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6 simple ways to have a healthier relationship with alcohol
When it comes to drinking, self-awareness is key. Here are some ways you can do that.
If you drink alcohol, have you ever thought about why you do it? For many adults, it’s just a normal habit. Maybe you have a glass of wine with dinner every night. Or maybe you have your favorite happy hour spot.
Alcohol can be bad for your health in some situations. But it can be much lower risk in others. And simply being aware of why you’re drinking can be important. It can help you make better choices about drinking. And, for some, that can help them live healthier lives.
Some people have decided to be more intentional about how much they drink. That’s called being “sober curious.” It simply means being mindful (aware and present) of what you’re drinking.
Let’s take a closer look at how it works.
What is mindful drinking, and how do I do it?
Simply put, mindful drinking is about paying attention to why, what and when you drink.
- You’re aware of how much you’re drinking, on any given day, week and overall.
- You know the difference between having fun and having regrets. You also know your limit.
- You know how much alcohol it takes to affect your health, mood and habits.
That’s according to Corin Groustra, a national board-certified health and wellness coach with Optum.
So, you feel sick every Saturday after happy hour. You take a taxi home and don’t sleep so well. Ask yourself: What can I do to feel better? Try:
- Going every other week and seeing how you feel
- Leaving or stopping drinking at a certain time
- Setting a three-drink limit
You might find that that’s not enough. You could try committing to a dry month. That’s when you don’t drink for an entire month. It can help you get on track to feeling better.
“You can learn a lot by taking a break from alcohol,” Groustra says. “It gives you a chance to step away and see things more clearly.”
In fact, a recent study had people quit alcohol for a month. They saw positive changes right away, including:
- Weight loss (an average of 3.5 pounds)
- Lower blood pressure
- Possible lower chances of having diabetes or cancer
Six months after the study, they were drinking less than before it.1 A dry month can open the door to more mindful drinking.
But everybody’s different. The key is to try what works best for you.
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How can I be more mindful when I drink?
Say you’re now more aware of why you’re drinking. Let’s go back to happy hour on Fridays. Maybe you like spending time with your co-workers. Or it’s just a way to relax after work. Maybe you’re just grateful to have a great cocktail. Or all three.
“Take the time to pause and think about your drinking,” says Groustra. “Notice your drinking patterns. Try to understand how they’re working for you or against you.”
What strategies can help me be more mindful when I drink?
Here are some easy ways to get started:
Record how much you’re drinking. Write down how many drinks you have each day and week. Look for patterns. That can help you figure out when and where you drink.
Plan ahead. Decide what and how much you’re going to drink before you do. And know when to stop. “It doesn’t have to take much time,” says Groustra. “It can be just 5 minutes in your car on the way to the restaurant. Ask yourself what you really want out of your evening.”
Try some non-alcoholic drinks. You can find beer, wine and other drinks that have no alcohol in them nearly everywhere. A lot of them taste just like the real thing.
Work in some new activities. Drinking isn’t the only enjoyable activity out there. Try reading a book or drinking some tea. Or if relaxing means getting a good sweat in, join an exercise class or take a cooking class. The possibilities are endless.
Be kind to yourself. If you go overboard on your plan, don’t be hard on yourself. It happens. The point is just to be aware of what happened and why it happened, says Groustra. And think about what you might want to change next time.
But be honest with yourself too. If you’re drinking too much and struggling to cut back, it may be time to get help. Start by talking to your doctor.
Bottom line: Mindful drinking helps you to find out what’s good about alcohol. But it helps make you aware of what’s bad about it, too. You don’t need to stop drinking alcohol to be healthy. But you might find that being sober can outweigh drinking. Listen to your body. And be mindful of your habits and patterns around alcohol.
Learn more about mindful drinking on our Until It's Fixed podcast. Just click to listen now.
- BMJ Open. Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational study. Published May 5, 2018. Accessed February 10, 2023.
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