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If you’ve ever woken up at 3 a.m. (then again at 4:30 a.m. and 5:47 a.m.) with hang anxiety – that post-alcohol psychological state before sobriety in which you question your life choices as you move into your life choices Ask a Question. I was probably wondering if you should drink less. Maybe you don’t want to or need to give it up entirely, but maybe you are ripe for a new relationship with adult drinks.
And you wouldn’t be alone. A 2019 Nielsen IQ survey showed that 47% of US consumers over 21 make an effort to reduce their alcohol consumption (that number rose to 66% among millennials). There’s a lot of space between sobriety and a drinking problem – and that’s where mindful drinking comes in.
What is mindful drinking?
So what exactly is mindful drinking other than thinking while drinking? Dru Jaeger, co-founder of Soda, a UK-based organization of more than 50,000 members that offers courses and events for people looking to change their relationship with alcohol, says they “pay attention to your drinking habits, notice what is happening in and around you when you do drink ”and use alcohol in its place so that it doesn’t take up so much time and energy.
It’s not necessarily about quitting completely (although this could possibly be your result), but rather taking the time to evaluate your alcohol consumption habits and consciously changing those that no longer work for you.
Is “mindful drinking” the same as “sober curious”?
Kind of. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “sober curious” since writer Ruby Warrington published it in 2018 book of the same title. While the two ideas are linked, said Laura Willoughby, who co-founded Club Soda with Jaeger Cosmopolitan To be “soberly curious” is “almost like the forerunner of an active occupation with mindful drinking”. While the sober inquisitive begin to reflect on their relationship with alcohol, “the mindful drinkers do so actively or take action after a pause for reflection”.
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How to start with mindful drinking
When you feel it is time to reconsider your relationship with alcohol, the first step is to observe your patterns. Where are you (and who are you with) when you drink? Do your home and social spaces make drinking almost effortless? What and when do you usually drink the most? What kinds of drinking don’t add value to your life? The occasional evening out with friends may make you feel connected, while drinking at home alone has the opposite effect (and is harder to control). Look for patterns that indicate which behaviors you should work on first.
The name of the game isn’t all at once, says Jaeger, it starts with achievable changes like taking regular drinking breaks or replacing non-alcoholic versions with alcoholic beverages (anything labeled 0.5% ABV or less). Willoughby adds that abstaining from alcohol for an initial period of one to three months can give people the clarity they need to start using alcohol again.
Some tips for sticking to mindful drinking
Once you’ve made your choice and taken small steps to start drinking, the best way to cement these positive habits is through self-imposed rules. Things like I only drink on weekends; I will no longer drink alcohol alone; When I go out, I start with two soft drinks before deciding whether to drink alcohol; I switch between alcoholic and soft drinks and so on.
Make specific plans and exit strategies for situations that you know could be difficult. (And have a comeback ready to answer the most common curious questions asked of non-drinkers.)
Telling friends and building an accountability support network will also help keep you on the mindful drinking cart. Reach out to others for assistance, join a community or online group to chat about resources, promote your goals, and remind them that you are not alone.
And finally, list all of the positive things you’ve enjoyed since you’ve been drinking less – things like uninterrupted sleep, clear head, and relief from being able to exercise, run errands, and tidy the house instead just causing nausea and brain-splitting headache on a Sunday afternoon.
(Jaeger notes that suddenly stopping alcohol can be dangerous for some who are physically dependent. However, most people can lose weight gradually without medical supervision. If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption or the effects of changing your habits, Talk to your doctor .)