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5 surprising ways quitting drinking made me happier

Leading sobriety coach and founder of Love Life Sober, Christy Osborne explains how quitting alcohol made her happier, plus she shares her expert advice to quit drinking

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Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
Updated: January 5, 2024
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We're a week into Dry January now and if you're finding yourself tempted by a glass of rosé  tonight (me too!), I thought a little insight into how quitting alcohol can make you happier might be the motivator you need to keep you on track for your month of sobriety.

I spoke to certified sobriety coach Christy Osborne, who is hosting a sober curious event with Ark Lab, about how giving up alcohol improved her mood, tapping her for her top advice on quitting drinking, be it for January or for longer.

Why does quitting alcohol make us happier?

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Quitting alcohol can help you rediscover simple pleasures

1. Alcohol alters our brain chemicals

"Going sober can significantly impact our happiness by altering the dopamine and serotonin levels in our brain," explains certified sobriety coach Christy Osborne.

"When we consume alcohol, our brain is flooded with a large amount of dopamine, more than we get from everyday enjoyable activities. This excessive dopamine raises our pleasure baseline, meaning our brain requires more dopamine over time to feel pleasure. Consequently, activities that once brought us happiness feel dull and boring. Alcohol becomes the primary source of pleasure and happiness."

2. We can learn to enjoy the simple things

Christy explains that by swerving alcohol, we're able to enjoy simple pleasures again.

"Without alcohol, our pleasure baseline gradually lowers meaning that you can begin to enjoy things like, a walk in the park, or a nice meal, or a holiday without a drink in your hand."

DISCOVER: 24 of the best alcohol-free and low alcohol drinks

 3. Our health will improve

Our health will be happier too, Christy explains. "Abstaining from alcohol enhances our gut health, which is crucial for our overall wellbeing.

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Soft drinks can feel just as special as alcoholic beverages

"The gut, which is responsible for producing serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite and sleep), can be adversely affected by alcohol, disrupting its balance.

"When we stop drinking, we promote better mental health by allowing the gut to efficiently produce serotonin."

READ: Ask a life coach: How can I cut back on drinking? 

4. We'll sleep better

Christy speaks from a place of experience, going sober herself which she said had a noticeable impact on her mood, mainly due to improved sleep.

"The quality of my sleep improved significantly when I stopped drinking," she shared. "While alcohol might have helped me pass out, it deprived me of the vital REM sleep that my mind and body needed.

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Quitting alcohol can improve our sleep

"Achieving a full, undisturbed night’s sleep without waking up at 3 am was a new and rejuvenating experience. This improved sleep naturally began to elevate my mood and energy levels each morning."

5. We'll stress less

Christy also found herself less stressed when she swapped out alcohol.

"Sobriety brought me peace," she says. "Understanding that alcohol had been elevating my cortisol and adrenaline levels, increasing my day-to-day stress, was a revelation.

"I realised I had been using alcohol to manage the stress that it was creating in the first place. Without it, tasks that once seemed daunting, such as laundry or managing emails, no longer felt insurmountable."

"Sobriety helped me get my joy back," she adds. "Understanding that regular drinking had conditioned my brain to associate happiness only with alcohol was pivotal. Now, without the depressive aftermath of drinking, my joy is authentic and consistent.

Read on for Christy's advice on how to quit drinking...

How to quit drinking, according to a sobriety coach

1. Work out why you drink – and why you want to stop

Get curious about yourself and understand why you want to stop drinking.

If you believe that there is a benefit to alcohol, however small, you will continue to drink. That's why we start with the 'why'. Why do you drink? Why are you pouring that glass?

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Find joy in alcohol-free activities

2. Ask yourself if alcohol is helping you reach your goals

This might take a bit of research. For example, if you are drinking to ease anxiety you may feel relief after the first drink, but after the initial dopamine spike wears off, adrenaline and cortisol take control and you end up making yourself feel more anxious than when you started.

Go through your list of why you drink one by one and do an experiment to see if alcohol is helping you achieve those things or not.

3. Think of quitting drinking as an experiment

You never have to say forever, but if you are sober curious or considering stopping drinking set yourself a temporary challenge to see how you can feel better without it

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Non-alcoholic drinks will help you feel healthier

4. See how you're feeling without drink

When you've been alcohol-free for a few weeks, take a look at how life alcohol-free feels. That way, you can compare the two and you get to decide whether or not the alcohol is serving you.

5. Find sober activities you enjoy

If you’re worried about missing out on social interactions with people through not drinking, take a look at social activities that you can do without alcohol. Suggest different activities to your friends as they might also be interested in joining you on this and it can be a way to reframe your time together.

 READ: 5 ways to make every day special – and feel instantly happier 

6. Reframe your beliefs

Many of us believe drinking makes things more fun, mainly because there is a huge social element to drinking, especially during the winter months. Venturing into the festive period when you're not drinking can feel daunting.

Think about what your blocks are and why you feel events might not be as fun without alcohol. It can be as simple as reframing thoughts and realising you’ll feel much fresher in the morning and able to remember the evening than not. It’s always helpful to remember the benefits of not drinking

Christy Osborne is a certified sobriety coach and founder of Love Life Sober, who helps empower women across the UK and US to get back in control of their relationship with alcohol. Book her Explore Sober Curiosity event with Ark Labs here.

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