An Introduction to Mindful Drinking

BY BALANCE EDITORIAL TEAM | TEGAN HEDLEY
Oct 17, 2019
An Introduction to Mindful Drinking
It’s October. The nights are drawing in, the rain is back and somehow your stay-fit motivation seems to be disappearing down the back of the sofa. An evening run is replaced by a glass of red, one becomes two, two becomes three and suddenly, you’ve sunk half a bottle while watching The Apprentice. The next night, you polish off the bottle with that freshly baked lasagne. Before you know it, it’s Friday and you’re off to the pub for a post-work ‘just one’. It happens to the best of us. 

But times are a-changing, and an increasing number of people are shunning the sauce in favour of a more mindful approach to drinking. Much like the balanced approach to sweet treats taken by the
intuitive eating movement, mindful drinking doesn’t demonise consuming alcohol altogether, but asks you to be conscious of your intake: what, why and how much you’re drinking, and how those things affect you as an individual. More than just drinking ‘sensibly’ as your mum probably wishes you would, this requires consideration of every stage of your drinking experience.

Leading the charge are Gen Z, commonly thought of as those born after 1995, with the self-reported frequency of alcohol consumption at a record low for that age group – a June 2019 study of 10,000 16-24 year olds found that 29% didn’t drink at all, a rise of 18% in just 10 years (1). Between shifting attitudes to self-care and an improvement in the quality and prevalence of low and no alcohol drinks, it’s becoming cooler than ever to go ‘out out’ without ending up drunk.




What are the principles of mindful drinking?

The first key principle of mindful drinking is considering exactly why you’re drinking in the first place, and why you’re continuing to drink, even though you know that three or four will push you past that ‘happy place’. Drinking when you’re in a good mood and relaxing with friends is one thing, more often than not this is not the reason that we choose to indulge; in the UK, over half of adults reported drinking for a ‘coping reason’ at least some of the time (2). Before you order that first drink or open the bottle of wine, ask yourself whether it’s out of habit or boredom, is it because you’re sad or tired or anxious? If you're still going to feel these things when you sober up again - which you probably are - could a different drink be a better choice right now?

Similarly, focusing on the experience of drinking one drink, is a crucial part of mindful drinking. Quite often people enjoy the relaxed sensation that they feel after one drink, but by number two or three, it’s simply because you can. But just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. Already, this shift towards more experiential drinking does seem to be reflected in wider drinking trends; in a survey of bar managers, 69% of reported an increased demand for cocktails over the last five years, with 72% reporting higher consumption of premium drinks (3). In short: apply the same principles as you would to buying a pair of boots - treat yourself to a nice pair and you won’t need a second.

It’s not only your drink you should be focusing on – in fact, paying attention to what’s going on away from your drink is just as important. Instead of listening to your friends with one ear while you swirl your margarita with a cocktail umbrella and think about what you'll order next, put your drink down for a minute and really listen to what they’re saying. Ask questions, be present. You’ll most likely find that by being more engaged, you’ll naturally drink less.

What’s behind it all?

So, what’s leading people to reduce their alcohol consumption? Among the biggest drivers is believed to be a shift in attitudes towards the importance of mental health, with 83% of Gen Z reporting that it's just an important consideration in their life as their physical health (3).  Eager to avoid ‘Hanxiety’, that sinking feeling of nervousness or shame in the pit of your stomach many of us will have experienced after a big night out, drinkers are turning towards low and no alcohol options, and shunning big nights out in chilled evenings at home with friends. 

While critics may claim that it’s all about maintaining control – one study into changing drinking habits found that 75% of Gen Z feel it’s important to be in control of all aspects of their life at all times (3) – some of those who have already embraced sober living say this is not the case. Millie Gooch, founder of the Sober Girls Society, an online community bringing together women who choose not to drink, explained on the group’s Instagram page: “People often try and link my sobriety to perfectionism, a need to be in control with the inability to let loose. But it’s quite the opposite. Letting your spirit and emotions run riot without trying to dampen or numb or quiet them is truly letting go of control.”

Three tips to keep your Sober October going strong:

Ditch the nostalgia – It’s easy to remember the good times, but when you’re feeling the FOMO and tempted to take it too far, take a moment to remember past nights out. Not just the highs, but the night from start to finish: the singing, the chunder, or whatever else you got up to, all the way up to waking up the next morning. Now remember the hangxiety too.

Plan ahead – As we’ve said, drinking mindfully doesn’t have to mean not going out and the days when staying sober meant spending all night drinking diet coke are long gone, but it might still require a little more forethought. Websites like Club Soda offer listings of where to find the best low and no alcohol menus, and the best fake fizz.

Fake it ‘til you make it – Still feeling awkward about being the only one not drinking? Order an alcohol free beer and decant it into a normal glass. No one will ever know the difference.


Recipe: Spritz Time

A forerunner in the mindful drinking movement, Cami Vidal, who runs La Maison Wellness, a website dedicated to healthy hedonism, is an expert in creating no and low alcohol cocktails that taste as good as the real thing - so we asked her to share one of her personal favourites: Spritz Time.





What You'll Need

40ml Everleaf or The Bitter Note
60ml Alcohol-Free Lindeman’s Sparkling Wine
60ml Sparkling Water ​
A slice of orange to garnish

Everleaf is a bittersweet, non-alcoholic aperitif made from sustainably-sourced botanicals. It’s beautifully aromatic: with vanilla & saffron, gentian & iris, vetiver, orange blossom, voodoo lily & acacia; giving a texture & length that’s new to the non-alcoholic drinks market.

The Bitter Note has all the flavour of a traditional Italian herbal bitter liqueur, with none of the alcohol! The 7 aromatics give a gorgeous aroma of bitter notes, fresh mint & rhubarb

Lindeman’s Sparkling Wines are at least 25% lower in calories & alcohol when compared with traditional wine. The flavour is crisp & fresh, with notes of lemon & lime, a subtle creaminess & a light, crisp finish. 

Method 

Measure ingredients into highball, fill to the top with ice & give a gentle stir to combine, garnish et voila!

Raise your glass and say santé!

 
  1. YesMore - https://yesmore.co.uk/teetotallers-positive-for-pub-culture/
  2. Drinkaware - https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/media/1852/drinking-to-cope-jan-2018.pdf
  3. Opinium/Red Brick Road - https://www.opinium.co.uk/the-last-round-how-to-engage-the-next-generation-of-mindful-drinkers/
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