Health & Wellness: Mindful drinking — A wellness conversation

Linda Peterson PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

A new concept has captured the attention of people looking for a healthier relationship with alcohol, but who don’t feel like abstinence is right for them.

Mindful drinking is about awareness and being fully present in your choice of alcohol use. It is about changing the conversation with yourself with the goal of having a healthier relationship with alcohol.

We openly discuss the negative impact that sugar, smoking and ingesting highly processed foods can have on our bodies, yet we shy away from discussing our alcohol use.

We talk frequently about the health and wellness benefits of practicing mindfulness to address our unhealthy eating habits, our stress and our anxiety. So, why do we hesitate to link mindfulness to our alcohol habits?

Mindful drinking hasn’t yet caught on the way mindful eating has. Maybe because it is hard to talk about our alcohol habits in a shame-free, label-free, yet meaningful way.

We receive encouragement when we address any other unhealthy habit, but if we choose to cut back or stop drinking altogether, we often are questioned about our decision and encouraged to “have just one.” Why? Culturally, drinking is socially acceptable and, in many instances, socially expected.

Alcohol is everywhere. It’s a major part of the American culture, and it can be found at just about any event — baby showers, yoga classes, funerals, baptisms, work meetings, theaters and even church services.

Advertisers make it appear that drinking alcohol will make our lives better. But is that true? We always should be conscious of what we’re putting in our bodies and research is clear that chronic alcohol use can have catastrophic health effects, impacting our entire body and causing a wide range of health problems.

Mindful drinking can result in more energy for exercise, more restorative sleep, a stronger heightened immune system and a feeling of confidence from being in control of your health decisions.

So, how do we become more mindful of our alcohol use? You can begin by challenging what might be faulty beliefs about alcohol, such as:

“Alcohol makes me more fun.”

Are you sure about that? Those of us who struggle with anxiety believe this to be true. It might lower our inhibitions for a while, but is it possible we can be just as fun alcohol-free?

“Alcohol relaxes me.”

Alcohol is a stimulant and a depressant. The buzz we get from our first drink lasts about 20 minutes, then our mood declines, leading to our desire for another drink to keep the buzz alive. When we stop drinking, our mood is lower than before our first drink.

“I really like the taste of alcohol.”

Much of the alcohol we drink is the same thing we put in our car — ethanol.

Alcohol has colors and flavors added to make it appealing and palatable.

“Alcohol helps me sleep.”

Alcohol might help us get to sleep (or pass out), but it does not allow us to get the deep restorative sleep we need for healing.

“I only drink occasionally, so alcohol is not harming me.”

Do your research about the impact of alcohol on your health and wellness. Remember to check the sources and who funded the research.

If you are questioning your relationship with alcohol and considering cutting back or stopping altogether, you are in good company. There is an alcohol-free movement growing in this country. Dry January and Sober October challenges have grown in popularity recently.

Not sure you are ready or willing to become alcohol-free? Maybe you are focusing on your health and wellness and just want to become the healthier version of yourself. Take the opportunity to assess your relationship with alcohol by asking yourself honest questions about the role alcohol plays in your life without guilt, shame or judgment. Ask yourself, “Why do I drink alcohol?” “Why might I want to consider cutting down, taking a break or quitting altogether?” “Does the thought of quitting scare me? Why might that be?” “How might my life be different if I changed my relationship with alcohol? What might I lose? What might I gain?” “How might alcohol be hindering my health and wellness goals?” “Is alcohol getting in the way of living my best life?”

If you have thought about cutting down, taking a break or quitting altogether, begin to make your choices about alcohol in an informed, conscious manner. Practice mindful drinking and pause to think before you drink.

Linda Peterson is a life and wellness coach at Statera Integrated Health and Wellness Solutions in Dubuque.

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