“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” ~Anne Sweeney
So many people make the positive choice to have a sober start to the year in January, whether it’s a New Year’s resolution, a detox, another wellness goal, or part of a fresh start program, but perhaps it’s worth considering prolonging the benefits further into the year ahead.
A break from alcohol is always a good thing, whether it’s a few days, a week, a month, or longer, and the bigger the break, the more you get a chance to reconsider whether alcohol is helping you to achieve your plans, intentions, or goals in life.
There are many benefits of extending your sober break beyond thirty days.
You’ll get more (and better quality) sleep, which will lead to you having more energy, both emotionally and physically.
As you get into better sleep habits and patterns, with extended periods of REM sleep, you will likely find your mood improving, and you may also find that you have more time for hobbies or projects that you want to focus on. I used to enjoy reading but could never find the time to do it; now I have time in the evenings to read, and time in the early mornings before the rest of my household wakes.
You’ll find it easier to stay focused on your other health and wellness goals.
You will find it easier to get hydrated and eat in line with your nutrition plans when you’re not side-lined by a morning carb fest or caffeine overload. I no longer need to drink sugar-laden drinks to give me energy, and I find that I’m much more mindful about what my body needs during an average day to fuel it efficiently, while enjoying what I eat and drink.
You might have more diverse, fun experiences with friends.
You can plan and enjoy lots of alcohol-free activities together throughout the spring. I’ve found that some of my newer friendships are not based upon drinking activities at all. We walk, we go for brunches, coffees, movies, and day trips to new places. All social activities I wouldn’t have thought about instigating when I was still drinking.
You’ll see progress across all areas of your life by spring or early summer.
The habits that you formed through the first quarter of the year will really start to pay off by the time the days are longer. You will have found new and different ways to relax, to have fun, and to process your emotions, which can positively impact your work and relationships, and you will be so glad that you did.
You may be inspired to develop a list of things you want to enjoy through the year now that you have the time, energy, and money.
There may be simple pleasures such as watching the sunrise, hiking, baking, or creating, or more ambitious plans to execute. Perhaps you’ll discover a new hobby or direction that fills you with pride and purpose.
Alcohol feeds your short-term rewards system (it gives you a dopamine hit) but ultimately acts as a depressant. Your brain wants immediate gratification for the least amount of effort, and alcohol can provide this, but I urge you to find some balance or a more sustainable way of living.
I spent a considerable amount of time drinking very little alcohol before I decided to have an alcohol-free year as a little life experiment to see how I got on, and cutting down my alcohol consumption was a brilliant introduction to a sober lifestyle. I found new ways to spend my time that I never would have considered before and rekindled old hobbies.
I now get an amazing sense of satisfaction from achieving my medium and long-term goals—these are the rewards I work toward.
Achieving my intentions helps me develop and maintain the habits I want to keep. I work toward the long-term goals by ticking off the short term ones, which gives me immediate gratification while helping me develop my purpose on this planet. Alcohol made me act on impulse; now I act on carefully made plans, good intentions, and bold dreams.
A sober month is a good thing at any time of the year, not just January, but please remember, we don’t have to stick to neat months or rules. We can choose whatever chunk of sober time we like to enhance our lives and find joy in the alcohol-free corners of our worlds whenever we want to.
This year I’m choosing another year of sober living, and I cannot wait to see what I get to achieve by the end of it.
How about you? If you started the year with a break from alcohol, can you consider extending your intention into the spring or even into the year ahead?