What is mindful drinking and how can it help you booze less?

There’s a new movement making not drinking alcohol more socially acceptable. Around Town finds out more.

Who doesn’t enjoy a glass or two of something alcoholic at the end of a long day? Drinking, particularly in British culture, is synonymous with relaxing; we drink to celebrate getting through another five days of work, and to socialise with friends – but we often drink for less positive reasons too.

According to new research carried out by YouGov and charity Drinkaware, three in five adults regularly drink to help them handle the niggles and stresses of everyday life.

The study looked at the drinking habits of 18 to 75-year-olds over the last year and discovered 38% had drunk to forget their problems, 58% to deal with everyday pressures, 47% to improve their mood, and 41% to tackle feelings of depression or anxiety.

Whether you’re in the middle of attempting to complete Dry January, or have the creeping feeling that maybe three glasses of wine a night isn’t making you feel so great after all, there is an alternative you could try – mindful drinking.

What is mindful drinking?

Club Soda, the pioneers of a mindful drinking movement, have an aim to create “a world where nobody has to feel out of place if they’re not drinking”.

The movement is based around the idea of being conscious and thoughtful about your alcohol consumption, and open to change, whether that involves making a decision to cut down, or to stop drinking completely. But it’s also about starting a wider conversation around alcohol and the often rigid social norms surrounding drinking culture.

Society needs to become more accommodating

Arrive at the pub and tell your mates you’re not drinking, and it’s not unusual to face a barrage of questions, comments and cajoling, from, ‘Why not?’ and ‘Have you got a problem?’ to ‘Don’t make us feel bad for drinking’ and, ‘Come on, one won’t hurt’.

It’s easy to cave in, or resort to subterfuge by ordering a tonic water and telling everyone it’s got vodka in it. Rarely do you not have to explain yourself. Rarely can you sit and sip a coke without being grilled on your life choices.

However, part of Club Soda’s mission is: “We want to make non-drinking and mindful drinking widely accepted, so that everyone feels confident to change their drinking habits if they want to. Society can make this easier by making sure non-drinkers are just as comfortable as drinkers in all social spaces where alcohol is served.”

Drinks companies are already beginning to cotton on to the fact people are increasingly looking for non-alcoholic and low alcohol drinks options – particularly as there’s been a significant decline in drinking (and smoking) amongst young people in recent years.

Brewdog’s Nanny State, Estrella Damm Free and Big Drop’s Chocolate Stout all offer the taste of booze but without the hangover, while Seedlip has even developed the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits.

So, how do you get started?

You can sign up to the likes of Club Soda (for a fee) to receive weekly emails packed with support, advice and step-by-step guides to adapting your drinking habits.

However, you don’t have to follow a specific programme to alter your drinking routines. It can simply be a matter of considering, next time you’re at the pub ordering cocktails with friends, or opening a bottle of wine for dinner, how much you really want that glass, and whether you could have just as nice an evening without it.

Talking about your own choices, and not judging or questioning others who might not be drinking, will also make saying, “I’ll have an orange juice,” a lot less fraught.

Cheers to that.