EP #112

Three Healthy Brain Habits to Support Drinking Less Alcohol

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In this episode of the Alcohol Minimalist podcast, host Molly Watts shares insights on changing drinking habits and fostering a peaceful relationship with alcohol. She highlights three key aspects of her alcohol minimalist life that she is focusing on, including consistency, managing the mind, and brain health. Watts advocates for prioritizing habits that support healthy brain function, such as getting sunlight exposure, regular movement, and quality sleep. Drawing on scientific information from sources, she explores the impact of sunlight on serotonin and melatonin production, emphasizing the role of natural light in regulating sleep and mood. Watts also addresses the grim statistics of screen time and indoor living, connecting it to sleep issues and the development of drinking habits. The episode concludes with a call to prioritize brain health and the power of transformation in changing one’s relationship with alcohol.

Hey, it’s Molly from alcohol minimalist. What do you do in this October? I would love to have you join me in my more sober October challenge. What do I mean by more sober October, it simply means that we’re going to add in more alcohol free days than you currently been doing, whether that’s one or two or 31. It’s up to you, you get to set your own goal and that’s why it’s more sober October, you can check it out and learn more at get got sunnyside.co/molly It’s totally free. I’ve got grises I’m going to be going live every week to announce the prize winners. And it’s just going to be an awesome event. So I would love to have you join me. You can learn more at get.sunnyside.co/molly and you can get registered today. Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking, and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, hello and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast. With me your host Molly Watts coming to you from well, it’s a cloudy Oregon, it’s been relatively dry for the last few days. Rain is coming today. It’s gray, it is gray out It is February. And yeah, as I mentioned, I mentioned last week, we had had some pretty nice days, we’ve had a lot of dry days, I got to be honest, which is unusual in Oregon during this time of the year. And maybe that’s part of the reason that I feel like I’m doing pretty darn well over this last month. How are you doing? For those of you who have been listening along, you may remember that my motivation at the beginning of dry weary aka January was maximum effort, I wanted to give myself the gift of maximum effort for the whole month. Now, as far as alcohol goes, it was it went really well. 31 days was really pretty easy for me. And I didn’t have any reentry issues in February, meaning in terms of over drinking, because I could drink again, that wasn’t that hasn’t been happening. And this last weekend, I did my alcohol free weekend for February, which was great. And as a reminder, I add in an alcohol free weekend each month, one to help me lessen my overall intake of alcohol on a global basis. And to probably more importantly, to remind myself, to pay attention to my thinking and to reaffirm that alcohol is just a non factor in my life. I don’t need to drink to have fun, relax, unwind, get to sleep, none of it. When I choose to include alcohol in my life, it’s in a way that aligns with my long term goals, which means I can enjoy alcohol in minimal amounts and without desire to over drink, and my alcohol free weekends each month just helped me stay on track with that. So back in January, as I said, I confessed that my maximum effort, visions for the other areas of my life, namely some diet and fitness things I’ve been working on had not gone as well in January. Now it wasn’t a full blown derail meant. I just wasn’t staying mindful of maximum effort in those moments when I didn’t feel like sticking to my goals. And here’s the difference between old me and hashtag alcohol minimalist me. I now know that going off track or off plan is just a part of the process. And it’s just an opportunity to reevaluate and keep going. I wasn’t overly hard on myself. And in fact, I practiced a lot of compassion and curiosity as I realized that I was still processing the grief of losing my dad in November in a more acute way. That And I had really appropriately accounted for, and that I realized would be happening. And I needed to understand that my, quote unquote maximum effort was going to be a lot less than that ideal that I had hit on January 1. And that’s okay. Now, as I got started in February, my goal instead of maximum effort was consistency every day in small ways. Sidenote here, many of you know that I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Benton. And Elizabeth is actually coming back on the podcast next week. And consistency will be a major theme of our conversation. So stay tuned for that next week. This week, however, I want to talk to you about three aspects of my alcohol, minimalist life that I’m focusing on being highly consistent with this month. These are three important parts of brain health that I do to support my ability to drink less. Now two are things that I’ve been focused on and committed to working on for a few years now. And the last one is something that I’ve only recently started paying close attention to, and I’m seeing really positive results already in my overall health and happiness. So I’m excited to share it with you, managing your mind and taking care of your brains health are absolutely related. go more in depth on that in my online course. But first, let’s be clear about this, the two terms mind and brain are often used interchangeably, the brain is considered actually to be the physical thing. And the mind is considered to be mental. The brain is composed of nerve nerve cells and can be touched, right, whereas the mind and not be touched. So I just want to clarify, you know, are they are to actually separate things, people often use them kind of interchangeably. And being a better Mind Manager, I say all the time, is the foundation of changing your drinking habits. And, and so they’re therefore doing things that support healthy brain function really makes managing your mind easier. i You Hear Me reference, your beautiful, brilliant human brain. And I hope that I can convince you to see your own brilliance and why taking care of your brain should be at the top of your health priority list. This is a quote from a book called inner size by John Astor off, and honestly, this book has a lot of great information in it, but it also kind of bugs the heck out of me, because it’s kind of salesy. So while I can recommend the content, I’ll say, read the book on Kindle or in paperback, so you can skip all the other garbage. Because the audible version, I just found myself having to skip ahead a lot to avoid being quote unquote, pitched. Sorry, but it’s just the truth of the situation. And you know, I even considered reaching out to him on the podcast, he’s got a huge following is kind of a big deal, right. And he’s been on some major stages, so I don’t even consider it, but, and I had heard him originally on Elizabeth Benton’s podcast, so I thought there might be a chance that, you know, maybe he’d accept, but I decided that I would rather do this and share this information exactly as I am and allow you to check it out for yourself if you want to, because like I said, I realized it kind of bugged me. So therefore he might kind of bug me on the podcast. I know. Isn’t that that terrible to say, but I don’t want to ever feel like it’s a pitch, right? So the book itself is linked in the show notes in the show notes, check it out if you’d like. But I love this a lot. Like I said, I love a lot of the facts, a lot of the content there and a lot of the actual practices and tactics of inner size, I think are are very, are awesome. And here’s what John Ashcroft shares about the brain. What this three pound miracle is a big deal. Your brain does a staggering amount of work. It runs all your organs and regulates your temperature. It operates your immune system, it repairs the constant damage done to your body. It also controls your muscles and runs your digestive system. It keeps your heart beating your eyes moving your hair growing. It warns you of danger and fights cancer and welcomes in love and pleasure. And that’s still just scratching the surface. There is faith, consciousness, instinct and so much more. It does all of this while you drive a car. Think about that great American novel you want to write and talk through a challenging problem with someone you trust. Everything from tiny to huge from the mundane to the epic your brain Does it all. And it does so with a complexity and mysterious elegance, that the most dedicated scientists in the world have yet to even begin to understand. Every moment of brilliant genius, breathtaking creativity, and astonishing accomplishment in human history was accomplished with an evolving brain made up of stuff like yours, the fortune 500, CEOs brain, same stuff. The co worker who lost all that weight, the friend who quit their job and started a successful business, Lincoln’s brain, Einstein’s brain, same stuff, unquote. Does that help? Does it help you value your brain? Does it make you believe in the power that your beautiful brilliant human brain has to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol? I hope so. Just a quick break to talk with you about Sunnyside. You hear me talk about it on the podcast and truthfully I have so many students and group members that share with me how Sunnyside is their preferred tool. It helps them build their healthier drinking habits and really create that peaceful relationship with alcohol. It’s a tool that I feel very confident in recommending. And the Sunnyside team has recently in September launched a new iOS app. And that iOS app is going to just enhance the existing text message experience. It makes it easier to build healthier drinking habits for anyone looking to cut back or simply drink more mindfully. The new Sunnyside community is also available only in the new iOS app. And it gives you access to an engaged community of like minded people who are also on a journey to cut back on drinking and build healthier drinking habits. It’s a safe private space and you’ll get access to inspiration and advice from Sunnyside members as well as coaches. I encourage you to go check out Sunnyside go to www.sunnyside.co/molly to get started on a free 15 day trial. That’s www.sunnyside.co/molly There was a quote Elizabeth Benton shared on one of her older episodes of primal potential that I was listening to the other day. And by the way, primal potential I can highly recommend So in contrast to exercise to now I can also just put Elizabeth podcast in perspective, I have like 100 I don’t know 115 episodes she has over 1000 and this is in one of her older episodes back in the three hundreds. I wasn’t listening to this episode specifically for any reason it just actually auto played. But I was so glad it did. And that’s literally why I what I love about podcasts that I subscribe to, I can almost always get a nugget out of anything I’m listening to. This episode was a review of the diet and nutrition book called wired to eat by Rob Wolf. Now I have not read the book. But I liked this quote so much. And I have that Elizabeth shared I wanted to share it. The quote from the book is, quote, one could spend billions of dollars on research and not come up with better health recommendations, then eat whole unprocessed foods, get outside in the sun, move a lot, sleep like you’re on vacation, and surround yourself with loving relationships. Unquote. Now in this world of so much information, we can research everything until our brains are literally ready to explode. But at the end of the day, you probably won’t come up with better health rather than recommendations than those that I just stated in that quote. And I would add of course minimize alcohol to those basic recommendations. And I’d say you’re pretty well set. But in that quote are the three brain health habits that I want to talk with you about. Honestly, all of the things in the quote are known to support brain health, including full and processed foods and surrounding yourself with loving relationships. But I’ve been focusing on consistently prioritizing these three in February, one get outside and the sun to move a lot and three sleep like you’re on vacation. Now the last two moving your body intentionally and sleep are two areas that I know are incredibly important and that I do consider Keystone Habits in my life. Keystone Habits are the routines and practices by which someone operates by default. They kind of mark the base level of what you do without any need for willpower or persuasion, I don’t have to negotiate with myself on these habits because the benefits are so obvious and clear to me. When I miss a keystone habit of moving and getting good sleep, I can feel the impact II mediately. And I don’t want it to happen two days in a row, as James clear says Never miss twice, missing once in life, it’s inevitable but missing twice, it’s the start of the habit in the other direction, the direction that you don’t want to go, right. So I very much have always been or not always but since I really started on this alcohol minimalist life since I realized how much alcohol this my daily drinking habit was impacting my sleep. And once I really connected the dots in terms of how much moving impacts also not only my asleep, but just my overall mental health. These were, these were two things that really became a priority for me. And we’re gonna talk about more about about moving in sleep in a minute. But this first one get outside and the sun. That’s the one that’s newer to me and one I’ve been seeing the real benefit of this past month. Now we all know that I like to complain about the weather here in Oregon. And without question, the gray skies here. Don’t inspire me naturally to get outside. But here’s what has inspired me recently. Getting outside in natural sunlight or daylight, even if it’s not sunny, is actually proven to help your sleep and help your mood. This information I’m going to share with you comes from a website called www dot 1000 hours outside.com I will link it in the show notes. So 1000 hours outside. Here’s what it says on the surface. It doesn’t seem to make any sense but it’s true. One human eyeball containing contains 1 billion working parts 1 billion. The closest most intricate manmade item is a space shuttle with 500 million working parts. One of your eyes is twice as complex as the most complex thing man has ever made. According to Jacob Lieberman od PhD, when sunlight enters the eyes, the entire brain lights up. indoor light is solely for vision. But full spectrum sunlight affects so much more. Light is a guide for the trillions of cells in your body through a process called Photo bio modulation. light entering the eyes transmits time of day information to the brain into the body. Sunlight sends a wake up signal to the pituitary gland and the pituitary gland responds by releasing hormones. bright morning light tells your body to suppress melatonin production and increase cortisol production which is good for you in healthy amounts. By the way, it’s important when you’re waking up and it also stimulates serotonin. Eventually, the pineal gland metabolizes serotonin into melatonin and that’s what helps you naturally fall asleep at night. If we expose our eyes, body and face to morning sunlight, our body will respond by increasing serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. So morning sunlight provides the raw materials our body needs to make melatonin when the day starts winding down. Exposure to early morning sunlight enhances your mood as well. Serotonin is a feel good chemical, and one way to control its release is to expose yourself to morning sunlight. There is ample research to suggest that serotonin plays an active role in the treatment of depression. Exposure to full spectrum sunlight in the morning causes our bodies to produce serotonin, which not only helps later on with nighttime sleep but improves mood throughout the day. Bright lights have been used for a long time as standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder. Out door light even on a cloudy day delivers considerably more locks than indoor light. rainy winter days will produce lux levels of 1000 or more, which is far greater than any inside light will produce. And on sunny days, summer days, sunlight can deliver light that is 1000 times brighter than indoor light. Our bodies are light receptors. Some of the sunlight entering our eyes is sent to the hypothalamus which coordinates and regulates most of our life sustaining functions and also initiates and directs our reactions to stress. This again by Light the medicine of the future by doc Dr. Jacob leader Lieberman. And now also from the 1000 hours outside.com Approximately 100 of our body systems are tied to the day and night cycle. Humans are diurnal creatures. Our rhythms revolve around the patterns of the sun and the moon, says IV Chung, PhD candidate in neuroscience at Northwestern. She says the light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain on the body. Proper synchronization of internal biological rhythms with the Earth’s daily rotation has been shown to be essential for health. And also, here’s the last part exposure to early. Another benefit that I that I hope I’m seeing exposure to early my morning sunlight can help with weight loss. According to study, those with early light exposure, weighed less, and results can be seen in just three short weeks. Even after controlling for all non light exposure factors including food intake, sleep, activity and influence of morning light, the influence of morning light on weight was considerable. It accounted for roughly 20% of the subjects BMI, meaning those with earlier light exposure weighed less. Okay, so there’s also some pretty grim statistics that I want to share with you and this According to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2022, US adults and adolescents spend 90% of their lives in doors, and a staggering seven hours a day looking at screens. And it’s just not good for us. I will tell you, I decided to take a morning walk regardless of the weather, and make it a non negotiable part of my morning routine in the past month, and I have already noticed the difference. I am becoming a big believer in the power of morning mite. And all of the benefits I just described, certainly not the least of which is sleep. Now I know I mentioned sleep fairly often, especially with regards to alcohol. Because getting to sleep is one of the reasons I hear most often from people when they are telling me about why they developed a daily drinking habit. They fundamentally believe they need to drink to help themselves all asleep. As I’ve shared many times, falling asleep faster absolutely does happen as a result of an alcoholic nightcap. But unfortunately, it changes our sleep architecture early in the night when those blood alcohol levels are high, which is why you fall asleep faster right and later was subsequent disrupted poor quality sleep later in the night. Alcohol is initially sedating, but it’s metabolized as as it’s metabolized is actually very debating. And here’s how that breaks down. In the first half of the night when fairly high levels of blood alcohol are still coursing through your bloodstream, you’ll probably sleep deeply and dreamless Lee, and one reason for that is that in the brain, alcohol acts on GABA, we talk about GABA and glutamate, GABA, a neurotransmitter that inhibits impulses between nerve cells and has a calming effect. So alcohol actually stimulates GABA. Alcohol can also suppress rapid eye movement or REM sleep, which is when most dreaming occurs. Now later in the night, as alcohol levels drop, your brain kicks into overdrive, you can toss and turn as your body undergoes a rebound arousal. The thing was sleep is, you know whether alcohol is the cause or not. We as a society, we here especially in the US are simply not getting enough of it. 62% of the adults around the world say that they don’t sleep as well as they’d like. Eight in 10 adults around the world want to improve their sleep 44% of adults around the world say that the quality of their sleep has gotten worse over the past five years. Here in the US one in three adults regularly don’t get enough sleep. And insufficient sleep is experienced by about 30% of the general population over the age of 18 88% of American adults report losing sleep due to binge watching something on TV. Who else who’s done that? Yeah, well and your sleep it impacts everything. What I’ve noticed in the last month as I’ve gotten more consistent with adding more morning light to my daily routine. And by the way, I am multitasking when I do that because I’m also walking not running mind you but I’m still intentionally moving as I go outside. I told you so the all of these brain habit They’re kind of all intertwined, and my mood is better, my sleep is better and my body feels better. Now moving your body does not have to mean hardcore workouts. I aim for 150 minutes of zone level minutes each week on my Fitbit. And that’s where I am right now. And I am getting outside too, which of course ticks both boxes, right? So better is better. When I feel better, mentally and physically, it’s easier to do all the things that matter in my life. I know that my alcohol, minimalist lifestyle supports my mental health, my physical health, and my sleep health. But I’m also keenly aware how these three health habits support my alcohol minimalist life. So ask yourself today, what can you do to move your body to get outside and to improve your sleep? And Hint Hint, going for a walk outside in the morning. There’s there’s an important piece of that. It’s in the morning, it’s supposed to be within the first hour that you wake up. That might just be the key. So let me know what you think about this week’s episode. Do you want to hear more episodes on brain healthy habits that support an alcohol minimalist life? I don’t know about everything else. But I will tell you what I know that moving your body getting outside getting that morning light and getting good sleep. I’m going to be talking about keeping those habits and making those Keystone Habits because they should be high priorities in your life and they will make drinking less even easier. Alright, that’s all I have for you this week, my friends. Until next week, choose peace. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com