As the cooler months loom, it can be tempting to use alcohol to regulate your mood, get a buzz or relax, but even moderate intake can negatively impact your mood, nervous system, liver function and body weight. Here are expert tips for healthier replacements.
As the extended daylight of summer and after-work outdoor activities give way to the shorter days of autumn, it can be easy to fall into a routine of sitting down with a wine in the evening. After all, you miss the buzz and relaxing effect of endorphins. Plus, there’s boredom. However, while it might feel good at the time, regular alcohol intake can disrupt the brain’s mood and emotion regulation mechanisms (it’s actually a depressant), interfere with nervous system function, degrade sleep quality and lead to chronic lethargy or fatigue, impair liver function and induce weight gain. But what to do instead?
Try these psychologist-approved alternatives to flood your brain with natural feelgood chemicals.
- Meditation. Practising meditation has been shown to promote relaxation, inner peace, self-belief and connectedness and harmony with nature and other people (many benefits people seek through alcohol consumption). It’s so powerful, research supports meditation as a key part of treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression.
- Singing. Singing or chanting in a choir or group has been shown to produce a sense of wellbeing, connectedness and even euphoria. If you prefer to sing solo, belting out your favourite tune with the volume cranked in the car or loungeroom and singing in the shower have also been shown to increase feelings of happiness, relaxation and wellbeing.
- Laughter. There’s a reason laughter therapy is a thing. Laughing, even if it’s forced at first, stimulates feelgood chemicals. Consider joining or creating your own laughter group. For a ready-made pick-me-up, scroll your Netflix or Stan for a comedy and let yourself laugh without inhibition (belly laugh).
- Running or high-intensity exercise. There is scientific basis for the term ‘runners’ high’. Running stimulates endorphins, which can result in a feeling of euphoria and amplified energy and motivation before inducing a state of calm relaxation and wellbeing.
- Cuddling up. Love really is a drug. Exchanging gestures of affection with a partner such as cuddling, kissing or even giving one another foot or shoulder massages promotes the release of bonding/love hormone oxytocin, which results in feelings of wellbeing, closeness, connectedness and validation.
If you’re keen to change a habit or make a lifestyle change to improve your health and wellbeing but need support or guidance, consider consulting a psychologist, who can provide evidence-based tactics for effective, lasting change.