‘Tis the season to be jolly and mindful. The Holiday Season is upon us. There will be lots of parties and opportunities for you to socialize, drink and be merry. Remember, that being social and merry can occur without drinking alcohol. If you choose to drink, make sure you’re doing it the right way. The mindful way. Mindful drinking is not about quitting alcohol but being aware of how much alcohol you’re consuming and its impact on you in the moment. It’s about recognizing the reasons for and the consequences of drinking. It’s about bettering your relationship with alcohol so that you increase enjoyment and decrease negative side effects like anxiety and regrets. Mindful drinking is more than a thought. It’s a practice. Just think about it as another way to care about your health. It’s actively tracking and managing your drinking. Sort of like counting calories.
In 2019, 47% of adults in the U.S. said they were making efforts to reduce their alcohol consumption, yet fewer than 1% of drinkers were seeking outside help to change their drinking habits. (Source: Nielsen IQ)
Mindful drinking can make room for real change in a positive and proactive way. You’ll experience physical, mental and financial changes. It can also improve sleep, reduce anxiety, serve as a weight management tool, lower your blood pressure, offer better liver function, and give you healthier skin and more brain power.
Here are five tips to practicing mindful drinking during the holiday season from Laura Garcia, M.S. Ed., ASAP prevention coordinator, Fort Rucker, Alabama:
1. Aim for small victories. Focus on small wins. Having long-term goals is great, but in this case, focus on one event at a time. Small wins add up to big wins over time. Plan ahead for each event. Know when you walk into the party what may be there to eat and drink.
2. Alternate with water. Drink a big glass of water in between drinks. This helps keeps you hydrated. It’s a win-win. Drinking water will also fill you up and slow down your consumption.
3. Eat. Eating helps to break up drinking and keeps you from drinking too much. Nibble on healthy snacks like almonds and fruit. If you’re dining out, order an appetizer. Just eat. Garcia says drinking on an empty stomach increases the rate at which your body absorbs the alcohol. Eating helps to process the alcohol at a slower rate.
4. Nurse your drink. Take slow slips and enjoy the flavor. This makes the drink last longer. Choose club soda or tonic water instead of an alcoholic drink. You may not notice the loss of alcohol if you have the mix without it.
5. Have a backup plan. Things don’t always go as planned. It’s called life. Give yourself the power to call it a night. You may end up leaving the party early and that’s OK. Plan with your friends who will be taking you home. Define the designated driver before you have your first drink. Share your backup plan with others.
Garcia adds, “The holidays are a great time to enjoy yourself. But know your limits and own your actions. Please do not let this holiday season be the reason that someone is grieving! Don’t let that be your legacy to your friends and Family! Drink and enjoy, but think before you drink too much.”
The Army Resilience Directorate website offers additional resources that Soldiers and Family members can use to help them cope with alcohol and substance abuse at https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/ASAP/index.html.