Brace yourself, because you're about to see a huge uptick in #mocktails on your social media feed thanks to the rise of Sober October. This relatively new phenomenon is trending heavily and is the new Dry January for many sober-curious individuals.
In this article, we're going to dive into what Sober October is, how it got started, the health benefits and some tips on how you can have a successful month of sobriety.
What is Sober October?
The name speaks for itself - Sober October is an entire month of abstaining from drinking alcohol. That means not a single can of beer or glass of wine during the month of October.
It's just a simple challenge for many people to see if they can go sober for a month. For others, it allows for an in-depth examination of their relationship with alcohol and their drinking habits. And for some, it's a signifier that it's time to make a serious lifestyle change that lasts for the rest of the year or even the rest of their life.
The Origins of Sober October
The origins of Sober October can be tracked back to Macmillan Cancer Support. The coined the term when they launched the Sober October challenge, which started as a fundraiser and a way to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
The Sober October challenge has been around for a while, but it really picked up steam in the last few years when Joe Rogan and fellow comedian Tom Segura took on the challenge and talked about it on Rogan's hugely popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Last year, the duo (along with Bert Kreischer and Ari Shaffir), completed their third annual Sober October.
Benefits of Sober October
Everyone knows that alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on your physical and mental health, but not everyone knows that even casual alcohol consumption can have surprising effects on our health. Going booze-free for a month comes with many financial, emotional and physical health benefits.
The amount of calories in alcohol is shocking, so it's no surprise that eliminating alcohol use can lead to tremendous weight loss. Let's take a look at the calories counts of some popular adult beverages.
- 1 Budweiser (12 oz) = 145 calories
- 1 Bud Light (12 oz) = 110 calories
- 1 White Claw (12 oz) = 100 calories
- 1 Shot of Vodka = 97 calories
- 1 Glass of Wine (5 oz) = 123 calories
As you can see, even the "light" options pack a ton of calories.
To put this into perspective, the average adult in America has 1.94 drinks a day, or 13.6 per week, says Aaron White, senior scientific advisor to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism director. That means the average American is consuming 1,400+ calories a week from alcohol; that's around two hours of running for the average American male (~197 lbs).
Are you running two hours per week?
Hangovers suck, plain and simple. Nothing ruins a would-be productive weekend like a debilitating hangover. And, unfortunately, there are no miracle cures. The only proven hangover remedy is to not drink at all.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Alcohol is not cheap. At best, it's an unnecessary luxury purchase and at worst, it's a serious financial burden. The average American could save hundreds of dollars per month and over a thousand dollars per year just by cutting out alcohol.
Sober October is the perfect time to start saving money for the expensive holiday season.
For some heavy drinkers, most of their relationships are built around alcohol. The sad thing is, relationships built around alcohol aren't really relationships at all.
Every "social drinker" has drinking buddies that they don't know anything about (except their drink order). Going sober for a month can open your eyes to who your real friends are. It will allow you to spend more time with your loved ones and build genuine connections with people who actually care about you.
More Free Time
What do you get when you eliminate hours of partying and even more hours wasted in bed with a hangover? A ton of free time! Imagine what you could get done if all of your Friday nights were spent being productive instead of being drunk.
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Alcohol, even a little bit, wreaks havoc on our sleep cycles. A little nightcap might help you fall asleep, but according to the Sleep Foundation, "people who drink before bed often experience disruptions later in their sleep cycle as liver enzymes metabolize alcohol."
A 2018 study looked at the effects that alcohol has on sleep and the stats were eye-opening. According to the study:
- Low amounts of alcohol (less than 2 drinks for men, less than 1 drink for women) decreased sleep quality by 9.3%.
- Moderate amounts of alcohol (2 drinkers for men, 1 drink for women) decreased sleep quality by 24%.
- High amounts of alcohol (more than 2 drinks for men, more than 1 drink for women) decreased sleep quality by 39.2%.
Tips for Staying Alcohol-Free
In the best-selling book Atomic Habits, author James Clear outlines to steps to breaking a bad habit, like drinking alcohol. The most important step is to eliminate as many triggers as possible. A "trigger" is something that starts the process of your bad habits. For many drinkers, simply seeing a cold beer in the back of the fridge acts as a trigger than can lead to substance abuse. So, to break your alcohol habit, avoid anything that makes you want to drink. Here are some good ways to start:
- Throw out all the alcohol in your house.
- Avoid restaurants that serve alcohol.
- Don't go to bars.
- If you have certain friends you know will pressure you, avoid them during your sober month (or hang out in an alcohol-free setting).
In addition to avoiding your triggers, it's also helpful to tackle the challenge with a group (that's why organizations like AA have sponsors). See if any of your friends want to participate and start a group chat to check in on everyone's progress and to provide support. The popular fitness tracker Whoop allows people to create groups so you can see how your friends (or Joe Rogan) are doing during Sober October.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to give Sober October a try?
If you can make it until the end of the month, then you probably have a healthy relationship with alcohol. If you really struggle, then it might be time to reevaluate your drinking habits.
But regardless of your outcome, I think we can all agree that a lot of us can benefit from some time away from the bottle. It might make Halloween a little less fun, but you can always stay up until midnight and crack a cold one to celebrate the end of a successful Sober October!
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