For many people, the month of January is an opportunity to embrace a fresh start and think ahead as the new calendar year begins. New gym memberships increase in the month of January, with many people thinking about the new year as a launching pad for adopting a healthier routine after a bustling holiday season. This routine often includes reassessing our consumption habits, with drinking being at the top of the list.
If this is something you have been considering, it is helpful to decide what you want this change to look like in practice, and then develop a plan that works for you. Drinking in moderation offers an alternative to abstinence while minimizing the risks associated with excessive drinking. If you have decided to adopt a moderation approach, you may have come across the term “mindful drinking.”
What is Mindful Drinking?
Mindful drinking is an approach based on a conscious and intentional awareness of alcohol consumption. It is rooted in the principles of mindfulness, the practice of remaining connected to your thoughts, emotions, and physical state. This means being engaged in the present moment, focusing your attention, and being aware of your environment. Alcohol consumption through the lens of mindfulness allows us to make thoughtful choices about when, what, and how much to drink. It aims to reshape the way you consume alcohol, promoting a more thoughtful and deliberate assessment of the benefits and potential risks associated with drinking.
At first it may seem counterintuitive to pay attention to how much and how quickly you consume alcohol, as many people describe feeling like they’re on autopilot once they’ve started drinking. But research shows that when you slow down and savor your drink, you tend to drink less. Being mindful of your pace helps you to recognize the cues that tell you if you want to drink more, or if you want to stop. One of the advantages of choosing mindful drinking is that it offers the opportunity to explore a variety of strategies and provides the flexibility to adapt them to our needs and circumstances.
Here are some practical ways to engage in mindful drinking:
Being mindful of your pace can help you notice the physical effects that alcohol is having on your body. It can help you make more rational decisions, including when or if you want that next drink.
Measure your intake
Using a variety of strategies to track your intake helps you to set limits on how much you choose to drink. Deciding on this limit before you start drinking can be part of your plan to stay within the principles of mindfulness.
Be aware of when and why you’re drinking
Paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surroundings is a central tenet to mindfulness. Checking-in with these feelings and sensations can help you stay grounded and intentional when you are drinking.
Mindful drinking encompasses a variety of strategies that motivate you to stay curious and flexible about your consumption habits. Planning ahead and setting goals is a way of embracing moderation in a practical and achievable way. An intentional approach to drinking allows you to be more present and deliberate in your choices and helps you feel more in control.
Gabriela Avendaño-González BA, is a Digital Health Coach for ALAViDA, A LifeSpeak Company. Her focus is on substance use. She is also a coach for the Bounce Back program at the Canadian Mental Health Association, where she helps participants develop helpful coping strategies to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, using the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Gabriela has been dedicated to providing low-barrier mental health services for over fifteen years.