohol. That might mean cutting it out completely, or just reducing the frequency of drinks overall.
Sober October has also received some criticism, with concerns that people are treating sobriety as a trend rather than the serious and potentially life changing decision it can be. While sobriety and being sober isn’t a trend, evaluating your relationship with alcohol should be. Alcohol is so engrained within our culture from so early on, that its place in our lives is often not questioned. By participating in months like Sober October, we are given the opportunity to question our own relationship with alcohol, and how it affects our lives.
Choosing to stay sober for an entire month might be an easy decision, or it might be a really tough one. If you do choose to participate, Sober October offers a great opportunity to give your body a break, and time to change up those routines and habits.