Can you recall a time when you arrived at a party or an event and went straight to the bar?
This may be because you were nervous, excited, or socially anxious, or you just bee-lined to the bar out of habit. Another thing to consider is that we constantly want to do something with our hands, so holding a glass and drinking is a way to keep our hands occupied while we are in a conversation and socialising.
The result is that we find ourselves drinking and not even thinking about it, not to mention whether we really wanted that drink in the first place. Or the second drink. And especially not the seventh drink; by that point, the ability to drink mindfully is very hard to get a grip on, as may be the rest of your evening.
If we drink mindfully, it means we are experiencing the drink and deciding whether we like it, considering whether we would like another one, and maybe even tossing up whether it would be worth the headache tomorrow if we had too many.
When we drink mindfully we are able to decide whether or not we will be drinking that night and it will be our decision. Not our friends' decision. Not a cultural decision. Our decision.
If you want to drink mindfully, you need to first pause and ask yourself whether you want the alcohol or not.
It is common to turn to alcohol as a way to cope or deal with certain situations, whether that be stress at work, anxiety, relationship issues or a range of different emotional strains that we think drinking will help with. Sometimes it may relieve these difficult emotions in the short term. But if these issues are not resolved, a dependence on drinking may be added the list.
If we are mindful of how we are feeling or why we drink, we can understand that no matter what Homer Simpson says, drinking will not solve any problems. In turn, learning to drink mindfully helps us develop a healthier relationship with alcohol.
So, how do you drink mindfully?
Mindfulness is a practice and it requires you to be fully present. For example, if you want to drink mindfully, you need to first pause and ask yourself whether you want the alcohol or not.
You may be going out to dinner with some friends and they are all planning on having a 'big night'. But you have an early morning activity lined up the next day. So, you would check in with yourself to see if you feel like a drink that may lead to more drinks. Alternatively, you may just feel like a delicious meal and treating yourself with dessert instead.
Maybe you're invited out to drinks with friends. In this case, to drink mindfully you wouldn't order four of the cheapest house wines. Rather, you could order one delicious and expensive cocktail to enjoy for the duration of the night.
A third way to drink mindfully at parties and events is to just be present when you arrive for the first 10 minutes, without heading to the bar. Suss out the crowd and the vibe of the place, greet your friends and then decide whether you feel like a drink. You may surprise yourself by realising you actually don't need to drink to enjoy yourself.
Remember that this takes time, so allow yourself the time and maybe a few practice attempts!
You can read more about mindful drinking here.