Mindful Drinking—A Wellness Conversation
Updated: Apr 13
We talk frequently about the health and wellness benefits of practicing mindfulness to address our unhealthy eating habits and our stress and anxiety. So why do we seldom link the practice of mindfulness to our alcohol habits? I coach clients on the negative impact sugar, smoking, and ingesting highly processed foods can have on their bodies, yet I hesitate to place the same focus on their alcohol use. Frankly, it is hard to talk about our alcohol habits in a shame-free, label-free, yet meaningful way.
Be honest, when someone tells you they don’t drink or have cut down, what is your first thought? Do you congratulate them? Or do you assume they must have a problem with alcohol or that they are an alcoholic? Do you think they must be weak, flawed, or sick? Does it make you reflect on your own drinking habits? We tend to protect the alcohol and blame the person who is struggling with their alcohol use. We receive encouragement when we address any other unhealthy habit, but if we choose to cut back or stop drinking altogether, we are questioned about our decision and encouraged to “have just one.”
If you are questioning your relationship with alcohol and considering cutting back or stopping altogether, you are in good company. There is an alcohol free (AF) movement growing in this country. Why? Alcohol is everywhere—it’s a major part of the American culture and it seems it can be found at just about any event. Baby showers, yoga classes, funerals, baptisms, work meetings, theaters, and even some church services. Advertisers make it appear that we will have more fun, make great friends, attract the right guy/girl, find true love, make our parents proud (check out the Gentleman Jack commercial) and yes, dance like a pro. Try watching for alcohol ads over the next week and listen for the underlying messages. We are encouraged to believe that alcohol will makes our life better. But is that true?
So how do we become more mindful about our alcohol use? Just as I advise clients about consuming highly sugared beverages, think before you drink! You can also challenge what might be faulty beliefs about alcohol such as,
"Alcohol makes me more fun." Are you sure about that? Those of us who struggle with anxiety believe this to be true. It may lower our inhibitions for a while, but is it possible we can be just as fun alcohol-free?
"Alcohol relaxes me." Alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant. The buzz we get from our first drink lasts about 20 minutes and then our mood declines, leading to our desire for another drink to keep the buzz alive. When we stop drinking, our mood is lower than before our first drink.
"I really like the taste of alcohol." I was horrified to learn that the alcohol we drink is the same thing we put in our car—ethanol. Alcohol has colors and flavors added to make it palatable.
"Alcohol helps me sleep." Alcohol might help us get to sleep (or pass out), but it does not allow us to get the deep restorative sleep we need for healing.
"I only drink occasionally so alcohol is not harming me." Do your own research about the impact of alcohol on your health and wellness. Remember to check the sources and who funded the research.
If you are questioning your relationship with alcohol, you might ask yourself some of these questions.
Why do I drink alcohol?
Why might I want to considering cutting down, taking a break, or quitting altogether?
Does the thought of quitting scare me? Why might that be?
How might my life be different if I changed my relationship with alcohol?
What might I lose? What might I gain?
How might alcohol be hindering my health and wellness goals?
Is alcohol getting in the way of living my best life?
If you are focusing on your health and wellness and want to become the best version of yourself, don’t overlook the opportunity to assess your relationship with alcohol. Ask yourself some honest questions about the role alcohol plays in your life and please give yourself deep love and compassion. This is not easy work. If you have thought about cutting down, taking a break, or quitting altogether, make your choices about alcohol in an informed, mindful manner.
Blessings and Live Well~ Coach Linda
~ Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, Holly Whitaker
~ This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol-Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life—Annie Grace
~The Alcohol Experiment: A 30 Day Alcohol-Free Challenge to Interrupt Your Habits and Help You Take Control—Annie Grace
~The Alcohol Experiment™ - This Naked Mind