Many people turn to alcohol during difficult times. They may frequent bars each evening to cope with stress at work. Or they may drink alone at home to numb physical or psychological pain caused by a traumatic event. Drinking helps some people relax and take their minds off of hectic circumstances.
But using alcohol to decompress can harm your health. Routine drinking can increase your tolerance to alcohol and lead to dependence or addiction. Alcoholism is a brain disease that affects 16 million Americans.
However, a number of healthy alternatives to drinking exist. These activities have physical and psychological benefits. They can reduce stress, improve concentration and boost mood. They can also keep you from drinking and experiencing its consequences.
Here are five tips for relaxing without alcohol.
Research shows that exercising can reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health and make you feel happier. Exercise also decreases anxiety, depression and feelings of stress. Walking around your neighborhood or running through a park are simple ways to decompress without drinking.
If you live near mountains, take up hiking or rock climbing. These activities allow you to stay physically active and reduce stress without experiencing the consequences of alcohol. Areas in Boulder, Colorado offer many breathtaking locations for rock climbing.
For centuries, people have meditated to relax. Researchers have studied the physical and psychological benefits of mindfulness exercises such as meditation. Some even suggest that meditation has more health benefits than going on vacation. These activities can reduce anxiety, depression, stress and pain.
Yoga, a popular mindfulness activity, uses physical poses and breathing modulations to help increase strength, relaxation and spirituality. The activity has even been used in conjunction with treatment to assist people recovering from addiction.
Instead of drinking, you could listen to music. Many people listen to music to relax. The activity releases endorphins in the brain, which boosts your mood and improves your blood flow and blood pressure.
Listening to music can be beneficial during recovery. A number of musicians, including Macklemore and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, have recorded songs about overcoming the perils of addiction. These songs can relax and inspire people in recovery.
A good book can take your mind off stressful situations. Find a quiet location, such as a library or park, where you can decompress and read for a period of time. Reading can help you improve your focus, reduce stress and stimulate your mind.
Research shows that self-help books can help ease depression, a common outcome of alcohol problems. In fact, a 2013 study conducted by researchers with the University of Manchester found that low-intensity interventions, such as reading self-help books, can help reduce severe depression.
If you live near the coast, try going to the beach. The beach provides fresh air and soothing sounds that help people relax. Studies have shown that beaches have calming effects. For example, the sound of ocean waves can activate the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, improving your mood.
Research also shows that sun exposure assists the body in producing vitamin D, which increases bone strength. Gazing at the ocean for a period of time can clear your mind, and breathing in the ocean air can recharge your body.
After a difficult day, avoiding alcohol can be difficult. But finding alternative activities that help you relax and relieve stress can reduce your risk of developing alcohol-related complications while improving your overall health.