4 Lovingkindness Meditations

It’s not always easy to be kind to others, much less ourselves. Or perhaps even more-so to ourselves. Lovingkindness meditation (also known as “metta”) helps us cultivate compassion, as well as self-compassion. It turns out when you do that latter, it helps with the former.

Here are four from teachers I love and respect.

  • Tamara Levitt – 10 minutes: I love Tamara Levitt (I subscribe to the Calm app primarily for her content), so here’s one by her to start.
  • Jack Kornfield – 12 minutes: The man, the myth, the legend. If you haven’t meditated with Kornfield, now is the time.
  • Thich Nat Hahn Foundation – 14 minutes: This is actually shorter than 14 minutes, because there’s some explaination in there, too.
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn – 47 minutes: This is a bit long for beginners so maybe wait a while if you are new to lovingkindness meditations or meditation in general, but it’s Kabat-Zinn has a great voice and, honestly, I could listen to him all day! There’s a great article around this one, so read and learn or simply scroll down for the audio.

These might be challenging at first. Even if you don’t feel like loving yourself, do it anyhow. Even it you feel cheesy or inauthentic saying or directing the words to yourself, do it anyhow. Feeling it will come over time. You got this. 

Eat Fit Mindful Monday

How I came to become alcohol free, as well as changes I’ve experienced and some that many people enjoy and a few of my top strategies for success.

Booze break strategies, plus physical and mental health changes

On Oct. 14, the gang at Eat Fit invited me as the Mindful Monday guest for the #AlcoholFreeFor40 challenge. If you missed it, please enjoy the recording. In the video, I discuss booze breaks, how I came to become alcohol free, as well as changes I’ve experienced and some that many people enjoy and a few of my top strategies for success.

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here to visit the host site.

NOTE: Feel free to skip to about the 3:42 mark to bypass a lot of me waiting around for attendees to jump on the Zoom.

Calming Box Breathing

Box breathing is a yogic pranayama (breathing) technique that engages the parasympathetic nervous system, transitioning us from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest,” mode. Use this simple breathing method when you are feeling anxious or stressed or just need a little reset.

Box breathing is a yogic pranayama (breathing) technique that engages the parasympathetic nervous system, transitioning us from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest,” mode. Use this simple breathing method when you are feeling anxious or stressed or just need a little reset.

For breath is life, and if you breathe well

you will live long on earth.

— Sanscrit Proverb

Try this the next time you are about to lose it at your partner, kids, boss, that lady in the checkout line at the grocery or any time.

Dana

This class was given in the spirit of dana, which in Buddhism is the voluntary act of giving to others. If in that same spirit, you’d like to make a donation for the recorded offering, you can do so via PayPal or Venmo and 25 percent will go to Bridge House/Grace House, a 24-hour, 7 day a week, residential treatment facility in New Orleans that provides no-cost substance-use disorder treatment to men and women in two separate locations. But please also feel free to enjoy the class at no charge, because I want everyone to be able to participate and access the many benefits of yoga and meditation.

Alcohol Free Toolbox

Willpower is a finite resource. When we lean on it repeatedly while breaking habits that no longer serve us and forming new ones, willpower eventually wears out and we cave in. Instead, make it easy on yourself by finding the right tools and planning ahead .

  • Keep healthy snacks and meals at the ready and eat throughout the day to help regulate blood sugar. This helps with moods and cravings.
  • Stay hydrated! This one is more important and helpful than we often realize.
  • Find replacement drinks with flavors similar to your favorite alcoholic beverages. For example, club soda with bitters for lovers of an Aperol spritz, try some of the good alcohol free beers and zero proof spirits on the market now (if it isn’t a trigger for you), teas, flavored bubbly water and ingredients for yummy mocktails kept at arms length can give us what we want at a moment’s notice.
  • Journal about your thoughts, feelings, triggers and witching hours to get your thoughts out of your head and better tune into patterns.
  • Alternate activities like a walk, hot bath or meditation, listening, to a podcast, calling a friend, doing yoga, cooking or baking can all distract you just long enough for a craving or a bad mood (which often helps create the craving) to pass. Create a list of comforting activities and things you’ve been wanting to try and pick something off of the list. Knitting? Hiking? Painting? Gardening? Give it a whirl!
  • Take a nap. Yep, sometimes we just need rest or to hit the reset button. Naps can accomplish both.

Tune into your body and emotions. Treat yourself with the same care and compassion you would treat a friend and fulfill those basic needs like rest, hydration, eating, sunshine, fresh air and fun.

Willpower will only get you so far, but if you have the right tools for the right job, you can cut down on the time and effort being expended on forming new habits. Be kind to yourself.

Treats and Rewards

At Drink Fit Club, we are are #TeamTreatsAndRewards when it comes to alcohol free challenges. These are the little things that help us through the tougher days, offer a bit of self-care or recognize a milestone.

At Drink Fit Club, we are are #TeamTreatsAndRewards when it comes to alcohol free challenges. These are the little things that help us through the tougher days, offer a bit of self-care or recognize a milestone.

When we are used to using alcohol as a reward, it can be hard to think of alternates. We also have to re-train our brains to get excited about things other than wine o’clock and get those fabulous little hits of dopamine we used to get from a cocktail from a place that’s more healthful. Truth be told, we are also often stingy with ourselves when it comes to life’s simple plesaures and allowing our own enjoyment. There are a lot of things that we love to treat ourselves with, so we’ll share a few to get your gears turning.

  • Fancy coffee drinks or a pound of fine coffee
  • A yoga class
  • Artisanal tea
  • Books (especially quit lit — we love a story of triumph or useful tips and advice from people who’ve been there)
  • Dark chocolate
  • A meal at your favorite restaurant or takeout
  • A soft, cozy scarf
  • Fresh flowers
  • Yummy candles (that we actually burn and don’t just “save” for some other time)
  • New music
  • Trying a new NA beverage
  • A long, luxurious hot bath with all of the yummy bath things
  • Nature (usually in the form of hiking)

This is really about whatever you love and decide is a treat or reward. Create your own list in your phone notes, journal or on a notepad to keep handy. Add items to it any time you think of them. Pick an item or activity from the list as a weekly treat, when you hit a milestone or when you are feeling low or having a craving. Treat yourself, often and with zeal! You’ve got this!

What are your favorite treats and rewards? Share, so we can get more ideas!

Changes and Benefits at Four Weeks Alcohol-Free

What happens when you abstain from alcohol for four weeks? Your system is functioning at a much higher level pretty much across the board at this point. Let’s break down changes and benefits you might be experiencing at four weeks alcohol-free.

  • The tissues in your skin are hydrated, giving you that plump, soft glow and diminishing pores. If you have rosacea or red, rashy skin, alcohol can irritate it, so you’re likely experiencing fewer flare ups. 
  • According to the CDC, “Drinking any kind of alcohol can contribute to cancers of the mouth and throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus, colon and rectum, liver and breast (in women). The less alcohol you drink, the lower the risk of cancer.” Look at you lowering your risk for cancer! 
  •  Additionally, you’ve lowered your risk for stroke, heart disease and hypertension,
  • Your immune system is no longer being suppressed by alcohol. 
  • Your kidneys are functioning better. 
  •  Your liver is the happiest of all, because this hardworking organ is no longer focusing on ridding your body of alcohol and can process everything else with a lot more efficiency. Also, if you had developed fatty liver, which is caused by alcohol, that plus inflammation have gone down considerably by week four. 
  • Your tolerance to alcohol has diminished, too, which is a good thing! Just be mindful of that if you are transitioning back to having drinks at the end of your challenge. 

You’ve accomplished so much in a short period of time. That said, if you aren’t actually seeing or feeling the benefits discussed in week one, week two, week three or even now at four, don’t get discouraged. We are all different and even if there aren’t visible or noticeable changes, there are immensely beneficial changes going on in your body and brain.

Changes and Benefits at Three Weeks Alcohol-Free

Are you at week three of being alcohol-free or thinking about taking an alcohol-free challenge? Week three is where things really start to get interesting. Many people will experience better memory, for example. Here are a few other things that are happening right now.

  • Lower blood pressure – Drinking more than one unit per day for women and more than two units for men can, over time, cause a rise in blood pressure. After three to four weeks of abstaining, however, blood pressure will begin to lower. Additionally, consuming fewer calories can cause weight loss which also can lower blood pressure.*
  • Improved vision – You may notice whiter, brighter eyes and clearer vision. The latter of which is due to an easing of hypertension and hypertensive retinopathy, known to cause of damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Circulation improves when we stop drinking, which translates to more oxygen and nutrients reaching the yes, helping to prevent disease and damage, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.**
  • Lower risk of stroke and heart problems – Lower blood pressure and healthier weight lowers our risk of stroke and heart disease.
  • Maybe a little weight loss (especially if you swapped a boozy happy hour for a fitness-based happy hour — it is so a thing!

What if you still aren’t seeing these or any changes? We keep saying this, but only because it’s true: Be patient. We are all different and will see changes on our own timescale. Stick around, it only gets better!

For anyone who has had a slip up, please be kind to yourself. Every step — even those that seem to send us a little backwards — is an opportunity to learn a trigger and better plan for it next time. Keep going!

Use that better memory you’ve achieved at week three to remember that you are strong and you’ve got this!

*Pirory Healthcare

**Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director at Optical Express,  Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Changes and Benefits at Two Weeks Alcohol-Free

In today’s post, we’re looking at the changes and benefits most of us experience at week two of an alcohol-free challenge.

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In today’s post, we’re looking at the changes and benefits most of us experience at week two of an alcohol-free challenge. If you are at week two of a challenge, congratulations, rockstar! (Or perhaps you are thinking about taking an AF challenge and looking ahead to see what to expect, in which case you are going to be so psyched. Or of course if you’ve already done a challenge lasting over two weeks and you want to fondly remember a time when you were younger and not such a salty pro, there are some solid reminders here for you, too.)

If you thought the week one benefits of going alcohol-free were lit, check out week two (Sources: UK-based Priory Group behavioral care and Alcohol Change UK):

Changes and Benefits

  • Whether you have a solid exercise routine or you are a couch potato, now is a great time for getting in that movement. Alcohol can inhibit muscle growth, reduce metabolism and decrease our ability to burn fat. Maximize your booze break with a focus on fitness!
  • Are you thirsty? It probably only seems like it, because you are better able to sense your body’s needs. Mmm, water.
  • If you often suffer from heartburn, aka acid reflux, you’re probably experiencing it less over the past few days or week.
  • Energy and clarity should be up by now. We bet it’s easier to get up in the morning and if it feels like your brain is functioning better and faster — it is! You smarty, you.
  • It’s possible that you also may have started to see some weight loss.

If you still aren’t feeling any of the benefits, don’t get discouraged! It just takes a little more time for some of us to reach homeostasis (or physiological stability). Keep at it and you’ll start feeling better soon.

What benefits have been your favorites so far? Share in comments or email us at drinkfitclub@gmail.com.

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Changes and Benefits at Week One Alcohol-Free

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We’ve got the tea on changes you might be feeling the first week after going alcohol free, but first: You did it! You stayed dry a week one and that’s huge!

Some might already feel the effects of alcohol leaving or being gone from their systems, while for others not so much. Yet! We are all different, so don’t be discouraged. You’ll get there.

Here are some common changes you may already be seeing or will experience soon:

  • The first few days you may have felt irritable and low-energy. This won’t last long!
  • Sleep could be challenging at first without alcohol to get us there faster (a double edged sword, as it ultimately interrupts sleep). Now is a great time to create a solid bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time each night if possible, shut down electronics, take a warm bath or shower, read or listen to calming music, meditate, drink calming tea and set yourself up for success for the coming days and weeks.
  • By day 4 or 7, your body should be back in action with higher energy levels and focus. Huzzah! Sleep might also be better by now. (If you have struggled with the dreaded 3 a.m. bathroom wake up and anxiety variety show, it has probably stopped, too!) Are you having crazy, vivid, outrageous dreams? You aren’t alone. Just enjoy or ride it out.
  • Your level of hydration is probably back to normal by now, too, since alcohol causes dehydration.
  • You’ve saved calories from not drinking and from not having those midnight taco snacks or greasy hangover burgers. Bonus: You’ve also saved money!

With everything you’ve been through this week, along with the cash savings, you deserve a treat to celebrate! Gift yourself flowers, a new scarf, a trip to the botanical garden, bubble bath or bath salts, a hiking adventure, takeout from your fave restaurant, a yummy candle, fine chocolate or coffee or perhaps some good tea. You do you!

Congrats on slaying week one! How will you treat yourself today or this weekend?.

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So much has happened in just a one week! If you aren’t yet experiencing any of the above benefits, don’t get discouraged. Everyone is different and even if there aren’t visible or noticeable changes, there are immensely beneficial changes going on in your body and brain. Are you curious about what happens in the coming weeks? Read the week twoweek three, week four and week five posts.

Changes and Benefits at Five Weeks Alcohol-Free

What if we told you that abstaining from alcohol for five weeks not only offers seen and unseen current health benefits, but also a few that last?

What if I told you that abstaining from alcohol for five weeks not only offers seen and unseen current health benefits, but also a few that last? That’s right, according to a a 2016 study cited in a December 2020 report by Men’s Health “adults who participated in Dry January found that up to six months later, they were drinking on fewer occasions and drank less when they did imbibe.” It’s no secret that cutting back on alcohol for the long term is beneficial, so to that we say (alcohol-free) cheers! Meanwhile, here are some of the changes and benefits you may be experiencing at five weeks alcohol free.

  • Better sex: Yup. After all, booze is a neurotoxin and it numbs our nerve cells, dulling our senses. By now, you may have noticed an increase in physical sensations and improved performance (sorry guys and gals, alcohol doesn’t discriminate and can cause sexual dysfunction in both sexes). We love following writer, podcaster and “Sober Sexpert” Tawny Lara for articles and information on this topic.
  • More Hobbies: If happy hour, bar hopping and day drinking were your top three hobbies leading up to your alcohol-free break, you’ve probably found (or revisited) activities to enjoy instead of the drinking arts. Or, you’ve discovered that previously-boozy events can still be fun when you aren’t imbibing. Whether it’s getting crafty with your knitting needles, heading out for a hiking or a camping adventure, hitting an art show, biking with friends or catching up over a big Sunday brunch, there is probably a little more variety in your life now that you aren’t spending innumerable hours bellied up to the bar.
  • Increased Productivity: The gang over at One Year No Beer reports that, according to a survey conducted with 725 of the platform’s 90-Day (alcohol-free) Challenge members, 71 percent are more productive. With improved brain function, higher energy and more time, it’s no wonder you are a whirlwind of productivity.
  • Lower Cholesterol: An oft cited 2013 study by published by the staff at the New Scientist indicates that at five weeks, abstainers saw a total blood cholesterol drop of almost 5 percent. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Stabilized Glucose: The same study reported that the “blood glucose levels of the abstainers dropped by 16 percent on average.” High glucose is a factor in Type 2 diabetes. Read more about Type 2 diabetes and the effects of glucose on insulin production from the Mayo Clinic.

So much has happened in just a few weeks time! If you aren’t yet experiencing any of the above benefits, or those covered in week oneweek twoweek three or week four, don’t get discouraged. Everyone is different and even if there aren’t visible or noticeable changes, there are immensely beneficial changes going on in your body and brain.