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Drinking Mindfully During the Holidays

By Kate Bonham
Posted: November 01, 2021

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Drinking mindfully requires intention and determination, but it can be particularly difficult to stay fully focused on meeting your drinking-related goals during the holidays. Studies indicate that many Americans increase their alcohol intake during the hectic stretch between late November and New Year’s Day. Simply put, the holidays can present a unique set of issues to people who are trying to cut back because of the central role alcohol plays in so many of our traditions and celebrations.

Another driving force behind the increase in alcohol indulgence is the uptick in invitations to social events. Many people find themselves at informal reunions on Thanksgiving Eve (often dubbed “the biggest bar night of the year”), at more than one Thanksgiving feast, at work holiday parties, and at multiple other family or friend gatherings where the beverages are plentiful.

But whether it’s the sheer number of meals or events you’re attending, family tensions, or the general rise in stress and anxiety many of us feel during the hustle-and-bustle of the season, your mindful drinking objectives can certainly be tested during the holidays. That’s why it’s smart and empowering to put a holiday season action plan together now. Being proactive about your alcohol health will help you to focus on both your daily goals and your longer-term objectives – and reduce the risk of regrets after one too many spiked eggnogs.

How Sunnyside Can Help During the Holidays

Sunnyside is a drink tracking system that helps you set goals to cut back your drinking by creating a 100% customized plan that fits your lifestyle and unique objectives. The system, rooted in behavioral psychology, works by enabling you to establish daily or weekly drink targets, track your drink intake, and generally be more mindful so that you achieve your wellness goals and establish lasting healthy habits.

During the holidays (and at other special events where alcohol is often present), an improvement in mindfulness can make a huge difference in your experience in the moment as well as the morning after. With the help of Sunnyside, the challenges that arise from stressors or social pressures during traditional holiday events can be effectively handled with less effort than you might think. 

Sunnyside members, on average, reduce their drinks by 30 percent in just the first 30 days. And the advantages of doing so are significant. Beyond saving money and avoiding hangovers, you can enjoy improved sleep, greater mental clarity, and better weight management – all of which are extremely helpful benefits, particularly around the holidays.  

‘Tis the Season for Mindful Drinking

Mindful drinking is a growing movement. According to our recent State of Drinking in the US: Fall 2021 survey, 47% of respondents said they plan to try to drink less alcohol or establish healthier habits. And 39% of people have considered mindful drinking. 

Here are some tips on getting started: 

Pace yourself and truly enjoy your drink. Focus on savoring the taste of that festive cocktail or mulled wine. Experience it slowly. Don’t refill your glass just because it’s empty. Some people think of their drink along the same lines as a dessert. Sure, you may want that second (or even third) slice of pumpkin pie, but you’ll likely enjoy it more if you make it a singular experience to truly savor. The same can hold true when it comes to that craft pumpkin beer.

Be your own bartender. A single drink is defined as a 12-ounce glass of beer (at 5% ABV), 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol, according to the NIAAA. If you’re at a holiday gathering and someone else is pouring your drinks they might be heavy handed and your “one drink” is technically three. Put yourself in control of your beverages and your awareness improves dramatically.

Make yourself important. You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation as to why you’re drinking less or abstaining from alcohol. But if it will make life easier for you, assign yourself a role that requires being alert and attentive. After all, someone needs to stay sober to take Grandma back home, or do a quick run for more ice cream, or play board games with the kids. If you volunteer for a role where drinking just wouldn’t mix well, you’ll have the perfect built-in reason to decline drinks. 

Stick to one type of beverage. Is your drink of choice wine, beer, or hard seltzers? Some people find that it’s easier to keep track of how much they’re drinking (and not go over their goal for the day) when they’re not mixing it up. No matter what you’re imbibing, you can help your cause by spacing out your drinks by subbing in water. 

Arrive with a plan. Making good choices while already intoxicated is extremely difficult. Work with your Sunnyside team to set a drink target for the event before you get there.

Cut yourself some slack. Plans change. Slip-ups happen. A great streak can end unexpectedly. Don’t let a single setback derail you. Maybe you’ve reconnected with a high school friend you haven’t seen in years and nostalgia gets the best of you and you stay out longer than expected. Or maybe annoying Uncle Ralph starts hitting the brandy while opining about the latest hot-button political issues and you end up having an extra drink or two. If so, go easy on yourself. All is not lost. You can get back to your plan tomorrow. 

Don’t wait for 2022. New year, new you? Many people wait until after the holidays to try to change a habit. But there’s no magical clean slate that suddenly surfaces on the first day of the year. Interested in drinking mindfully? There’s no time like the present to get started!

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Kate Bonham

MS, LPCC, LADC - Mental Health and Chemical Health Specialist & Sunnyside Advisor

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