It’s been a hard day, work was a bear, and now you’re home and all you want to do is sit back, put your feet up, watch the ball game, and crack open a cold beer. Which part of that scenario seems most relaxing to you? For most of us, it is probably the cold beer.
What is it about beer that makes us think of relaxation? Is it just a case of really successful advertising, or is there actually something about beer that relaxes you? If it is the beer, is it the taste, the alcohol, or the look? It turns out that it’s a little bit of everything.
What Are The Relaxing Physical Effects of Beer?
One of the great challenges in assessing the effects of alcohol is to separate the actual physical effects from the psychological effects—the things that we think will happen so our brain makes them happen. Beer does have a physical effect on the body, pretty much the whole body, in fact. In terms of relaxation, the important areas affected are the blood vessels and the brain.
Alcohol causes the blood vessels to dilate, meaning that they grow wider and allow more blood flow. This can create a feeling of warmth throughout the body, sometimes called a “beer blanket.” What’s more relaxing than being warm?
An article in the Huffington Post shows that alcohol causes a number of changes in the brain. The first is a general slowdown of all brain functions, which can give you a lazy, relaxed feeling. It also creates a mild euphoria, which is again quite relaxing.
As you drink more alcohol, your frontal lobe gets affected, which in turn shortens your time view to just the near future. If you aren’t thinking about the future, you aren’t worrying as much, so you’re more relaxed. Similarly, the amygdala, the area in the brain that warns you of danger, is suppressed, making you feel even more safe, comfortable, and relaxed.
What Are the Relaxing Psychological Effects of Beer?
Food and drink, in general, have a tendency to calm us down. It’s the psychological feeling of having needs met. And while there might be other drinks that similarly meet the needs, under certain situations the mere act of having a cold beer in your hand can be quite soothing. And let’s not overlook the taste—except in the case of bitter or overpowering beers, there is something calm and unobtrusive about the malty taste of a normal beer.
Another psychologically relaxing aspect of beer is familiarity. If you have a beer every day when you get home from work while you sit back ad relax and watch some trashy reality TV show, chances are that you are going to come to associate the taste of that beer with relaxation. It will become a trained response, to the extent that all you have to do is put a beer in your hand and you will automatically start to feel more relaxed.
Do Beer Ads Encourage Us to Think that Beer is Relaxing?
Have you ever seen an ad for Corona? After a few of their beach ads, just seeing a Corona label can make you feel like you’re relaxing on a beach, working on your tan.
There are, of course, other places to relax besides the beach, and beer advertising takes us on a tour of all of them. You’ll see people sipping beers at sporting events, restaurants, or even beside the ever-popular cool mountain stream. As beerhistory.com points out, Miller beer was extremely successful with their ads depicting rugged men working hard and then kicking back and relaxing with a few beers when it was “Miller time.”
Not all beer ads play the relaxation angle, though. Some play up sex, or adventure, or class. The latest round of Heineken ads has a distinctive “James Bond” feel, and the “Most Interesting Man in the World” Dos Equis ads do a nice job of combining class, adventure, sex, and the desire to be the coolest person in the room.
Alcohol clearly isn’t the only drink that can relax you. Although it would seem counterintuitive, caffeine junkies would be quick to claim that a nice cup of coffee or even a soda will relax them.
The website Rodale.com recommends a glass of warm milk as the ultimate calm-down drink, and there’s probably some truth to that, since it’s really more effective than horse tranquilizers at knocking somebody out. Other drinks that made the top of their relaxation list were herbal tea, tea with honey, and green tea. Are you sensing a pattern here? How could 50 million Brits be wrong?
Beer can definitely relax you, and the taste is certainly part of that, but not all. The alcohol in beer has an effect on many different parts of the body that could contribute to a relaxing feeling. The psychological association we create between beer and relaxation, both through beer advertising and our own memories, all combine to make beer quite a relaxing drink.