Group of five people socially drinking and cheering their drinks


Sober curious: The benefits of abstaining from alcohol

  • Opting for alcohol abstinence, whether as part of the sober curious trend or during Dry January, offers a chance to reassess the role of social drinking in one's life.
  • Abstaining from alcohol leads to improved sleep quality, better cognitive function and can positively impact overall health and relationships.
  • After a period of abstaining, many find a more mindful approach to social drinking, recognizing personal cues and making conscious choices about alcohol consumption.

How much, how often and why are good questions every drinker should ask themselves occasionally. It’s easy for social drinking to become a habit. You may have heard the terms “sober curious” or “Dry January” and wondered what it’s all about. Here are some nuggets to think about if you’d like to consider taking a break from drinking. 

What is “sober curious”?

Making the decision to take a break from alcohol has become a trend. For people who drink socially, abstaining from alcohol for a month (for example, during “Dry January”) or being "sober curious" when out with friends, is a chance to step back and evaluate what drinking is doing or not doing for you. The sober-curious trend is not about addiction necessarily. It’s about social drinking and how it fits into your life.  

Reasons to abstain from alcohol

  • Some people who take a break from alcohol discover their drinking has become more of a habit and that giving up alcohol really doesn’t affect their lives, positively or negatively.
  • Some people don’t know why they drink. It may be triggered by their mood and is a behavior to numb feelings or cope with stress.
  • For others, taking a break is a chance to make a conscious choice about when, where and how much they want to drink when their break from alcohol is over. 

Effects of social drinking on your body

Not as much research has been done about the effects of social drinking as there has about addiction. While some studies show there are actual benefits to your heart with moderate drinking, from an overall health standpoint, it’s probably not a good enough reason for you to drink. It may be helpful to think of alcohol as just another drug that affects your brain.

Social drinking can:

  • make you sleepy, sooner
  • interact negatively with other medicines you may already be taking
  • impair your memory and ability to think and stay on task

If you drink enough to feel hungover the next day you’ll have physical and cognitive symptoms. Studies show when you have a hangover you have delayed reaction times and difficulty with attention, concentration and visual-spatial perception.

Benefits when you abstain from drinking

  • better sleep (improved ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night)
  • better sex and improved relationships
  • budget savings
  • calorie savings
  • increased energy
  • less worry (for example, about whether or not you’re safe to drive)

Make a plan before you abstain from alcohol

You may find it easier to move toward a desired goal instead of away from something.  

  • Think about personal cues that trigger your drinking. What places, people and circumstances make it easier for you to drink.
  • Once you’ve identified your cues, come up with alternatives when those cues invariably happen. For example, abstaining from alcohol doesn’t mean you can never join coworkers at an after-work happy hour or celebration.
  • Consider “dry” or non-alcoholic drink options. These days many bars and restaurants include delicious non-alcoholic drinks on their menus.
  • Don’t feel guilty if, after a break, you choose to drink socially again. Instead, pat yourself on the back for having taken the break in the first place and moving forward with a more mindful plan in place for how and when you’ll drink socially.




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