Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Is your alcohol consumption really making you happy?

Yay! It’s WEDNESDAY afternoon – only a few more hours to go until that first glass of red wine that will help wash away all the stresses and strains of the day… Does this sound like you?

Surprisingly, according to a recent Scottish Health Survey, one in four people in Scotland drink at harmful levels (more than 14 units of alcohol a week). And other UK statistics suggest that the rest of the UK is also drinking too much. Are you are one of them! If you’re unsure, you can always check.

There are many reasons why people choose to drink alcohol and like most things, taken in moderation, it needn’t become a worry.

When asked why they drink, most people will cite one or all of the following:

"It relieves stress"

It’s true that alcohol is a sedative and as such can take the edge off any stress you are experiencing. However, it’s also a depressant and so, chances are, once the sedative effects have worn off, whatever was bothering you before will return – with knobs on!

"It makes me less shy / more confident"

Booze can act as a social enabler; lowering our inhibitions and making it easier for us to interact with other people. This is great for situations when we need to meet new people, or if we feel self-conscious in large groups. However, almost all of us can remember more than one occasion where our drinking tipped us over the edge from being the life and soul of the party, to not being able to remember how we behaved the following morning. It’s a fine line…

"It’s good for the heart"

A common fact shared by wine drinkers all over the world. There was some research that purported that drinking a small amount of red wine could have positive benefits for the heart. But – and here’s the thing – is a small amount of red wine ever really enough?

We want you to focus on just one question for a moment: do your drinking habits really make you happy? If you have to think before answering, it might be time to take a closer look at your alcohol consumption.

For this year’s alcohol awareness week, the focus is on the health impacts that regular over-drinking can have on your health. Many people believe their drinking is under control if they can get through each day without needing a drink. However, if you regularly choose drinking over other pass times and activities, this could be a warning sign.

For some people, the answer is to stop drinking altogether, but that doesn’t work for everyone – in fact, here’s an interesting article about the way we justify our behaviours to ourselves, when we know our actions are potentially harmful.

We need to be really honest about the effects alcohol has on us – and those around us. Yes, alcohol can make you feel great, but have you thought about the following potential knock on effects of alcohol?

Depression


Alcohol alters the chemistry in our brain, which leaves us more susceptible to feeling depressed. The difficulty is deciphering whether you’re drinking because you’re depressed, or if your drinking is making you feel depressed. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced an interesting leaflet about this topic.

Anxiety


Feeling anxious after an evening on the booze is quite a common side effect. It’s caused as the body breaks down the chemicals and your blood sugar levels drop. It’s not normally a major problem, but if you are someone who is prone to feeling anxious (regardless of whether you’ve been drinking or not), the effects of the alcohol will heighten your anxiety – as will certain anti-depressant drugs.

Family


Most people believe themselves to be happy drinkers. However, we’ve already talked about the ways in which we justify our behaviour to ourselves, so here’s the reality: alcohol can also make you short tempered, self-centred and strongminded. Most family issues caused by alcohol include money problems, arguments and the inability to be ‘present’ within your family and play an active role.

Relationships


Some say that the fact alcohol lowers our inhibitions means we show our true selves when we’ve been drinking. In reality what alcohol does is heighten our feelings. If we’re in a good mood, alcohol can make us feel great and we want to share this feeling with those closest to us. When we’re feeling a bit grumpy, alcohol can act as an aggressor – unmasking negative emotions - and often we share this side of ourselves with our nearest and dearest too!

For more information about alcohol awareness week, click here >

PS: Know your limits…

In January 2016, the guidance around recommended limits of alcohol was updated. The advice is to not drink more than 14 units a week and to spread these units evenly over three or more days.

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