The concept of having a conscious approach to how we live our lives has been long practised through mindful eating, mindful breathing and now mindful drinking. In 2017, a group of people in the UK called Club Soda decided to host an event called the Mindful Drinking Festival. This was hugely successful and a new trend emerged. Around the same time, Britain saw a rapid decrease in alcohol consumption, particularly among its younger population. Now social media such as Facebook and Instagram are leading the charge in this trend.
Mindful drinking is the conscious approach to alcohol consumption. This begins with paying attention and noticing where and when you drink and who you drink with, even if you drink alone. When you drink mindfully, you have a heightened awareness of the effect alcohol has on your body and mind. You also remain in control of the way you think, feel and relate to the world and others. Fundamentally, mindful drinking is about having full awareness about your relationship with alcohol and understanding how and why you drink. It’s also about knowing that you are in control of that relationship.
Benefits of mindful drinking
Approaching drinking with more awareness has many benefits. For starters, this means your decision to have each drink is well thought out. If reducing your alcohol consumption is one of your goals, then mindful drinking can help you achieve this.
Mindful drinking can assist with more responsible drinking and potentially be a middle path to sustained change. Being present, paying attention and just noticing what is going on with yourself and around you, in a non-judgemental way can lead you to a sense of calm and kindness. The benefits of this can lead you to a place of acceptance and to be open to understanding your relationship with alcohol. You can start to decide what role you want alcohol to play in your life. This can motivate you to make healthier choices.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to mindful drinking.The key is to be present in the here and now. Pay attention to every sip you take, and with intention focus on the sensations it may evoke at that moment.
Mindful drinking can improve the quality of your sleep, resulting in restoration in energy levels and a heightened immune system. This generates more energy for physical exercise. Mindful drinking also helps you tap into your self-awareness more frequently and empower you to feel more in control. This can instil a sense of self-confidence that results in better decision-making.
If you use alcohol as a coping mechanism to numb or avoid uncomfortable feelings or situations, then mindful drinking can help bring awareness to more helpful coping methods. It can help with setting goals and committing to achieving your health and wellness plan.
While many people are still in lockdown and adjusting the way they socialise via the virtual environment, mindful drinking could enhance your social life too. There is a greater choice and range of tastes in low- and non-alcoholic drinks and an increased interest in health and wellbeing, especially in response to COVID-19. People are aware of making healthier choices. Below are six practical tips to get you started.
Six Practical Tips for Mindful Drinking
1. Plan ahead
Plan where you are going or what you would like to order. Research what beverages are available. Tweet the supplier or venue beforehand to check if they supply low- or non-alcohol drinks. Otherwise, find another place that will accommodate your requirements.
2. Check in with yourself before an occasion
Take your time preparing for the occasion regardless of whether you are going out or planning a virtual soiree. Begin with a 10-minute relaxation breathing exercise to help you feel calmer. Download a mindfulness relaxation app to get you started.
3. Stick to your intentions
Don’t act on a flash of indecision. Give yourself a moment to anchor your thoughts and reconsider your order. Ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want right now?’ and ‘Does this behaviour support me physically, mentally and emotionally?’. Stay present and mindful. Remind yourself of all the benefits of sticking to your intentions.
4. You are not alone
When you are socialising it’s easy to feel like you might be missing out on a good time if you don’t let your hair down. Broaden your perspective and start to notice how many other people around you are being mindful about their drinking too.
5. Savour your drink
Savouring is about pausing to appreciate the aroma, flavour and texture of each drink. Focus on the sensation of the beverage touching your lips. Stay in the moment and immerse yourself in the experience and ambiance of the environment you are in. Draw your attention to your feelings. Love what you drink or don’t drink it!
6. Set the example
Be proud and own your decision to practise mindful drinking. Say it out loud and kindly remind yourself that you don’t need permission nor anyone’s approval to make a decision that you know is right for you.
No matter which path you take when changing your relationship with alcohol, Hello Sunday Morning and the Daybreak community are here to support you along your journey.
Dominique Robert-Hendren MAPS 2021
Chief Clinical Psychologist