EP #161

Alcohol Core Belief #4: Alcohol Is My Reward

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In this episode, Molly Watts dives into overcoming alcohol abuse and fostering a peaceful relationship with alcohol, urging listeners to prioritize morning light exposure for mental and physical health benefits. She emphasizes the absence of a scientifically safe level of alcohol consumption and encourages developing emotional resilience to curb reliance on alcohol. Watts discusses how morning sunlight exposure regulates circadian rhythm, boosts energy, and improves mood, while challenging common beliefs about alcohol being a deserved reward. She offers alternative reward systems like connecting with friends, exercising, or meditating, suggesting ways to challenge old beliefs and adopt healthier habits. Watts shares her passion for Sunny Side and advocates for mindfulness in alcohol consumption, promoting a shift towards healthier and more fulfilling rewards than alcohol.

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 habits. 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 minimalists podcast. With me your host Molly Watts coming to you from oh my goodness, my friends, it was an absolutely gorgeous Oregon this weekend. There were multiple days that were really just beautiful, sunny, almost 60 degrees. And there was an earlier sunrise, which I noticed for the first time this weekend. And this is super important for me. And it’s important for you to because I really want you to make a practice out of getting yourself outside into morning light. And we’re going to talk a little bit more about morning light. But first, I need to say that I have a couple of prize winners. And as a reminder, if you would like to be entered into my drawing for some alcohol, minimalist swag, all you got to do is leave a review of this podcast, leaving a review is really just a great way of supporting the show. And it helps other people who are searching for this content, this type of content find us. And you can leave a review on any of the apps that you listen to the show on Apple podcasts being the biggest and most important for that reason. But any of them or if you just leave a comment on Spotify, or a comment on a YouTube video, or a review of my book, breaking the bottle legacy, these are ways that you can get entered into the the big prize drawing I do two prize drawings every other week. And the first one is for a review of someone that has left a review. And that is the chosen review. So this review was from CX Baron. And it was you know, honestly quite a long time ago, I don’t know see experiment is still listening. But it was one of my earliest reviews. And it was super important again for and she just mentioned how much this content was getting to her at just the right time. And it was just the right moment in her life. So I hope she might not even be listening anymore because she’s made this change. And that’s okay. was almost three years ago, three years ago that I’ve been doing the alcohol minimalist podcast back then it was called breaking the bottle legacy. So CX Baron, if you’re still listening, you can email me Molly at Molly watts.com. And let me know that you were my chosen prize winner. And my random prize winner is sporty, sporty, and to be honest, I didn’t even make a note I don’t remember where Sparty left a review if it was on a book or on the podcast or on just a comment. I don’t remember and I didn’t write it down. So it was so random. So subharti SP a RT y if you are listening, you can email me Molly at Molly watts.com. And I will send you your alcohol minimalist swag. All right, so before I get to morning life before we get to this episode, I do want to make a little announcement and it is especially for people who are new to this podcast. And this is a little bit we got a lot of new people listening since dry January. And this is a little bit about what being an alcohol minimalist is and what it’s not. All right. So first and foremost, this is not a podcast that is that is intended for people who are identify with are experiencing alcohol, moderate or severe alcohol use disorder. At least severe alcohol use disorder. If you have physical symptoms that are caused by overdrinking, then you most likely need physical or medical intervention to safely cut back on alcohol before you begin all this other work and all this other work as well. I focus on. And so that is just a simple disclaimer, my show is really intended for people who are not who would not identify as having alcohol use disorder, or they have mild or moderate mild to moderate alcohol use disorder, someone that is drinking habitually, someone that simply wants to drink less, or not at all. And I am very clear on the science of alcohol here. And this is the bottom line, there is no scientifically 100% safe level of alcohol besides zero in our lives, and there is no positive health benefit to add alcohol to your life, if you’re not already consuming it, that you cannot achieve from something else that does not have this the negative health consequences associated with it like alcohol does. Now, that being said, I also understand that alcohol is a drug with a limited therapeutic benefit. That does not mean that it doesn’t have side effects, okay. But we have to acknowledge that that there is that alcohol creates a therapeutic effect in the brain in limited amounts, from zero to 0.55%. You hear me talk about that. The brain experiences, feelings of euphoria, relaxed inhibitions. And this feels good to our brains and to us, right. And that’s why people continue to consume alcohol. There are also shows social benefits that alcohol has provided to us over our lives over history. And I talked about that actually a bit in even last week’s episode. And we can’t just dismiss that. So there are reasons that one might want to include alcohol in your life. And this podcast is dedicated to helping you figure out how to do that in a way that is sustainable, feels peaceful. I recommend low risk limits, which are always included in the shownotes. And I recommend prioritizing alcohol free days in your life. Last but not least, we have to develop our emotional resiliency, so that we are not using alcohol to buffer away or enhance our feelings. Those are really what being an alcohol minimalist is all about. And I just I like I said, I know we have a lot of new folks recently because of dry January. I just wanted to touch on those basics. And those important disclaimer kind of mentions, right. All right. Morning, like let’s talk about that for a minute. All right. Many of you are familiar with Andrew Huberman, the Huberman lab, many of you have listened to his two hour podcast on alcohol from 2022. If you haven’t, it’s long, but it’s worth it. what alcohol does to your body, brain and health, especially if your brain is still trying to argue on behalf of alcohols preventative health benefits, you will walk out of that, you know, many people come out of that thinking they don’t want to drink ever again. So, you know, understand that I don’t ever get I get you know, I’m very clear. Like I just said on the on the science, right? I don’t try to kid myself into thinking I’m doing something beneficial. I also understand that I like to have, I like to have an occasional drink. And that’s okay, too. And, again, definitely worth listening to Huberman. But more importantly, Andrew Huberman. He’s become very popular in the last few years. He’s a Stanford neuro neuroscientist. And he has five things that he believes are the five key components of supporting mental health, physical health and performance, five key ingredients, all right, in his life that he focuses on sleep. I talked about sleep all the time movement. Alright, moving your body. I talked about that two nutrients. He talks about macro and micronutrients. Don’t talk about that here at all. And relationships. Talk about that to some degree, but not the importance of them and in terms of supporting mental health and physical health. The last one is light sunlight specifically. And Andrew Huberman believes very strongly that morning light is most important of all of that. He recommends that you need to get five to 10 minutes of morning light very first thing when the sun comes up is you know, right when you wake up, five to 10 minutes of direct light you gotta get outside. Even if you’re here in rainy Oregon when it’s raining because it is raining now, again, after all that beautiful sunshine this weekend, it’s raining and if it’s cloudy out then you got to get 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t have to go do anything. You don’t have to walk around. You can just sit outside if that works for you. I’m fact. I have recently adopted this So, this new behavior of if it’s raining, and I don’t feel like going for a walk in the morning, in the very early morning because the sun is finally coming up earlier at about 715 to 720, I can go and sit outside in my at my covered back patio and still see the morning light and not get rained on for 10 to 15 minutes. Now, it may sound too good to be to to be true. But the mere act of getting sunlight in your eyes in the morning may be a game changer for your health. Not only does and this is from an article not only does morning sunlight boost your energy levels, but it may also improve your sleep at night. So back to number one of humans think sleep. And some science suggests that morning sun exposure can improve your overall health as well. So one reason is because your circadian rhythm is regulated by light exposure. And intentionally viewing morning sunlight prepares your body and mind for the day ahead. This is you know, the good news here is that it’s free, right? It’s accessible. And this is all backed by research. Now, your circadian rhythm is your body’s 24 hour internal clock. It’s modulated by biological processes such as hormones that respond to external external cues. And the most influential cue is light exposure. You may have heard of SAD, seasonal affective disorder when you’ve got less light out. And this is a way that you can help offset that by getting morning light. Humans are designed to wait when the sun rises and sleep when it has set. In other words before clocks were invented this internal response to light was the primary timekeeping mechanism. In your brain light sensitive cells in your eyes transmit signals to the brain’s super charismatic nucleus, Sen for short, which is basically the central pacemaker of your internal body clock. Your body is most sensitive to light during three times of day, roughly the first hour after waking two hours before your bedtime. And during the night. You can leverage these three phases of daylight as a way to regulate your circadian rhythm. In the morning, sunlight exposure suppresses melatonin and increases cortisol. Now, while cortisol gets a bad rap, it’s essential for alerting for feeling alert in the morning. And this is known as the cortisol awakening response. And in fact, studies have found that a low waking cortisol level is associated with fatigue. And on the other hand, levels of melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone are low in the morning and they steadily rise throughout the day. When metal melatonin levels remain higher in the morning, it can make waking up more difficult. And this tends to happen more in winter when mornings are darker. All right, by regulating your circadian rhythm, sunlight can improve your sleep. Now, again, this is all backed by studies, these are all backed by things that and as sunlight gets goes later in the day, it means it shows your brain that that it’s time to slow down. And the thing of it is the the morning sunlight that increases cortisol. It actually that stress hormone getting that spike in the morning can actually lower stress levels for the rest of the day. And that means that you can make you more resilient to stress later in the day. Morning sunlight also ination initiates a cascade of positive changes associated with better mood and mental clarity including an increase in serotonin and serotonin is a feel good chemical, right? And it boosts your mood and then later converts to melatonin. Studies have also found that that morning blue light that we get in the morning has an antidepressant effect and can be used as a treatment as I just mentioned for seasonal affective disorder. So this week along with making doable drink plans with planning and prioritizing alcohol free days. If you are ready to add those I should say and you want to I want you to work on getting outside in the morning to expose yourself to morning light. If a morning walk works for you that is phenomenal. But even going outside and drinking a cup of coffee, sitting and getting the morning light will work for you. I’m prioritizing my life. I hope you will do it in yours as well. on to this week’s episode we are still talking about alcohol core beliefs and as As a reminder, I’ve been doing a series here on alcohol core beliefs, I will list all of the episodes in the show notes. And we all act as a reminder, we all have core beliefs. And what’s most important about any core belief is that if the core belief isn’t serving you, is knowing that it can be changed, right, just because you have believed something in the past. And even if you have plenty of evidence in your brain to prove it true, it doesn’t have to stay that way for the future. And even though many times people just think, Oh, I just love the taste of red wine, I just love my beer, I love my cocktail. There’s actually a what my, what I say is that there is a deeper core belief that you believe about alcohol, and what alcohol is doing for you. And it’s those alcohol core beliefs, the AC B’s, not your ABCs, but your AC B’s that are often operating unconsciously. And they exist because we’ve repeated the same thought patterns over time. And now those beliefs are our alcohol core beliefs, and they fuel our desire to drink. Just like other core beliefs that we create about our world and ourselves. Our beliefs about alcohol are reinforced by our family, by our friends by televisions, movies, social media. And without questioning those beliefs or challenging them. Our core beliefs around alcohol fuel our desire to drink. With repetition, and the action of drinking, we build a habit system for alcohol. I have outlined five alcohol core beliefs, and you can learn more about them, you can learn more about how to challenge some of the beliefs and challenge the thoughts that you have that fuel those alcoholic core beliefs. Over at Molly watts.com/mind map, I created a mind map I kind of outlined a couple of things about challenging those beliefs, and it’s over at Molly watts.com/mindmap. The five alcohol core beliefs as a reminder are number one, alcohol really helps me relieve stress. Number two, alcohol makes things more fun. Number three, alcohol creates connection. And number four, what we’re talking about today, alcohol is my reward. The last one alcohol next week is alcohol keeps me going we’re going to talk about that next week. All right, alcohol is my reward. Again, this story runs in the unconscious, okay? We don’t literally think all day long or all week long. Alcohol is my reward, right? Instead, you might just have the thought I deserve it. Or you don’t even have a clear thought like that. You just fantasize during the stressful times during your work day, about when you can have your wine, how it’s all going to be better, right? You fantasize you find yourself during boring moments of the day, anticipating looking forward to getting your drink when you get home after you’ve made it through the discomforts of the day. In a world where stress and challenges abound, it is an absolutely very common trap that many of us fall into the belief that alcohol is a deserved reward for navigating the complexities of our life. This alcohol core belief can absolutely and does fuel the habit of drinking. And over time, obviously, if he continues, it can contribute to very heavy alcohol use. Now we know right that the reward mentality isn’t reserved for alcohol, right? Rewards are a significant part of our lives from the time we are kids. And in psychology, rewards are actually crucial to our survival. Here’s a little psychology speak all right, quote, rewards are objects, events, situations or activities that attain Positive Motivational properties from internal brain processes. They have the potential to one increase the probability and intensity of behavioral actions leading to such objects. Learning also called positive reinforcement to the Generate approach and conservatory behavior and constitute outcomes of economic decision making. And three they induce subjective feelings of pleasure and her Donia Okay, that was scientific psychology speak basically saying that rewards are crucial to our survival. All right. Now I want to be clear here, we’re not talking about the brain systems right now, or the part of the brain that I and others refer to as the reward system. That is a part of habit formation. All right? No matter which alcohol core belief is your dominant core belief, our core beliefs unconsciously fuel our habits, which by definition is something that we do almost unconsciously right? thing that you do often almost without thinking that’s what a habit is. And it is something that’s usually especially hard to stop doing. And it does involve the parts of the brain that make up the reward system, quote, unquote. So underneath the unconscious behavior is an unconscious story. And for this alcohol core belief, the unconscious story is that alcohol is my reward, my prize My treat for getting through the day or the week. So the fact that we have a reward mentality is part of being human. And the fact that we’ve turned alcohol into a reward is understandable. And it’s all fueling our reward system inside the brain. Hey, everyone, just a quick break to talk with you about sunny side. Now, you’ve heard me mentioned Sunny Side many times before, you’ve heard me talk with Nick and E and the founders of sunny side. And I just want to share with you why I am so passionate about this company. They are way more than just a drink tracking app. They are really about helping people create a mindful relationship with alcohol and they stand for a life that is about having more, not less, right. There are more rested mornings more days. When you’re feeling your absolute best when you have more energy and positivity. Sunnyside is not there to tell you to never go out to never drink, but they are there to help you enjoy your life and to wake up and be ready to be your shining best. It is not an all or nothing approach. It is friendly. It is approachable, and it is absolutely judgment free. They want to be a solution that fits into your unique lifestyle. And I think that’s exactly what they’ve created. You can register for a free 15 day trial. Go to www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to get started. That’s www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to try Sunnyside today why do we turn to alcohol now number one cultural influences Alright, societal norms. Cultural influences often play a significant role in shaping our beliefs about alcohol. And definitely the things the messages that we are sent are that alcohol is a well deserved reward. And it’s perpetuated through various media, from advertisements to social gatherings. So it’s understandable why not only through repeated behavior, but why this core belief exists for you because it’s reinforced by our friends by our family by our media, right. Number two, there is a definitive cultural belief that alcohol, it relieves stress. So go back to alcohol core belief number one, right? The reason it’s number one is number one for a reason. And that stress relief perception, this idea that alcohol is something that buffer provides stress and stress relief is a shared perception amongst society and that actually fuels the reason that people turn to alcohol as a reward, the belief that a drink is a deserved reward for hard work. Okay, so that’s the difference right the hard work the reward is part of the coping with stress or the relief from the hard work and it becomes very ingrained number three reason that we see alcohol or the alcohol core belief, this is my reward becomes more and more ingrained is because of the fact that we celebrate with alcohol, right? So if it’s hard to not think of a reward being something that you know is associated with celebration, right? It’s a treat, it’s a reward, it’s a festive it’s a rejoicing, kind of occasion. You have a baby, people toast you with champagne, you get married people toast with champagne. You go you know you graduate you have a big party and everybody has alcohol, you have a birthday people buy you shots. It is often linked with celebrations and milestones, further reinforcing the idea that it is a deserved reward during moments of joy and achievement. And again, we probably don’t You don’t realize right that this core belief is getting fueled by all of these things. But it is, and when you hold on to alcohol is my reward as a core belief. It is something that fuels your habitual behavior. Associate associating alcohol with reward triggers the brain’s pleasure, reward and reward system. All right, so go back to now we’re going to talk about the actual brain system because over time, this psychological reinforcement can lead to a habitual connection between alcohol consumption and positive feelings. This is important, the brain’s reward system and dopamine. All right, central to the allure of alcohol as a reward is the brain’s reward system, governed by the neurotransmitter dopamine. Now, scientific studies have consistently shown that alcohol consumption triggers the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward pathways. You’ve heard me talk about it before it dopamine is referred to as a feelgood transmitter, and it surges in the surge of it creates a pleasurable sensation, reinforcing the desire to repeat this behavior that led to its release. So we’ve got our belief system that alcohol is our reward that fuels the habit, and feels our desire to drink, we drink repetitively. And as we drink repetitively associating it with positive feelings, we reinforce a habit system for alcohol. Over time, the brain forms associations between alcohol and various emotional states. Psychologists termed these as conditioned responses, right. And if one consistently turned to alcohol, as a reward, the brain becomes conditioned to view it as an integral part of our emotional response. And our emotional experience. It’s very possible that the perception of alcohol as a reward and support becomes ingrained. And it fuels and explains our brains mechanisms, recognizing those that conditioning and the associations and our and our thoughts that lead to it is how we can begin to change our habit patterns and change our relationship with alcohol. In the mind map that you can get over on the website, I share the basics of my four s new belief system, because we have to start believing something different. We have to start challenging our core beliefs and to and to create new beliefs. To create new beliefs, we have to practice new thoughts. And it’s a tool that you can use to challenge. Alcohol is my reward. And the core belief, like I said, doesn’t you don’t come out thinking alcohol is my word, but you might have the thought I deserve it. I’ve been really good. I get to treat myself. Alcohol is just my one device, it’s not really a problem. These are all thoughts that fuel. Alcohol is my reward as a core belief. And if you have ever had the thought I get to have a drink. That’s another sign that alcohol is my reward might be your dominant core belief. To change our core beliefs, we need to challenge those unconscious automatic thoughts that support them, and we need to practice new thoughts. New thoughts lead to new feelings lead to new actions lead to new results. That’s the behavior map results cycle in, in practice, right? The four s new belief system that I touch on in the mind map. First, you got to see, you’ve got to notice your old thoughts when they happen. We cannot change what we cannot see. I say it all the time. And taking time to pause when you notice you’re feeling the desire to drink and asking yourself what am I thinking? All right, we’ve got to see our thoughts. The next one is soothe, normalize your thinking whatever your thoughts, whatever thoughts you uncover, you’ve got to remind yourself that it’s just one thought one perspective. It’s not a fact. It’s just what you’ve trained your brain to believe in You can believe something different. You’ve just got to practice it. But you don’t want to make it wrong. All right, you’ve just got to normalize what you’ve been thinking, you’ve got to soothe your brain, you’ve got to say, Hey, it’s okay. I understand why you think this way we’re going to work on something new. Separate is the third s, there are facts that are non negotiable. And 100 of us percent of us would agree on the rest is just a story. It’s the subjective narrative we’ve believed, because that’s the story we’ve repeated. Ask yourself, what else is true? Ask yourself to uncover what is actually the fact the data, the neutral, the event, the circumstance to describe it in neutral language, you’ve got to separate the facts from the fiction. And the last S is a shift. What’s my next best thought? You can’t change ingrained beliefs overnight, it takes repetition and practice, you got to take small steps to challenge those old thoughts. What is a thought that you can believe right now, that will help make change easier. See, suit separate shift, that is a part of the just start for s new belief training system, you can learn more about just start over at Molly watts.com/start. So cutting down on alcohol, for me meant changing my core beliefs around alcohol. And it means looking at whether or not alcohol really makes a good reward. If alcohol is my reward is your core belief. You got to ask yourself, is it a good reward? Despite all the you’ve, you’ve earned it, you’ve deserved it. rhetoric that goes on in your brain. Alcohol actually makes a terrible reward. Right? The poor quality of sleep, the bad mood that happens following over drinking, for me the nonstop anxiety of cycle that happens when you have a daily drinking habit. Right? All of that actually is more of a punishment than a reward. And you’ve got to get clear with yourself about it. When your brain starts throwing out that old I deserve it thought you need to ask yourself what do you really deserve? What does the it represent? What feeling is it that you’re feeling like you deserve to feel? Are you looking externally for validation for someone in your life? Are you keeping score with the people in your life? Are you feeling unappreciated taken for granted? When you think thoughts like I deserve it, I guarantee you you are not talking about the alcohol. And there are much healthier ways of getting a reward right? Here are some really great ones. Number one, hang out with a friend reach out to a friend call a friend right a friend time with connecting with friends cheers you up. It releases feel good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin. Oxytocin calms the stress response. And there is evidence that it curbs the urge to stress drink, right? So when you come home, you know and I know for some of you, you’re thinking, Oh, it’s a really bad time. Well, you got to know somebody, you probably know somebody in a different time zone. Call them. Or better yet, just write an email, write a letter. Plan, a long walk or a phone call a phone date with buddy. All right, that’s a great reward number to get physical. Working out a bike ride a walk in a class can alleviate the stress, right. It also gives you a shot of endorphins, which are good. And those those feelings those those endorphins trigger positive feelings. So yeah, I know sometimes I used to I tell myself, I always tell myself that I’m too tired to workout at nighttime, but there’s some type of working out I promise. I’m, I’m not sharing it yet, because I’ve got a new workout thing that I’m going to be trying and I’m getting it but I’ll tell you how it goes afterwards. And I’ll I’ll share that with you. Because I’m really hoping I’m going to be able to do it at nighttime too. Number three experiment with some non alcoholic drinks. All right, there are so many and they are that they give you the taste. And I you know everybody knows I’m a big, big proponent of alcohol free beer. I drink alcohol free beer most nights and I love it and I would highly encourage you to to look For a non alcoholic drink that you really, truly enjoy. Another great idea for a healthier, healthier reward system is meditation. Okay? Meditation can help you relax as absolutely as much as a drink can and and prevents you from you know, gets you less stressed out on a regular basis. meditation helps us quiet the brain and actually relieves stress rather than just covering it up, right. So meditation is a great way to reward yourself, try using a meditation app to get yourself in the habit. Number five, this is the last one dance, even if it’s by yourself, there’s something great about it very joyful. Turn on your favorite songs from the 1980s and start dancing around the room by yourself. Music releases dopamine, it’s That’s that same feel good chemical that we talked about earlier. And it’s a really great way of giving yourself a reward. Those are just some some early ideas, right? The bottom line is we have to be willing to challenge those old core beliefs. And we have to work on creating a new reward system for ourselves. And I think that’s important. I don’t think you you want to tell yourself, you don’t need rewards in life. That’s not true either. We’re very fundamentally, from the time we’re very young, and our brains are actually set up to learn through positive reinforcement. So it’s okay to create a new reward system for yourself. All right. So that is alcohol core belief. Number four, alcohol is my reward. Again, as a reminder, you can learn more about all of these by going back and listening to the most recent podcast episodes. Next week is our last one of the alcohol core beliefs. And it is alcohol keeps me going. This is an interesting one. And so if you want to check out the Mind Map, go to Molly watts.com/mind. Map. I hope that you will get yourself out into the morning light this week. Make a plan ahead of time, make it doable. Prioritize your alcohol free days, and get out and get some morning light. All right, that’s all I have for you this week. Bye friends. Until next time, choose peace. Hey, thanks for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. Take something you learned from this week’s episode and put it into action. Changing your drinking habits and creating a peaceful relationship with alcohol is 100% possible. You can stop worrying Stop feeling guilty about over drinking and become someone who desires alcohol less. I work with people in three ways. You can learn about them over at www dot Molly watts.com/work with me, or better yet, reach out to me directly. It’s Molly at Molly watts.com. We’ll jump on a call and discuss what’s best for you. This podcast is really just the beginning of our conversation. Let’s keep it going.