How To Have a More Mindful Relationship With Alcohol

Author Stacy Mosel, LMSW by Stacy Mosel, LMSW

Sometimes, nothing beats a glass of wine at the end of a long and stressful day. But you might notice that one glass can lead to many, and that might not end up being all that relaxing in the end — after all, who wants to wake up for work the next day feeling tired and hungover? If this describes you, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, one in six adults binge drinks (meaning four or more drinks in about two hours for women) at least four times a month, which can lead to all sorts of negative consequences for your health, career and relationships. 

If you’re wondering how to relax without alcohol (or less of it), we’ve got you covered. This article will help you understand the concept of mindful drinking, how you can have a healthier relationship with alcohol, and explore alternative, alcohol-free ways you can relax at the end of the day.

What Is Mindful Drinking?

The term “mindful drinking” has become a sort of buzzword among health-conscious people who either want to reduce their alcohol use or stop using it altogether. If cutting back sounds like a good idea to you, you’ve got company: According to results of a survey of 72,000 respondents from 21 countries, almost 33% of people wanted to reduce their alcohol consumption, for a variety of reasons including physical health, sexual regret and more. 

Mindful drinking was popularized by CLUB SÖDA, an alcohol-free organization that introduced the “sober curious” movement to help people become more aware of their drinking patterns and learn to enjoy life without alcohol. It promotes being alcohol-conscious, meaning being aware of how much and how often you drink. Mindful drinking doesn’t have to mean abstinence, but it does mean developing a healthier relationship with alcohol.

Transform Your Relationship With Alcohol

The idea of mindful drinking sounds great, but how do you do it? It isn’t a complicated process: In fact, you can start doing it today (or the next time you have a drink).

relationship with alcohol

1. Become Curious

The first step is to develop awareness of your drinking instead of mindlessly reaching for a drink (and for another one). You don’t need to make any changes yet; just notice how much you’re drinking and try to examine the habits you’ve developed around alcohol. Ask yourself:

  • Why am I drinking? 
  • How does alcohol fit into my lifestyle? 
  • Does it have to be a problem if I choose not to drink? 
  • When was the last time I drank more than I wanted to?

You might also want to consider these questions and journal your answers during the day when you’re not drinking.

2. Plan Ahead

If you know an event or occasion is coming up that’s going to involve alcohol, try to make a plan in advance so you can limit or avoid drinking if you want to. CLUB SÖDA advises looking for bars or clubs that serve alcohol-free drinks; you might tweet or call in advance to ask about what they offer.

3. Notice the Reasons You Drink

The next time you decide to have a drink, try to develop a mindful awareness of what’s going on in the moment. Pause before you drink and ask yourself if and how this drink is serving your needs and what those needs might be. Are you just drinking out of habit (i.e., opening up a bottle of wine as soon as you come home from work because that’s what you always do)? Are you lonely and drinking to fill a void? Maybe you’re feeling down and want to tune everything out? You may very well decide not to have that drink at this point — maybe you’ll choose to have a mocktail instead, or maybe you’ll choose an alternative activity.

4. Pay Attention

If you do decide to imbibe at a bar, restaurant or club, then order something you really want; try a more decadent cocktail with premium ingredients or a craft beer instead of the cheapest drink on the menu. You’ll be more likely to want to savor it and avoid bingeing if you’re having something expensive. Or, if you’re at home, consider buying a smaller bottle of quality wine and commit to just having one glass.

pay attention mindful drinking

Then pay attention to the drink — the color, smell, taste — and take time to savor it instead of chugging it back all at once. Pay attention to and focus on your surroundings and the people you’re with (if you’re not alone, of course). Pause before you order (or pour) another drink or have a glass of club soda or an alcohol-free drink instead.

5. Don’t Overthink It

If you’ve made the choice to avoid alcohol, don’t worry about it too much. A lot of people get nervous when they’re with other people who are drinking because they feel pressured to join in, and they might dread the question, “Why aren’t you drinking today?” Don’t make a big deal about it. You can just explain that you’ve decided not to drink today, and then move the conversation along to other areas.

6. Make a Commitment To Yourself

You get to decide how much and when you drink — your alcohol use is under your control and you don’t have to drink just because “everyone else is.” Surround yourself with people who are interested in developing healthier relationships with alcohol instead of those who think drinking is the only way to relax. Commit to becoming more “sober curious” and see how much better you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually when you decide to stop or cut back on your drinking.

A Different Way To Unwind

In today’s health-conscious world, many people are choosing to limit their alcohol use and find alternative ways to relax. You might cultivate hobbies, practice yoga, exercise, spend alcohol-free time with like-minded friends, or treat yourself to a relaxing bath at the end of the day. But here’s where we think CBD can also step in. SHEbd’s broad spectrum hemp products (such as our Hemp Oil and Hemp Softgels) are great alternatives to relax and unwind that won’t leave you feeling hungover the next day. Our products are designed to promote relaxation, ease stress and anxious feelings, and help balance your body and mind naturally.

mindful drinking unwind

Whether you decide to stop drinking or just cut down on your alcohol use, being mindful of your drinking is a beneficial way to improve your physical and mental health and help you feel more in control of your choices. 

Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a substance abuse specialist, psychotherapist and licensed social worker. She received her master’s in social work from New York University in 2002, and has had extensive training in child and family therapy and the identification and treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders.


References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Binge Drinking 
Addictive Behaviors – Motivations for Reducing Alcohol Consumption 
Club Soda – Frequently Asked Questions
Club Soda – What Is Mindful Drinking?
Real Simple – Mindfulness Is a Happy Hour Game Changer Drinkaware – Explore Sober Curious and Mindful Drinking