AS THE SUMMER silly season begins to wind down, it’s time to double down on New Year’s resolutions. With points to prove and goals to reach, many are taking up the new ‘Mindful Drinking’ trend, bidding farewell to their toxic relationship with alcohol, which only resulted in expensive Ubers and a bizarre overindulgence in kebabs, all wrapped up in a dreaded Sunday hangover. How wonderful. Keen to jump on the bandwagon, or just the wagon, as it were? Read on to discover the benefits of restraint.
What is Mindful Drinking?
Enter Dry January, a month of abstinence that gives our bodies and minds a chance to reset and allows us to reflect after the seasonal bloat and end-of-year weariness. But why limit yourself to just one month of sobriety? A growing number of people are now “sober curious,” exploring the benefits of an almost booze-free lifestyle without entirely abstaining. “Mindful drinking” has gained popularity in recent years, bringing the self-reflection and acknowledgment of the present moment of meditation (with a slightly more fun soundtrack) to a glass of wine or beer.
Unlike total sobriety, which involves giving up alcohol for good, being sober and curious is about questioning and modifying your drinking habits. A feat much easier said than done due to Australia’s very relaxed, often eager approach to getting tipsy, an approach that sees many of us finding any excuse to pop open a bottle and rally a communal toast.
A 2022 study has exposed some nasty habits we Aussies often seem to take pride in, showing that more than one in four (26.8 per cent) of adults exceeded the Australian Adult Alcohol Guideline in 2022. And that simply being born in Australia puts you at a higher risk of exceeding alcohol consumption guidelines than those born overseas (33 per cent compared to 16 per cent).
What are the dangers associated with overconsumption of alcohol?
While heavy drinking is a verified health hazard, mindful drinkers mitigate many of the nasties associated with ongoing alcohol consumption. These include the short-term side effects of nausea, memory loss, pounding headaches and a regretful lack of judgment, a messy collection of symptoms that culminates with run-of-the-mill hangover. It’s life’s way of holding you accountable.
Mindful drinkers can also side-step the longer term effects of heavy alcohol consumption, such as cognitive deficiencies linked to memory loss and the onset of dementia, as well as high blood pressure and increased chances of liver and bowel cancer.
Alcohol can also interfere with your body’s absorption of critical nutrients, which in turn can affect your hormones, including reproductive hormones in both men and women. For blokes, too much alcohol can batter your fertility, reducing your sperm’s ability to move.
How to be a mindful drinker
Change how you unwind
Individuals consume alcoholic beverages for various reasons, such as unwinding, boredom, or reducing stress levels. However, it’s important to note that other alternatives could work just as well. For instance, taking a walk, listening to music, or pouring yourself a non-alcoholic beverage you find enjoyable. In some cases, it’s not necessarily the alcohol that relaxes you after a long day, but rather the ritual of sitting down and having a drink, which acts as a reset button.
Take control of social situations
If you are entering an environment where alcohol is present, it may be challenging to stay disciplined in minimising your intake. If you do purchase an alcoholic drink, savour it. Pay attention to the flavours and smells. It sounds strange, but actually enjoying your drink without gulping it down serves as a friendly speed bump to slow down consumption without drawing adverse attention from pissed-up mates.
Stick to a limit
Often, when entering social settings, it’s easy to get carried away in the moment and forget about being mindful. Setting a limit—say two drinks tops—before attending social engagements acts as an accountability measure. You acknowledge when you’re approaching your designated limit and start to slow down before reaching it. Subconsciously, because you set that limit earlier in the day, you’ll feel more assertive about sticking to it.