“When I cut out alcohol, my life got better. When I cut out alcohol, my spirit came back. An evolved life requires balance. Sometimes you have to cut one thing to find balance everywhere else.”
~ Sarah Hepola, author
You may think that alcohol relaxes you, but in reality, you’re disrupting your brain’s natural functioning. Every time you drink alcohol you’re slowing down, impeding and even destroying your beautiful brain’s ability to do its job.
Scary and true.
Your brain is your body’s control center. It’s the maestro of the orchestra, directing a wide range of abilities and vital life processes, including breathing and maintaining a regular heartbeat, and influencing your emotions.
When you introduce booze into the mix the melody changes from one of harmony to potential discord.
While all the systems in your body feel the effects of alcohol, the Central Nervous System (CNS), is acutely sensitive. The CNS is made up of billions of neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain and the spinal cord.
Alcohol seeps through the blood-brain barrier, reaching and affecting neurons directly. Once alcohol touches these cells it alters them, resulting in changes in your normal functioning and behavior. And none of these are for the better.
Alcohol seeps through the blood-brain barrier, reaching and affecting neurons directly. Once alcohol touches these cells it alters them, resulting in changes in your normal functioning and behavior.
The Great Depression
Alcohol depresses your CNS—slowing motor function, thinking, comprehension, and reasoning.
Booze makes nerve cells in your brain dull and less excited. This may surprise you. You may think that alcohol is a great ‘pick-me-up.’
In the short-term drinking alcohol can make you become more animated and socially confident. But this is only because the first wave of alcohol affects parts of your brain that involve inhibiting your behaviors.
The first drops of alcohol are like a green light signaling to your neural network, ’Let’s go! It’s happy hour. Time to party.’
But look more closely and you’ll see many warning indicators that your brain is either slowing to a crawl or getting ready to brawl.
Take a look at the list below. How many have been true for you after knocking back a few too many?
• Slurring and altered speech
• Hazy thinking
• Slowed reaction time
• Blurred vision
• Uncoordinated muscles
• Foggy memory
Let’s take a closer look at how alcohol affects your brain and behavior.The role of different parts of your brain and how alcohol compromises optimal functioning follows:
Central striatum and prefrontal cortex: Contains connections that make up the brain’s reward system and regulates impulsive behavior. This is also the part of the brain that is affected first, causing your behavior to become looser, less guarded and increasing the likelihood you’ll do something impulsive you may later regret.
Hippocampus: Your brain’s memory storehouse. Even a small shot of alcohol can cause forgetfulness and memory loss.
Cerebellum: This part of your brain works with the primary motor cortex to control your movement, maintain balance, and enable complex motor functions. When you’re drunk, your motor function is impeded and reaction times slow. If you can’t stand or walk in a straight line after a night on the booze you’ll know why.
Frontal lobe: Your judgment, behavior, and emotions are controlled by this part of your brain. Alcohol affects the natural rhythm of your emotions and may cause anxiety, depression, crying, fighting, and aggression. Alcohol can make good people turn bad, and happy people become sad.
Reticular activating system: This part is in the midbrain, and controls sleeping and waking. Alcohol can depress these systems, causing you to pass out. Alternatively, it can disrupt your normal sleeping patterns, causing insomnia and waking you up at annoying hours. Lack of sleep increases irritability and low mood.
Medulla: This part is in the hindbrain, and it controls your heartbeat, breathing, and other important life functions. Heavy drinking sessions can disrupt everything, putting your life in danger.
Neurons: Your brain has billions of these nerve cells. As you’ve already read, alcohol can reach and enter these cells and damage, or even, at high enough levels, kill them off completely.
Blood vessels: When you’re intoxicated, alcohol causes your blood vessels to relax and open wide—slowing blood pressure to crawl. At very high levels of intoxication, booze can shrink your blood vessels and send your blood pressure soaring, exacerbating such conditions as migraine headaches, or worse, compromising your heart.
Hypothalamus: Finally, alcohol depresses nerve centers in the hypothalamus, which control sexual performance and arousal. Sexual urges may increase, but sexual performance and sensory pleasure decrease.”
Shut off, shut down…and worse
Okay, now you know what happens in your brain when you drink, and how this compromises your behavior and health. The chances are high that you know that alcohol can be dangerous. But very often, it’s not a story that’s often heard.
Many people don’t abuse alcohol and enjoy a good time. But a lot of people don’t.
Alcohol affects just about every part of your brain and your nervous system. It ‘shuts down’ different parts of the brain and compromises your health, causes you to engage in unhealthy behaviors and engage in activities you wouldn’t normally do if you weren’t ‘under the influence.’
In essence, you’ve lost control. At worst, letting alcohol get in the driver’s seat could take your freedom and your life.
Drinking alcohol increases the likelihood of making bad decisions, engaging in risky behavior, increasing the alcohol dependence, and can lead to addiction and alcoholism.
In the following chapter, we’ll look at why some people develop alcohol dependence and how relying on booze to deal with life can escalate to alcoholism. You’ll then be better armed to avoid getting immeshed in the alcohol trap.
Sexy Sobriety: Your Challenge
Educate yourself. Next time you decide to hit the bottle monitor what happens to your brain, your mood, and your ability to function. If you’re around other people who are on the booze, study how excessive drinking affects them.
This is an edited extract of Cassandra Gaisford’s new book. Be the first to know when my new book, Your Beautiful Mind: Control Alcohol, Discover Freedom, Find Happiness and Change Your Life, is released. Sign up for her newsletter here http://eepurl.com/cQXY4f
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I am an artist, storyteller, intuitive guide, mentor and Reiki master. All my creations are infused with positive energy , inspiration, and light. I believe in magic and the power of beauty, joy, love, purpose, and creativity to transform your life. My greatest joy is helping your realize your dreams. That makes my soul sing!
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