Health and Wellbeing

Happy Booze Year?

The new year can bring lots of good things, however for many of us January often starts with a raging hangover from the night before. In fact the whole festive season can easily become quite alcohol-centred, which has led to initiatives like Dry January and Dryathlon, which encourage people to take the month off from drinking alcohol.

We want to take a look at this idea, and think about the different effects (positive and negative) that alcohol can have, and whether we should all give up drinking for a month.

Why Dry?

Alcohol Concern, who created Dry January, say that taking part in the campaign is “a chance to ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline, and save some serious £££ by giving up alcohol for 31 days”.

These can definitely be benefits of stopping drinking – alcoholic drinks often contain a lot of calories without any useful nutritional value, and are definitely not cheap, especially on a student budget! Hangovers (having a headache, feeling unwell, nauseous and tired after drinking) are also an unpleasant side effect of drinking a lot of alcohol, especially because they can make us less productive the next day – turning up late/tired to lectures or even missing them completely. 

Drinking a lot of alcohol can also lower our inhibitions so we do things we wouldn’t do when sober, which can leave us with feelings of regret for the things we might have said or done in our inebriated state. There are also a lot of long-term health problems that are associated with drinking alcohol.

So, why on earth would anyone ever drink alcohol?!

The Nice Things

A lot of people simply enjoy the taste of alcohol! It’s also become a part of British culture in many ways (mulled wine at Christmas, beer at the football, Pimms and strawberries in the summer, wine and cheese parties…) so alcohol can be part of a lot of social gatherings.

Many people also find that drinking alcohol relaxes them, and helps them to be more at ease in social situations where they might otherwise be nervous. In moderation, alcohol can help us to have a good time.

There are lots of reasons why people enjoy drinking, otherwise they wouldn’t do it, however this only rings true to a certain point – if we drink too much then the hangovers and regrets (and possibly embarrassing vomiting incidents) start to kick in. The trick is to identify what makes a positive experience and how to keep it that way!

So What’s The Answer?

It depends on you! You might be happy with the amount of alcohol that you do (or don’t) currently drink, you might want to give Dry January a try, or you might just want to think about your drinking and how mindful you’re being.

Enjoying alcohol in moderation can be part of a healthy social life, and socialising and connecting with others is good for our overall wellbeing, as long as look after ourselves at the same time.

While there are medical recommendations for what is a safe amount of alcohol to consume there is no science to making sure that, if you do decide to drink alcohol, it is a positive experience rather than a messy one. However, there are a few things you can be mindful of:

  • Have a snack –  avoid drinking on an empty stomach and make sure you eat before/during drinking
  • Be aware of your limits – listen to your body and switch to soft drinks when you feel the time is right. You could also alternate alcoholic and soft drinks from the start
  • What mood are you in? – alcohol is a depressant, so being aware of your state of mind and avoiding alcohol if you’re in a bad/low mood is a good idea
  • Why are you drinking? – check in with yourself to make sure that if you decide to drink alcohol it is for a positive reason i.e. to enjoy a tasty beverage with friends, rather than because you feel pressured or upset

 

For more information on alcohol, or support around issues to do with alcohol use, take a look at these resources:

Pavilions – for alcohol and drug info, treatment and recovery options in Brighton and Hove
www.pavilions.org.uk

Drink Aware – for facts and advice about alcohol
www.drinkaware.co.uk

Drinks Meter – for anonymous, personalised feedback on your drinking
www.drinksmeter.com

Alcohol Concern – for more information about Dry January
www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/dry-january

The University’s Wellbeing Web Pages
www.sussex.ac.uk/wellbeing/alcoholdrugsandsmoking/alcohol