How to become a 'mindful drinker' during Christmas party season

Last week, the NHS has released stats highlighting our worrying binge drinking habits.

49% of adults usually drink alcohol at least once a week or more often, and with Christmas party season in full swing – the frequency of after-work tipples is likely going to skyrocket.

There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit drunk at your work Christmas party, or enjoying the odd mulled wine at the festive markets, but it’s important to make sure that your alcohol consumption during this period isn’t spiralling.

There’s a lot of pressure to be socialising all the time at this time of year, and that can mean constantly having a drink in your hand – but the physical and mental health implications of consistently drinking too much can be really harmful.

The good news is that it is possible to cut back without missing out on the fun – it’s all about drinking mindfully.

We asked Dr Dawn Richards, GP for VitalityHealth, for tips on how to become a mindful drinker this season – so you can enjoy the festive fun without jeopardising your health.

‘As we head into the celebratory festive period, risks of binge drinking are higher than usual,’ says Dr Dawn Richards.

‘Whilst you can still have a good time and enjoy a drink or two, it’s important to put your health first and consider the amount of alcohol that you’re consuming.’

Stick to your units

Really try to stick to this NHS recommended 14 units per-week as much as you can.

Regularly drinking more than 14 units a week could result in long-term illness such as high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease and liver cancer, and evidence shows that it can also have a significant impact on your mental health.

It’s easy to measure out the units of your favourite festive tipple and stick to it. See the guide from the NHS to find out how many units are in different drinks.

Have a lower-strength drink or make it a smaller one

Cut down on alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength Alcohol By Volume % (ABV). This is used to measure the alcohol content in the drink.

You can usually find this information on the bottle.

You can still enjoy a drink, but why not go for a smaller size at your Christmas party? Try bottled beer instead of pints or opt for a small (125ml) glass of wine rather than the large 250ml.

Order a festive mocktail at your Christmas party

If you’re heading out to bars or clubs for your Christmas party, they will likely offer a mocktail menu alongside alcoholic drinks. If they don’t, try ordering a ‘virgin’ version of your favourite cocktail from the bartender without alcohol.

You don’t have to order one every time, but try swapping out an alcohol drink for a mocktail for some rounds. If you want to try making mocktails at home, take a look at some festive themed recipes online.

Practice mindful drinking in December

Mindful drinking involves focusing on what and how much you’re drinking, to help you stay in control of your intake. This method can really help you to reap the rewards of cutting down on alcohol.

To start drinking more mindfully, begin by thinking about your reasons for doing it – do you want fewer hangovers, or to feel more in control at social occasions?

Then decide on the right approach for you, that could be anything from going sober for a set period of time, resetting your drinking habits or stopping drinking at home or during certain days of the week.

Decide what’s right for you based on what you want to achieve and go from there.

Enjoy a few booze-free days in the lead up to your Christmas party

I’d recommend two-three consecutive alcohol-free days around Christmas time, as this helps your system recover and can reset your tolerance, too.

A simple ruling can make it easier to stick to – for example, ‘Tuesdays to Thursdays I don’t drink.’

Another option is to try the free Drink Aware app, which allows you to track how much alcohol you have on a daily basis and rewards you for achieving targets like building up ‘no drinking’ days.

Why not introduce some alcohol-free Christmas traditions among your friends and family, like going for a festive walk rather than a trip to the pub.

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