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Alcohol and Health

Defining Cravings: Resisting Alcohol’s Allure

June 29, 2023
8 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 29, 2023
8 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 29, 2023
8 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 29, 2023
8 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 29, 2023
8 min read

You've survived yet another day of your boss's caffeine-fueled antics, the overflowing email inbox, and the daunting task of pretending to care about your colleague's cat's birthday party. Now, you're back in your sanctuary, shoes tossed to the wind, while an intrusive thought pops up: "How about a chilled glass of the good stuff?"

But alas, you remember the pact — the one you made with your spouse, your kids, your dog, even your ornamental fern. You're on a mission to curb the booze. So, what gives? It’s time to take a deep dive into the world of cravings.

Meet the Culprit

Cravings are like that clingy ex who refuses to accept the breakup — always nudging, whispering, insisting on making a cameo in your life. They're the pesky urges that make us yearn for something oh-so-deliciously forbidden — in our case, alcohol.

In neuroscience terms, cravings are highly complex psychological events that trigger our brain's reward circuitry. This intricate system is a hotspot of brain chemicals such as dopamine — the “feel good” neurotransmitter.

Simply put, when we consume alcohol, dopamine is released, making us feel all warm and fuzzy. Our brain — the sucker for good times that it is — notes this. Later, when we see a frosty beer bottle or even think about alcohol, our brain goes, "Hey, remember the fun we had last time?" That's a craving in action.

Who's the Ringmaster of This Circus?

Our brains love to play ringmaster, and when it comes to cravings, it's center stage with a baton in hand. The hypothalamus, insula, and amygdala — our brain's power trio — are responsible for that burning desire for alcohol.

The amygdala — known as the emotion center of the brain — plays a leading role in the formation of emotional memories, especially those related to reward and pleasure. When we drink, the amygdala records the rewarding experience and later, triggers a desire to recreate it. It's like our personal little scrapbook of good times that, unfortunately, doesn't discriminate between healthy and destructive habits.

Next up, we have the insula — the brain's hub for processing emotions and bodily sensations. Our insula gives cravings a physical dimension, translating our thoughts and desires into a bodily experience. It's the reason why we don't just want a drink but feel a strong, almost physical pull towards it.

Last but not least is the hypothalamus — the brain's command center for keeping the body in balance. It regulates our hunger, thirst, sleep, and even response to stress. When it comes to cravings, the hypothalamus plays a sneaky trick. Remember how prolonged alcohol use leads our brain to associate alcohol with survival? Well, that’s our hypothalamus pulling the strings: it blurs the lines between our basic needs and our desire for alcohol, leading to powerful and persistent cravings.

Outsmart Those Pesky Cravings

So, the billion-dollar question remains: how do we tame these crafty cravings? Luckily, there are some handy-dandy, science-approved tricks. With a little persistence, they'll surely get the job done.

  • Mindfulness. This isn't just some New Age fluff — it's a bona fide craving-crusher. Spot a craving sneaking up on you? Acknowledge it, watch it, but don't act on it. Treat it like a Facebook friend request from an ex — seen, but not accepted.
  • Distraction. The age-old tactic parents use to pry their kids away from the toy aisle works for us grown-ups too. Dive into an activity that consumes your attention — be it creating a new Pinterest board or finally beating that tricky level on Candy Crush.
  • Exercise. Show those cravings who's boss with a hearty dose of physical activity, which is known to give us a high without the hangover. Plus, you’ll get toned muscles as a bonus!
  • Healthy Eating. Surprise, surprise — your diet can help fend off cravings! Eating balanced meals, staying hydrated, and keeping those blood sugar levels steady can keep the alcohol beast at bay.

Untying the Knot

While cravings might seem like the invincible supervillains, with the right tools they are totally manageable. And, best news of all: the more the brain circuitry behind them gets rewired, the easier it is to dismiss unwanted urges.

Remember, it's okay to trip and stumble along the way. Be patient with yourself — every small step you take is a victory!

So next time the booze beast rumbles, take a deep breath, channel your inner craving-fighter, and remember, in the wise words of Thích Nhất Hạnh, ​​“The root of that craving is our habit energy. When we look deeply at it, we can begin to untie the knot.” Now, let's go show those cravings who's boss, shall we?

Start Your Journey With Reframe!

If you're thinking about taking a break from alcohol and treating your body and mind to some TLC, the Reframe app is right here cheering for you! Our app isn't a magic wand for alcohol use disorder (AUD), but it’s your reliable buddy helping you rethink alcohol's role in your life, all backed by neuroscience. Trust us, you're not alone — hundreds of thousands of people across the globe have found our approach a game-changer in reshaping their relationship with alcohol. We're confident you'll find it helpful, too!

We've designed Reframe to be your go-to guide. You’ll access science-backed daily readings to explain the neuroscience of alcohol and an in-app Toolkit chock-full of handy resources and fun activities to tackle each bump in the road.

Join a global team of Reframers ready to share their stories and advice on our 24/7 Forum chat. For a personal touch, our certified coaches are ready to offer advice and guidance tailored to you, as well.

To make your experience even more enjoyable, we regularly spruce up our app with cool new features. Meet Melody, our latest addition — an in-app chatbot powered by state-of-the-art AI technology. She's your friendly companion, ready to help as you journey towards a life with less alcohol — or none at all. Oh, and don't forget our exciting monthly challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You can join the fun with fellow Reframers or go solo — it's your call!

Best news of all? You can take our app for a free spin for seven days! There's absolutely no risk — so, why wait? Ready to start exploring the vibrant life that awaits beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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