01423 206909

What one thing can you do to feel healthier?

I asked myself this same question, what one thing can I do to feel healthier?

I used the first lockdown back in March 2020 to get healthier by learning to make better food choices and getting regular exercise (thanks to Joe Wickes).

Fast forward to January 2021 Lockdown, I chose something I never imagined I would choose to do.

I gave up booze


On 1st January I went alcohol-free, and I’m sticking to it at least until the end of this lockdown (at the time of writing we are already at the end of February 2021 and lockdown isn’t ending anytime soon).

Everyone who knows me knows I’m a big drinker. I love my prosecco and espresso martinis and a cold beer or 5 in the summer. I’m the life and soul of the party and the last one to go home. So, going alcohol-free in lockdown has been slightly more manageable because I’m not faced with the temptation of the pub or socialising.

I wanted to take a break because I started feeling like it was dulling my mind. For the last 6 months of 2020, and despite the numerous restrictions, I made the most of whatever socialising was allowed. Because opportunities were limited, I made the most of the times I did go out.

Still, by the end of the year, I struggled to manage the fuzzy head (at best), the sometimes-violent hangovers (at worst) and the general lethargy. Single-handedly running a business and bringing up a 2-year-old is challenging at the best of times without adding a hangover to the mix. I also found alcohol-induced paranoia and anxiety were affecting my mood and my ability to see things clearly.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person, being a ‘moderate’ drinker was never on the cards. So, on 1st January, I went alcohol-free. Not for Dry January, because I can’t bear the idea of joining in with a populist fad. I’m all about free will and choice (which is why I was so annoyed years ago when I realised I’d accidentally given up smoking on No Smoking Day – I’d have waited a day if I’d have known!)

When I got to the end of January, I didn’t have to think twice about carrying on for February, and I’ve now committed to remaining alcohol-free until the end of this lockdown. Who knows after that?

So how does it feel?

Hard some days if I’m honest. I’ve been with my parents when they’ve been drinking, and I’ve wanted to join in, desperately sniffing mum’s prosecco as she wafts past. I’ve been on video calls with friends where they’ve been nursing a glass of wine, and I’ve felt huge pangs of jealousy.

I’ve joined Zoom parties where everyone is knocking back the gin whilst I’ve stuck to water or tea, and I’ve thought ‘would one really hurt?’.

But I’ve never woken up the next day and said, ‘I wish I’d had that drink’. I feel like a fog has lifted and I’ve had a clarity of mind that I’ve never experienced before. I’m constantly alert. I feel like my brain functions on a completely different level, and the creativity of thought that comes from that is astounding. I almost can’t keep up!

What have been the benefits?

When my parents used to have Bo overnight, I would use it as a reason to be able to drink more wine because I knew I could get away with the hangover and have a lie-in. Now I can get up hangover free and enjoy my me time. At the moment, I may only be able to do simple things like go to the local deli, go for a walk, cook a nice meal or have an at-home pamper session. But the joy of those simple things is immense.

Even if all I want to do is sit on the sofa and watch TV it’s so much more enjoyable now I don’t have to watch it through one eye while clutching my throbbing head. And yes, I’ve had my down days due to the lockdown but staying alcohol-free has meant they haven’t dragged on and that I can feel and appreciate all the good stuff so much more clearly.

I have more quality time with my son. I don’t have off days where I struggle through and if he has days where everything he wants to say or sing needs to be shouted my head can take it.

It’s not just my mental health that has improved. I’m making better food choices because I’m not trying to soak up the alcohol and I’ve lost weight. I’ve started getting back in to exercise recently because when you start taking care of yourself in one way you want to do it in other ways too.

Where to start?

I’m not suggesting everyone, or anyone, go alcohol-free. It’s a big deal, and like anything, I think you need to want it. But what I can say is if you’re thinking about it, go for it. How can you ever know how life would compare if you don’t experience the alternative? But you don’t have to give up alcohol or do anything drastic if you want to become healthier. Just think of one achievable thing that you could do or change.

It might be about the food you’re eating, getting regular exercise, actively making a choice to improve your sleep, regular meditation or practising gratitude. Whatever it is decide exactly what that looks like to feel healthier, be specific about what you are going to do and how often. Write it down along with the reasons why you want to do it and what you will get out of it. If you are clear about your motivation, it’s much easier to stick to it.

We all need a boost right now and feeling a sense of achievement is a great way to give yourself that. And if you’ve been thinking about taking a break from the booze, I’m no expert, but I’m happy to chat about my personal experience or recommend some podcasts or books that friends have shared with me.

I’m sharing my story because going alcohol-free is something I have chosen to do and enjoyed, and it might resonate with someone else. But importantly, now is the time to be kind to yourself, so just do whatever makes you feel good.

Some useful resources to help you feel healthier:

One Year No Beer – practical tips to give up alcohol

Sport England – practical tips to get active in or around your home

NHS – practical tips for eating healthier