Can stopping drinking make you happier?

For many Daybreak members, one of the most surprising aspects of stopping drinking, or cutting back significantly, is an improvement in their overall mood. Members who had taken a break from drinking purely for health and weight reasons are often shocked to find themselves calmer, more tolerant and, amazingly, happier, after stepping away from their daily habit of one or two glasses of wine.

Although there is a growing awareness of the impact of alcohol on our mood and overall mental health, long-term drinkers might not quite be aware of the impact it is having, since they might not have had the opportunity to go without alcohol for some time. Alcohol often becomes embedded in nightly routines and social occasions, to the point that it becomes as ‘essential’ as milk and bread in a household – and people can unknowingly become daily drinkers simply out of habit, rather than strong desire.

We associate alcohol with winding down and relaxing, celebrating and perking us up, so the idea that it might actually be eroding our overall mood can be quite confronting.

The science behind this isn’t too complicated – basically, when we drink alcohol our brains release a number of neurotransmitters that make us feel euphoric and relaxed. This is actively changing our brain chemistry, however, and when we go to sleep our brains work overtime to re-adjust. This often results in an over-abundance of some chemicals, and a deficit in others – and we can wake up feeling flat and unmotivated (due to less dopamine), anxious and jittery (due to too much of the chemical, glutamate), or even just tired and foggy (because, of course, alcohol also stops us from getting that deep, restorative REM sleep).

 You might remember in your early years of drinking when the effects of alcohol the next day were very noticeable – you might wake up feeling terrible and struggle to function properly. Of course, this is also dependent on how much alcohol you’ve consumed the night before – but there also seems to be a tendency for regular, daily drinkers to develop a tolerance to these symptoms. Even with one or two glasses of wine, people can find that their sleep and next-day mood is disrupted, but of course if this is their ‘normal’ then an alternative is never identified. It is only when they have been alcohol free for several days that they might start to notice a lifting of that ‘fog’ and a resurgence of energy as their sleep improves and the effects of alcohol on the brain wear off.

One caveat here is that this is not the case for everyone – for some people, stopping or cutting back on drinking may not have a noticeable impact on their mood. In general, however, these people would likely see other changes to their wellbeing that are also compelling – things you might not have expected, like better digestion due to consuming less alcohol, or a greater sense of clarity from getting better sleep. In general, our Daybreak members who have taken a break from alcohol do report an improvement in their daily quality of life – and this can look different for everyone. For some people it can even be quite liberating to have conquered daily drinking, and be taking a break – the sense of achievement and hope for a healthier future is, in itself, quite uplifting.

If this sounds like it might relate to you, we’d recommend downloading the Daybreak app and getting some support. You can take a self-assessment to see whether you should see your GP before making any changes (as it can be dangerous to stop drinking suddenly if you have been drinking daily for some time). Being able to move away from daily drinking can be the start of major changes for you, since you’ll likely experience benefits in mood, sleep and overall health – and the other members of Daybreak will be able to offer advice and support for how to get there.

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  • Yes I can agree totally with this …… I function all day do what I have to do work grandkids shopping ect ect ….. but come tea time….. the wine calls …. then tea at 9 bed and treats water all night ….. then next day up out tea time again

    By Denise
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    October 8, 2020
  • I am a daybreak user and found it very helpful – Will be eleven months alcohol free tomorrow and can categorically state I have never felt better, It took a while for me but mind cleared, mojo returned, confidence soared. I did not think I was lacking in confidence but now feel exceptionally confident. All worth it in my opinion. Cheers all

    By Peter Clark
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    October 8, 2020
  • For 8 of the last 11 years I drank extensively to waste away my despair and loneliness of my marriage breakdown. Then, three years ago, absolute happiness with my new love and my three kids showing me their dad “was always there and loving”them. It was almost a celebration that we continued drinking. Poor sleep, lack of energy and then COVID. Yes, we got it and we are not old, obese, diabetic! Brain bleed was my worst symptom. Horrific. So I stopped drinking for 7 weeks. Felt great! Proud. Now back to 5 days a week drinking again. I know all the benefits but …..!

    By Geoff
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    October 8, 2020
    • Thank you for sharing.

      It sounds like it’s a tough time for you right now, and we want you to know that there is support available. Check out the Daybreak app to connect with others who may be going through a similar experience or reach out to a health professional such as GP. Lifeline is also available for support 24/7 on 13 11 14.

      Take care, The HSM Team.

      By Hello Sunday Morning
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      October 8, 2020
  • Physically active but consumed alcohol daily for thirty years; internal physical issues for last three months (typical male I will not see my GP yet).
    Gave up drinking three weeks ago……my slow recovery and overall feeling of an awareness of who I am now wow….where has all the anger gone/no more fighting with my bestie my wife/peeing sometimes once a night now!!!……….physically I feel a little tiny bit better each day and ready for the long haul into my life

    By steve troon
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    October 8, 2020
    • Well done, amazing, be proud of yourself

      By Carol Burmeister
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      October 8, 2020
  • Great read, this is absolutely true. From being a daily and fairly regularly a heavy drinker I am almost 12 months alcohol free. I had a few trial runs (I would never call them failures) which highlighted for me the change in overall happiness you talk about, so much so that I decided to make it a permanent change… though at the time I wouldn’t have dared suggest it was permanent (though I did hope!).

    I’ll never go back now – my life has gone from being grey at times (Mondays and Tuesdays especially) to full on technicolour, pretty much most of the time. If you’re teetering on the edge of an alcohol free life – as I was for many years – I fully recommend taking the plunge.

    By Linda
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    October 8, 2020
    • I absolutely echo this, Linda. On my third serious attempt at going AF, and it’s no coincidence that I feel happier not drinking, no matter what else is going on in my life.

      By Julia M
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      October 8, 2020
  • Yup. Having imbibed [too excess] for decades I chucked the grog. A totally new normal emerged quite quickly. Wow! The idea of the – now understood – negative effects of just one glass of wine [who used to be my best mate], is abhorrent to me now. Seriously a sickening thought from my new normal – which is a much, much happier place than what I stoopidly thought was a happy place.

    By Hugh Hubbard
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    October 8, 2020
  • Day 2 of no wine l want to feel happy not flat and foggy lve put on wieght from the wine and late night snacking.

    By Toni Lindsley
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    October 8, 2020
    • Hi Toni,

      We’re sorry you’re feeling this way! Please remember you’re not alone in the struggle.

      If you want to see what others think about this, you can also download our Daybreak app, which offers professional and community support to help you achieve your alcohol behaviour change goals.

      Take care,
      The HSM Team

      By Hello Sunday Morning
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      October 8, 2020
    • In my experience it takes a few days to clear the fog. In fact, the first few days of going off the booze I actually felt worse. Might be my body’s withdrawal, or cleansing, don’t know. but I’m doing my 5th multi-week stint of no alcohol and I’m going through it now.

      But after a a week or so this goes away and you feel ‘normal’. Shortly after, I notice my energy levels increase and by this stage I don’t miss a 6pm drink. After a month, I notice the physical benefits: weight loss (I don’t have much to lose though), blood pressure drops, heart rate drops slightly, and my physical stamina definitely increases…Strava tells me this is a fact.

      Hang in there! I’m doing 3 months, might go for 12….Christmas is tough.

      By SJ
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      October 8, 2020
  • This is so true – am now in late 50s, have spent most of the last 12 months alcohol free after much of the preceding decades drinking a glass of wine in the evening “winding down from work”/“preparing the dinner” etc. Only regret is not making the change sooner. Now have to balance the fun of having the occasional glass of good wine/good food socialising with family and friends but remaining alcohol free most of the time. So far going ok.

    By Liz
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    October 8, 2020
  • I’ve experienced a huge improvement in mood since giving up alcohol 2 months ago.
    As an introvert, I’ve always linked my anxiety with my personality and used alcohol to compensate. I realise now that drinking made it worse. I’m still an introvert of course, always will be, but now I’m a confident man. At 60 years of age I blamed “old man syndrome” for my impatience and irritability, but I find myself a lot calmer now. Things just don’t bother me so much anymore. I feel my eyes have been opened and I see the illusion for what it really is.

    By Brett
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    October 8, 2020
  • My girlfriends and I have acknowledged we have a real problem with being able to stop once wine/gin/rum/vodka hits our lips.
    I wish I knew what it is that justifies spending $30 on a “nice bottle of wine” when an 85c bottle of soda water would be just as (if not more) refreshing, especially with some infusions and flavours, with the added bonus that I’d still be fully functional and in control.
    I am aware that this is a CHOICE. But it feels like someone else is at the wheel. I eat well, I work hard and I’m physically active: I gave up the grog last year for a while after a bad breakup, and I KNOW how good it feels to be sober… so why is it so hard so say no now???

    By Sande
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    October 8, 2020
    • I can strongly suggest Annie Grace’s Alcohol Experiment for 30 days. It is for free. You learn such a lot of how your brain works and why it is so difficult to stop.
      Good luck with this yourney.

      By Elza van Zyl
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      October 9, 2020
      • Thanks so much Elza, I’ll check it out and get the girls on board too.

        By Sande
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        October 12, 2020
  • I am 52, a mother of 4 and am now 4 months without a drop of alcohol. I had cut down over the last year but at the end of May this year I stopped completely. I can honestly say not drinking has been the best decision. I now sleep so well and have more energy. A friend asked me had I had Botox…eh no!! I do find that my decision has annoyed some people but hey I am doing this for me, for my health and happiness.

    By Susie
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    October 8, 2020
  • I believe this so much having had a long term period of sobriety. Less depression, more energy and clarity, less mistakes at work.
    Even only as a moderate daily wine drinker I know deep down I would have a better life by stopping.
    Thank you all on Daybreak.

    By Neville
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    October 9, 2020
  • I am now over two years AF and it was the best decision I could possibly have made. I am a much calmer and happier person, and don’t feel the ‘need’ of a drink, or ‘another drink’, any more.
    I was a moderate drinker but felt that it helped me to relax, and I came to look forward to ‘wine o’clock’ most days.
    These days I rarely think about alcohol at all. I now enjoy an alcohol free beer some nights, and have converted a few adult family members into having one with me!
    Some surprising benefits have filtered through to my husband and adult children; as my husband drinks only rarely now, and our home has less of an alcohol-culture at family social events. We offer alcohol but it isn’t a big focus of the meal or family gathering. I hope this is perhaps a good role model for our children and grandchildren.

    By Teresa Golin
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    October 9, 2020
  • The article is so true, the hard part is to keep the motivation of having that break from alcohol when your moods are low .

    By Peter Adijans
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    October 11, 2020
  • Resounding yes, life is better without alcohol! From a weekend binge drinker +, I gave it away initially for 6 weeks, but felt so good that I couldn’t see a reason to start again and it has now been just over a year. Best of all is the freedom, not having to manage around alcohol and its effects (ie driving, early morning starts with hangovers, worrying about what you did/said under the influence etc) and definitely reduced anxiety. Someone else mentioned Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind, that was also part of my journey, and I would recommend it to anyone questioning their relationship with alcohol.

    By Irene
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    October 12, 2020
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