New Department of Health guidelines on drinking are expected to include having at least two alcohol free days in every week. But what are the benefits of making what seems such a small change?
The revised advice about alcohol free days was flagged in a 2012 government report on alcohol guidelines, and is accompanied by lower weekly limits for men, and clearer daily limits. These remove any misunderstanding about weekly limits and binge drinking.
I’ve written before about the benefits of an entire month of sobriety, such as Dry January, and the measurable health improvements that it can make. What might be less apparent though is that adopting at least two alcohol free days per week can prompt long term positive changes as well.
The first of these is reducing the habit of drinking, and the risk of psychological dependence on alcohol. I see many people who whilst by no means alcoholics or physically dependent on drink, are concerned that they are not as fully in control of their drinking as they would like. These are people who might use a glass of wine to take the edge off of a working day, or have a drink because they feel that it helps them to sleep.
Alcohol free days are an excellent way of breaking these habits. If you use drink to relax the do something else – exercise, have a bath, talk to a friend, listen to music, do something creative. If you use drink as an aid to sleep then adopt better sleep habits instead. The benefit of this approach is similar to that in the 5:2 diet – your ability to control your alcohol intake, and your sense of achievement, actually increase across all of the week, and not just the alcohol free days.
There are also physical improvements from alcohol free days – not just in the immediate benefit to your liver, but benefits from reducing your overall exposure to alcohol. This will reduce your likelihood of developing certain cancers, high blood pressure, stroke and pancreatitis. It will also help you to improve your mood and the quality of your sleep.
If you found this post about alcohol free days useful why not sign up for my monthly newsletter here, with three stories every month on the less travelled side of relationships and psychology.