[photo: author's own]
Drinking is rarely out of the headlines. Government talks about unit recommendations. Millions are about to start a Dry January. Young people now drink less than their parents. Red wine cures cancer but also gives you cancer. And more and more people of all ages are cutting down their drinking in some way.
Put all of this together, and you get mindful drinking. Not necessarily going teetotal, not necessarily following the government guidance, or anybody else's either. It's setting your own goals, based on your personal motives, and what is right for you.
Define mindful drinking for yourself
You may want to lose a bit of weight, sleep better and wake up fresher, save money, focus fully on your work, studies or hobbies, or just experiment with a new lifestyle. And you may take a sober sprint of a month or two, not drink on weekdays, only drink lower alcohol beers, or even go alcohol free. It is all about taking control of your drinking. And control of your life.
It helps to have a little bit of support to help you along the way, unpicking drinking habits can be harder than you think, whether your goal is a Sober Sprint, drink more mindfully or go alcohol-free.
Finding the best night spots
One of the biggest obstacles to mindful drinking we hear about is going out and being social; which most of us still want to do. But the choice of low and no alcohol drinks in Britain's pubs and bars doesn't always make a mindful drinker feel particularly welcome. There are a few sugary soft drinks in the bottom of the fridge at the far left of the bar, but not much else.
Touch base with the Club Soda Guide this January and discover that there is a lot more behind the bar than you would think. We can even provide you with a Mindful Pub Crawl Kit to help you on your way. Our guide ranks venues to help you start at the best!
Top tips for Mindful Drinking
So whether you're making any resolutions for the new year or not, you can still drink mindfully.
If you're not sure how to get started, here are our seven habits of mindful drinkers
Winging and mindfulness don't go so well together. So plan, plan, plan. Look for pubs and bars with great low and no alcohol beverages, so that you can choose to drink or not to drink. Tweet them, call in advance - find a new local that cares about you and what you want to drink.
2. Don't panic
"Erm, erm, erm! White wine!" Stay strong at the bar. Don't let a flash of indecision make you fall back on 'the usual'. Take your time. Stay mindful. Chat to the bar staff about what you want to drink, and what they have on offer. They might love the challenge of whipping you up a virgin cocktail!
3. Fake it
Sometimes you just don't want another boring conversation about why you are not having a 'proper' drink. So fly below the radar. Three sneaky tips...
- Arrange a 'usual' with the bar staff. They love helping you fake a Gin and Tonic (T&T) or putting a fizzy elderflower in a dressed up champagne glass.
- The never-ending shandy. Start with the lowest alcohol beer you can find, and just keep topping it up with lemonade or soda at each round.
- Pimp your water. Not sure if the pub you're going to has something you like? Smuggle in a bottle of your favourite cordial and pimp your fizzy water all night
4. Assess your mood
Drinking when you're happy can be great. But drinking when you're lonely, tired and emotional? You know how that ends. Rather than add a hangover to your problems, face them head on. You'll thank yourself in the long run.
5. Stick to your guns
Make your decision, put it into words and practice saying it out loud, "I have decided not to drink tonight, as I'm saving myself for the weekend."
If friends won't give up trying to persuade you, shift the spotlight onto them. Remember, you don't need anyone's permission to make a decision that is right for you. No one has the right to persuade you otherwise.
6. Safety in numbers
Everyone else is drinking, right? Well, not really. When you start to look around, you realise how many people aren't drinking. Your pregnant friend, your friend on a health kick, your Muslim friend, and even just your friend who had too much last night and is nursing a wicked hangover. Seek them out, and go out together.
7. Be an active customer
If we want our pubs to stay on the high street, we need to stay friends. You want them to stock a great tipple; they want to know what drinks will keep you coming back. So ask them to stock your favourite non-alcoholic beers or craft sodas. Before they know it, those non-alcoholic drinks will be flying off the shelves.