As the leaves outside change colors and nature prepares for a shift, a similar transformation takes place for your well-being: the arrival of Sober October. This month-long challenge invites individuals and communities to abstain from alcohol throughout October and embrace improved health and mental clarity.
The Rising Popularity of Sober October
The popularity of Sober October has surged in recent years, becoming a notable trend embraced by those looking for ways to improve their well-being. This rise in popularity is particularly pertinent in the wake of the pandemic, which saw an increase in alcohol consumption as people dealt with the stress and uncertainties of lockdowns and isolation. As the world emerges from a post-pandemic world, many are recognizing the need to instill new habits and prioritize their health.
Embracing the Benefits
Going alcohol-free can lead to various health benefits, including improved sleep, clearer skin, enhanced mental clarity and increased energy levels. It allows your body to repair and rejuvenate, promoting overall physical and mental well-being.
Beyond these tangible benefits, participants may discover things they didn’t connect with alcohol use. “People may notice that they have less stress in their lives, things don’t feel as heavy, they have less acid reflux, their blood pressure has improved or they are losing weight,” commented Jody Ryan, MD, chief medical officer and addiction medicine specialist at WellPower.
People also report feeling positive changes in their personality, such as increased patience and a heightened sense of self-awareness. All these benefits may not happen overnight so it’s key to be gentle with yourself. “People might be irritable at the beginning and then they might be more agreeable after a few weeks of abstaining,” said Dr. Ryan. “With a little bit of time, significant others and friends may notice changes in their demeanor that the person might not even be aware of.”
Realistic Goal Setting
One of the key decisions you’ll make on your Sober October journey is whether to abstain from alcohol entirely or to focus on cutting back. It’s crucial to approach this choice realistically, understanding your own needs, motivations and circumstance. There is no one-size fits all approach and both paths offer valuable lessons and growth.
“Most people underestimate their consumption of alcohol,” said Dr. Ryan. “So instead of going cold turkey, a good place to start for some people might be measuring your alcohol at the start of the month and then you set the bar for yourself from there. Maybe it is one less drink per day if you are a daily drinker or maybe it is not drinking on the weekend.”
Whether your goal is to completely abstain or cut back on alcohol, it’s crucial to share your journey with a significant other or friend. This connection provides accountability and emotional support as well as someone who you can celebrate achievements and navigate setbacks with. It also helps to have someone to plan activities with who will abstain from alcohol with you or know that is your goal.
“If someone is unable reach the goal they have, then reevaluate and reset the goal,” suggested Dr. Ryan. “Maybe you weren’t being realistic, and you overestimated something about yourself, or you underestimated your consumption and so you can reset the bar and go from there.” The key lies in determination to get back on track, recognizing that lasting change is a process, not an all or nothing endeavor.
Transitioning from Sober October
As October turns to November and the holiday season approaches, use the mindfulness and discipline cultivated during October to approach your relationship with alcohol with intention. You may find it easier to make choices that align with your well-being, without feeling like you are missing out.
“I think it’s good to experience the effects of making a change for yourself and then mindfully looking at what you want to do with it next,” said Dr. Ryan. “Do I want to try another month; do I want to try six months and see what life is like? Or do I want to not drink at all given the fact that more and more studies are not identifying a healthy amount of alcohol, that any amount of alcohol is unhealthy.”
Sober October isn’t only about abstaining from alcohol, it’s about using that commitment as a catalyst for further change. As participants experience the physical and mental benefits of their decisions, it may lead to investing in healthier choices in other aspects of life as well. Whether this is exercising more, choosing healthier foods or focusing on self-care, let the ripple effect of your choices extend beyond October.
To elevate your Sober October experience, try out some of Dr. Ryan’s mocktail recipes that bring all the fun without alcohol.