The Damp Lifestyle Has More Benefits Than You Realize

More and more, young people are turning away from alcohol. Even before The New York Times reported on several sobering studies that showed even small amounts of alcohol could be detrimental to health, the "sober-curious" trend had started in many offline circles. For a variety of reasons, people decided to practice drinking less often or go completely alcohol-free. Now, there's a new term for what could perhaps describe the middle ground between drinking and not drinking at all: damp. 

Living damp is indeed a thing, and it basically denotes the intentional effort to drink in moderation. Like many trends that emphasize restraint on TikTok (see: the voluntary celibacy trend), the idea of a "damp" lifestyle also originated on the app. TikToker @hana.elson first created the term, and continues to share her insights, struggles, and advice when it comes to drinking in a way that feels good to you.

Despite the increasing popularity of the damp lifestyle, there remains a certain stigma around choosing not to drink that is unfortunately impossible to ignore. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) writes that de-stigmatizing the way people talk about alcohol can have a significant effect on those who might hesitate to seek help with drinking. But with an uptick in alcohol-free spirts on the market, a growing acceptance towards being sober, and a clearer understanding of how alcohol can effect physical, mental, and emotional health, it makes sense why living a damp lifestyle is certainly worth considering. 

Regularly drinking alcohol can impact your physical health

According to US Dietary Guidelines and NIAAA, it does not take much to classify "excessive use" of alcohol: "moderate" drinking is considered one drink a day for women; even one more would fit the category of "excessive". Still, the negative effects of a minute amount of alcohol on our bodies are plenty. According to the Mayo Clinic, even light drinkers have a minuscule, but nonetheless present, increased risk for certain cancers. Meanwhile, heavy drinking — defined as more than seven drinks per week, even if two or three of those drinks are in the same sitting — can contribute to a long list of health concerns, including cancer, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, heart damage, liver disease, and stroke.

Even some of the most tightly-held ideas about alcohol consumption, such as the belief that a glass of red wine can protect your heart, may now be unraveling. Per The New York Times, it turns out the heart healthy effects of wine shown in previous studies were probably more related to other healthy habits that subjects had, such as a balanced diet and exercise. Although morbid, one 2016 study found that alcohol use is a leading risk factor for death across the world, accounting for 10% of all deaths between the ages of 15 and 49 globally (via CNN). 

TikTok user @itstesstok wonders in her video: "Is it just me, or is anyone else thinking that alcohol is the new cigarettes?" she says. 

Going damp can help you look at your emotions with a clear head

Aside from shielding yourself from preventable health risks, cutting down on alcohol can also reveal some potentially emotional truths that can be simultaneously difficult to hear and illuminating. On TikTok, user @karahalderman shared the highs and lows of navigating her sober-curious journey, opening up about how she felt after she came down with an illness. "I thought my health would be better once I stopped drinking, but it's actually gotten a little worse, which makes me a little emotional," she said, cutting away. "I'm just really starting to realize that I am the one who has been preventing my life from being as awesome as I want it to be. And that thought alone is liberating and incredible, and also terrifying," she said. 

Another user, @amanda.kuda, shared in a separate video that cutting down on drinking helped her to better regulate her emotions. Previously, she shared she was a casual, social drinker who used alcohol to celebrate good times and relax. "I just didn't take the time to develop the emotional regulation skills to get me through hard stuff," she said. Since she's been alcohol-free for six years, "I've really spent a lot of time learning to sit with and be with my emotions, especially the really chaotic ones. And I just want to tell you how much it pays off in times where stress could or should be high," she said. 

Learn news ways to cope with anxiety

Alcohol is a depressant, and as such, slows down physical and cognitive abilities. But alcohol also effects our mental health and mood. It works like this: Alcohol binds to a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which is responsible for making us feel calm, cool, and collected. Alcohol also releases dopamine, another neurotransmitter associated with reward. Taken together, consuming alcohol can make people feel relaxed and confident, leading some to continue drinking to enhance such effects. 

According to one paper, however, alcohol can have a different mental effect on everybody depending on their internal predispositions. For example, people who are prone to low levels of anxiety and drink specifically to feel less anxious might not experience the same positive mood effects as others. Other people also experience anxiety from the hangover that ensues after a night of drinking (Yes, hangxiety is a real thing.) Cutting back on drinking can minimize the chance for these uncomfortable feelings.

TikTok user @heather.maio shared in a video that her mood improved when she cut down on regularly drinking, which she categorized as one to two drinks per week. She also noted that her anxiety seemed to disappear. Though the evidence is anecdotal, there's some validity to it. As experts told Yahoo, cutting back on alcohol consumption temporarily can mitigate anxiety symptoms. It can also encourages people to find a new way to cope, especially if they were using it to self medicate.

You can still have a thriving social life without the pressure

Perhaps you want to go damp, but feel worried you might miss out on the social aspect that drinking often entails. First, remember that the damp life is about you, your intentions, and your personal integrity; not what others think! Second, cutting back on drinking does not mean you are cutting back on your ability to have fun. Psychology Today also notes that not centering your activities around being intoxicated may have a positive impact on existing relationships in your life.

Instead, try thinking of going damp as the perfect opportunity to try new activities. And that doesn't mean you have to give up fun looking drinks, either. There are many alcohol-free beverages on the market that you can incorporate into an alcohol-free bar cart the next time you host friends at your place. Boisson is an online shop that curates non-alcoholic beverages, from non-alcoholic wines and beer, to spirits and liqeuers. 

Damp trend-setter @hana.elson shares her tips on how to begin the shift toward drinking less on TikTok. The biggest takeaway is to start small. For example, instead of having a drink while you do your hair and put on makeup, make a mocktail instead. When you're out, choose drinks that have a lower alcohol by volume (ABV) content. Over time, you can graduate to making choices that include declining shots and cutting out hard alcohol. "Your relationship with alcohol can start anywhere," she says. "It's up to you what habit changes you want to implement."