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Want to drink more mindfully? Here are some factors to consider (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
But you like a glass of wine with dinner, and enjoy a trip to the pub and a pint with mates.
Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? Is there such a thing as a healthy balance between going totally dry and hitting the booze to excess?
Obviously, the serious medical advice and the most responsible thing to do is drink in moderation, don’t binge drink, don’t drink too often. Under 14 units a week, spread over 3 or more days, as NHS guidance states.
But, with spring around the corner and the promise of weddings, garden parties, jubilee celebrations and post-work pints closer than ever after a dark and gloomy winter, it can be easy to fall into the trap of socialising a little too much and boozing a bit too hard.
Mindful, intuitive drinking might be the answer.
Intuitive drinking isn’t about cutting yourself off from alcohol entirely, but allowing yourself to drink when you fancy it.
If you couple this with a more mindful approach, you might be on the right track to genuine balance.
Here’s how it’s done.
Tune in to your intuition
You may have heard of intuitive eating, ‘a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals’. But can you use this ideology when it comes to drinking?
Victoria Repa, BetterMe CEO and holistic health-tech pioneer, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘We can trace intuitive eating to the times when people ate to survive and not to entertain themselves.
‘Finding a way back to those internal cues is essential for this approach. For modern people to eat intuitively shall mean to feel no guilt after a meal.
‘This approach involves finding balance not only in nutrition but in life, thus meeting both physical and psychological needs, because mental health is equally important.’
The difference here is obvious. We need food to live. We don’t need alcohol.
When it comes to intuitive drinking, therefore, it’s about tuning into what your mind and body knows is best… which is unlikely to be another round of shots.
Tune into what your body and mind actually wants (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
Check in with your mindset
So, to kick off a more intuitive, mindful approach, ground yourself in the moment. What’s happening beyond the drink in your hand?
Ashley Lourens, head of Wellbeing at Plumm, a mental wellbeing app, tells us: ‘Before drinking, you should always consider multiple things, such as your state of mind, safety, and environment.
‘Alcohol can bring up unconscious thoughts buried deep in the brain, so if you’re in a bad place, drinking could hyper-inflate those feelings, making you act out impulsively.
‘And it’s not just the negative effects experienced while drinking, the hangover, and the depleted serotonin afterward can impact your mental wellbeing.’
Consider for a moment why you’re reaching for the vodka.
Are you struggling with your mental health? Is booze a crutch? If it is, will it actually make you feel any better? Check in with yourself before you take a sip.
Check in with your physical self
Are you physically in the right space to drink up?
Women, your alcohol tolerance and response can change depending on where you are at in your cycle – so check the date before you go too hard.
You might also want to avoid drinking when you’re on your period – alcohol won’t help with the cramps, as it’s dehydrating, and you could end up getting drunk more quickly than expected.
Are you carrying around a cold? If so, it’s also not the right time to have a big night. Again, you’re likely to get drunker, quicker.
Tune in with your body and mind (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
Help your body out
If you know you’re planning to drink alcohol tonight, make sure you put in some prep during the day.
Consider your water intake – make sure you’re hydrated.
Ensure you’ve eaten enough and you’re not heading out after a heavy gym session – or you could end up drinking on a less-than-full stomach.
Make sure you’ve had enough sleep, and that you’ll follow any boozing with a proper eight hours, too.
Being tired and drinking is not a great mix. If your circadian rhythm is out of whack, your liver is less capable of processing and recovering from alcohol intake, according to Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at Duke University and coauthor of Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs From Alcohol To Ecstasy.
Michaela Weaver is The Alcohol Coach – an expert in sober socialising. She notes that the crux of mindful drinking is ensuring you aren’t just drinking without thinking.
Stay present in the moment and conscious of how you’re feeling.
That does require not getting out-of-your-mind drunk.
‘Mindful drinking applies the discipline of being in the moment and aware of alcohol consumption, and not switching to the auto-pilot behaviour mode dominated by alcohol consumption,’ Michaela says.
‘After a drink or two, the conscious, decision-making part of the brain starts to shut down. It starts to slow and become less effective. For mindful drinking to work, a drinker will need to stop at one or two alcoholic drinks.’
Once you’re absolutely hammered, you can’t be mindful of your booze consumption, and you’ll soon block out those internal cues telling you that you’re tired or hungry.
The moral of the story then? Always drink a bit less, don’t rely on booze to fix awkwardness or bad feelings, and stay conscious of how your tolerance can be affected.
Getting to know how your body and mind signals it does not want booze – even if your social life does – will help you begin to build a healthier attitude to drinking.
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