21 Nov Mindful Drinking | Are you a Mindless Drinker?
Too often drinking is an expectation, not a choice. Across the UK, people are suffering as a result of their own or others’ drinking – and not enough specialist support is available to help them. 19-25 November 2018 is Alcohol Awareness Week. And this year the theme of Alcohol Awareness Week is ‘Change’.
Stopping alcohol use for a month is an increasingly common choice, popularized through initiatives like Dry January and Whole30, which eliminates grains, dairy, sugar, legumes and alcohol from the diet for a month. Post-cleanse, enthusiasts report how great they feel: clearer-headed and with looser jeans.
64% of Brits who want to drink less, want to cultivate a new, healthy and more mindful relationship with alcohol
Drinking is linked with a heightened risk of chronic conditions including liver disease, certain cardiovascular diseases and at least seven different kinds of cancer. And the more you drink, the research suggests, the higher your risk of developing these illnesses. People—who are savvier than ever to fitness, nutrition and mindfulness, thanks to a $3.7 trillion wellness industry that continues to swell—are increasingly unwilling to ignore those associations.
The theory of mindful drinking is, as its name indicates, a conscious approach to consuming alcohol. The technique has become popular in the U.K., where a group called Club Soda teaches the approach and hosts mindful-drinking pub crawls; this summer, the organization produced its first Mindful Drinking Festival. Research shows there has been a rapid decline in drinking among young people across Britain.
mindfulness gives you the freedom to enjoy alcohol on your terms
Mindful drinking is essentially training yourself to drink in moderation. And Moderation might sound deceptively simple, but it’s really far more complicated than abstinence because, after one or two drinks, your willpower and decision-making skills go out the window. Lasting change is particularly challenging since moderation requires constant awareness of your behaviour and decisions.
Mindful drinking is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the opposite of drinking without thinking.
The Practice of Mindful Drinking
- The Practice of Mindful Drinking is actually just part of a much larger practice called Mindful Living
Any activity that requires focus and awareness is an act of mindfulness. Some people enjoy knitting, reading, gardening, playing an instrument or colouring in books.
Living more mindfully might bring up difficult emotions. You might notice the anxiety or the anger that you had been trying to suppress. But negative feelings are nothing to be afraid of. They’re part of life and ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, it simply makes them fester. Once you acknowledge whatever it is that is making you feel anxious, you can confront it head-on and assess the situation rationally. It’s rarely as bad as you imagined.
- Ask yourself: WHY are you drinking?
Often, all it takes to rob a craving of its power is simply to acknowledge it. Paying mindful attention to your emotions can really help you avoid stress-drinking. Are you anxious, stressed, bored, tired, angry or lonely? Being aware of your feelings helps you choose the option where you wake up refreshed.
- Practice Drinking Mindfully
Practice Drinking Mindfully. With a cup of herbal tea. Spend five minutes with your drink. Notice your tea. The colour of it, the flavour, the heat. Focus only on the tea. Doing this with a drink that isn’t alcohol takes the pressure off, and then you’ll be imprinted when you do drink alcohol.
It doesn’t have to be tea – you can practice this with any soft drink.
- Monitor your progress.
Research has shown that monitoring habits helps improve them. This is why people who want to lose weight are advised to keep a food diary, or people who want to save money should keep a record of their spending. Simply monitoring or reflecting on your drinking can encourage you to moderate.
There we have it, being mindful of how much you’re drinking, and why, will make better choices happen naturally. Once you’ve got the hang of mindful awareness, you will be able to use it to identify the real reasons why you drink, making it easier to decide when to do so.
Remember, mindful drinking is not about deprivation. It’s about freedom!
**All of this is well and good if you’re able to do it. If you have concerns about alcoholism, then any drinking, whether mindful or not, is ill-advised. Mindful drinking is for people who want to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, but it’s no substitute for a recovery program. It’s born of a more pedestrian desire to change our relationship to something in our life, in the same way we might want to reevaluate our relationship to technology.**
For more tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle, check out my new book, which is available on Amazon, and all leading bookstores, including Waterstones and Borders.
‘Mind Body Cleanse’ by Chris James (Penguin Vermilion, £14.99). Available from here: https://www.chrisjamesmindbody.com/product/mind-body-cleanse-by-chris-james/https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mind-Body-Cleanse-Plan-Re-Energise/dp/1785040804
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