I can tell when I'm not hydrating enough because, about once a day, the following will happen: I twist open my water bottle, go to take a couple sips, and end up draining three-quarters of the bottle. I don't realize how thirsty I am until the bottle is at my lips and my body is yelling, Wait, water! That's what we've been waiting for!
I've read a lot about the good things that can happen when you drink more water, from weight loss to better skin, but I decided to start drinking a gallon a day because, frankly, I was thirsty. I could tell I needed to drink more water, and it was stressing me out and making me physically uncomfortable. I was constantly parched and felt fatigued, twitchy, and unable to concentrate. I couldn't tell how much of this was due to dehydration versus other factors, like not getting adequate sleep, but I figured that drinking more water would be a good place to start. I traded in my HydroFlask for an H20 Coach Gallon Water Bottle ($22) and decided to see what would happen.
Not everyone loves the gallon-a-day challenge, but I took to it immediately. For one thing, I only had to fill this puppy up once a day, which meant that I couldn't put off hydration because my bottle was empty. (This was a huge obstacle to me drinking more water: I hated stopping in the middle of a task to refill my bottle.) With the bigger bottle, I filled up once a day and didn't have to worry about it until the following morning.
With that edge of convenience, I actually didn't find it that hard to drink a gallon every day. My bottle had time markers to keep me on track (so I wasn't chugging a quarter-gallon every night). I didn't feel uncomfortable or sloshy with all that liquid inside me. I definitely didn't feel as thirsty. Though I can't say I lost a bunch of weight or that staying hydrated made my breakouts suddenly evaporate, my body just seemed to respond well (in fact, better than I expected) to this amount of hydration.
But the biggest effect, surprisingly, was not physical.
How Drinking a Gallon of Water a Day Helped My Mental Health
- Drinking so much water created "micro-breaks" throughout the day. Staying on schedule with my water means taking a sip every 10 minutes or so. These tiny micro-breaks — just a couple seconds of glancing away from the screen and focusing on water, not work — became quick moments of relaxation scattered throughout the day. I could take a couple of sips, set the bottle down, look out the window, take a breath, then get back to work feeling refreshed physically and mentally. I'd drink my water, reset, and get back to work. (And if I needed a longer break, the frequent bathroom trips helped with that.)
- It was one less thing I had to worry about. Before this experiment, staying hydrated was just another item on an endless to-do list. It made me feel more stressed and overwhelmed, plus physically uncomfortable from dehydration. Sticking to this experiment has ticked that item off the list for good. And it's satisfying: every time I take a drink, I'm contributing to a goal. It makes the other things I want to accomplish today seem that much more doable.
- I feel more focused. When I'm in the middle of a stressful task, I'll start craving a snack — not because I'm hungry, but because I need a break and extra stimulation, like a taste, to keep me focused. Now, before I break my concentration and eat a snack I don't really want, I'll have a big drink of water. There's no taste, but just the sensation and tiny break recenters and refreshes me so I can focus on the task at hand.
- The more hydrated I am, the calmer I feel. Drinking so much water makes my body feel steadier and less wound-up. From that calm physical baseline, I feel ready to tackle all the tough tasks of the day. In fact, on days that I don't drink my full gallon, I feel thrown off both physically and mentally: physically thirsty, mentally more stressed and frantic about getting things done.
Research shows that drinking more water is associated with a lower risk for anxiety and depression. From my experience, those positive effects have held true: drinking more water has left me calmer and more focused while tamping down my feelings of stress and anxiety. It's another reason to make hydration a priority, even if you're not chugging a full gallon every day.