Expert review by:
Dr Claire Garnett
-Updated 10 November 2021
If you are thinking about mindful drinking to help you drink in moderation, we have some tips for getting started.
Mindful drinking could be an option for you if you want to reintroduce alcohol into your lifestyle after completing an alcohol-free challenge.
Or if you want to moderate your drinking and incorporate some of the mindful drinking techniques into your routine to help reduce your alcohol intake, then you’re in the right place.
What is mindful drinking?
Mindfulness has been increasingly recognised as an influence on behaviour, and involves bringing your attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. Mindful drinking is about being mindful about how and why you drink alcohol, paying attention to your experience in the here and now, and being intentional in your decisions around alcohol. Mindfulness can help with abstinence too if you’ve decided you don’t want to drink.
If you have struggled to moderate your drinking in the past, or have been unable to complete an alcohol-free challenge, then you may need to address this first before you can explore the world of mindful drinking.
The need for mindful drinking
Many of us have experienced social pressures to drink alcohol and have lived our lives surrounded by drinking being ever present in marketing, media and our day to day lives. This often means our perceptions and thought patterns around alcohol can be skewed to believe the only way to celebrate, commiserate or pass the time is by drinking. Mindful drinking is about taking a step back from these default behaviours to decide for ourselves if, when and how much we want to drink.
How to drink mindfully
Here are some tips and suggestions for getting started with mindful drinking:
Stop and take a body scan
A common practise in mindfulness or meditations is to take a slow scan of your body to notice how it is feeling. What points of your body are touching surfaces, notice how each individual body part feels, gradually working your way from your head down to the tips of your toes.
You can implement a similar practise when approaching mindful drinking – not necessarily undertaking a body scan meditation each time you are deciding whether or not to have a drink, but rather, pausing for a moment to check in with yourself and ask questions like ‘how am I feeling?’, ‘do I really want to have this drink?’, ‘will having this drink cause me any negative consequences later on?’.
On some occasions, you may find that you can happily answer that you would like to enjoy a drink, and on others, you choose that you’d prefer to prioritise being sober in order to be able to drive, or to be more present for an activity.
Practise having one, then switching to an alcohol-free option
One of the tricky hurdles with having one drink is that it can lead to another. So in your early days of trying to drink mindfully, try having one drink before switching back to an alcohol-free alternative. Knowing you can enjoy an alcoholic drink without the evening spiralling into something much bigger than you had planned can give you confidence going into future social occasions.
Drinking isn’t a race to the finish line – it isn’t about who can drink the most in the least amount of time. So take your time to enjoy your drink! Try to take small sips rather than large gulps, and if you are with other people, try to make sure you are not drinking any faster than anyone else. Take a moment to appreciate the taste of your drink – and if you don’t like the taste, then stop drinking it.
An entrepreneur and former senior oil broker, Ruari gave up drinking after excessive consumption almost cost him his marriage, and worse, his life. Going alcohol-free improved his relationships, career and energy levels, leading to him founding OYNB to provide a support network for others.