If we chase the kind of high that alcohol gives us in order to make ourselves happy, it can lead to dangerous consequences. So, many people opt to keep alcohol out of their lives, whether permanently, after a period of recovery, or on a temporary basis.
There are certain activities, and habits, that can produce similar feelings of euphoria without the need for alcohol, by increasing the body’s endorphins.
Peptides produced by the brain, endorphins are known as happy, feel good hormones, which the body increases when we engage in positive, joyful activities.
Why do we get a rush when we drink alcohol?
That feeling of ‘high’ feels so good because your brain is tricked, more or less.
Initially alcohol gives us a rush of dopamine which makes us feel good. However, because alcohol is a toxin, the body does whatever it can to get rid of it, so it pumps out adrenaline and cortisol and dynorphin, and all of these other hormones and peptides, which eventually decreases that euphoric feeling, and can leave us feeling anxious and craving that ‘high’ again.
“Unfortunately, with the next drink, even if it’s the same amount of alcohol, dopamine will not increase back to that same initial level,” says Emily Paulson, Facilitator of Addiction Awareness and Founder of Sober Mom Squad. So we’re left chasing that same high, and only pumping out more stress hormones.
Studies have shown that one singular drink can alter the brain’s chemistry.
Why is it a good idea to opt for alcohol-free activities?
Someone might opt for alcohol-free activities in their spare time for a number of reasons. Whether this is to reduce the number of carcinogens they are putting in their body, to avoid hangovers, or to feel clear headed.
Alcohol isn’t required for any human function, so Paulson questions exactly why we feel we ‘need’ to include alcohol to have fun.
Paulson elaborates that “alcohol numbs, it doesn’t enhance. Alcohol is linked to numerous cancers and is the third leading preventable cause of death. Any activity without it is better for your overall health. The impact on the body and brain is staggering.”
Alcohol can cause memory loss, slurred speech, impaired vision, difficulty walking, and slow reaction times. Although it may seem fun at the time of drinking, these feelings, and the aftermath, aren’t particularly enjoyable.
It’s easy to find great drink substitutes for drinks that are regularly alcoholic, and if you enjoy the flavor of particular alcoholic drinks, you’ll find an abundance of options on the market. For relaxation, there are plenty of CBD drinks, and drops, which can be added to beverages, but won’t give you the ‘high’ that people associate with smoking cannabis.
Alcohol-free activities to give you a natural high
“It’s important to note, however, that if somebody has used an artificial means to raise dopamine (drinking alcohol) that it can take some time for the body to experience normal levels of joy (normal levels of these hormones and neurotransmitters) on its own,” explains Paulson. Which is another vote for why alcohol-free living can help increase joy overall.
This is called anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure, and can go away on its own over time, but if it persists, you should seek the help of a medical professional, as it can be a symptom of depression and other mental health disorders.
Paulson recommends these 6 activities to give you a natural high, without the need for alcohol:
You may have heard of the ‘runner’s high’, that can come with running and other exercise known to boost endorphins. But, exercising is a triple threat. Regular working out can also increase your dopamine and serotonin levels.
2. A form of meditation that works for you
Meditation is great for lots of things: calming down, improving sleep, and reducing stress, but also for giving great joy. Meditation can increase dopamine and melatonin, whilst reducing cortisol.
3. Having a session of really good belly laughter, from a good film, book, being with a loved one, or comedy show
Laughter truly can be the best medicine. It can help with reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, and increasing dopamine and endorphin levels. Studies have proven this, with social laughter triggering releases of happy hormones.
Not only is volunteering a great thing to do, but it can make you feel great also. A study published by the National Institutes of Health found that volunteering gives a “helper’s high”, with the act of helping others activating the brain’s pleasure, and triggering a release of endorphins
5. Getting a massage or facial, or having your own pamper session at home
You don’t have to be having a massage, or spa treatment, every week (unless you want to) to feel the benefits, but when you need a real boost, they can be a wonderful way to treat yourself, with the added benefits of physical touch, and a boosted level of endorphins.
6. Petting an animal, especially a dog
Our animals are wonderful for many different reasons, and offer great joy to lives. It’s even scientifically proven that giving some love and attention to a fluffy friend is a great way to boost oxytocin levels for both you and your dog. Even if you don’t own a dog, or another pet, you could visit a loved one who does, offer to walk a neighbours’, or visit an animal cafe.
Other alcohol-free activities to give you a natural high:
- Learning a new skill you’ve always wanted to learn, such as taking up a new language or sport
- Spending time dancing to lift your spirits
- Doing an activity from your childhood that you used to enjoy, such as coloring, painting, doing a puzzle or game, or even to go and find a swing set
- Getting a restful night’s sleep, lasting at least 8 hours
- Planning a trip for the future - even if you don’t spend any money right now
- Listening to, or making, music