Making the commitment to abstain from alcohol consumption for a specific period of time is a relatively recent trend that is gaining more and more traction. It seems to be at its most popular after the holidays when people are returning to making healthy resolutions.
Is this something you’d like to try? While your goal is certainly admirable, Éduc’alcool invites you to spend a little bit of time reflecting on your intentions before you start.
The reasons for choosing to abstain from drinking alcohol for a specific period of time are varied and can be different for everyone:
- You may have consumed excessively over the previous weeks or months—this is perhaps why this practice seems to be more popular at the beginning of the year once the holidays have passed.
- You may want to get rid of habits that are considered unhealthy, cause discomfort, or are problematic.
- You may simply be curious about how abstinence could impact your body, your sleep, your weight, and your energy levels.
- You may also have accepted to support a good cause, or to show others and yourself that you can go a period of time without drinking alcohol.
In any case, wanting to reduce or stop your alcohol consumption stems from a certain awareness regarding your current level of consumption. While it might not necessarily be excessive, it may not necessarily correspond to the habits you would like to have.
Before you begin, here are some points that deserve attention.
Going from one extreme to another
If going without alcohol for a few weeks is a real ordeal that requires a lot of discipline, effort, and sacrifice, watch out for what happens when you start drinking again. The pendulum might swing too far in the opposite direction! Occasional abstinence can bring on feelings of deprivation giving rise to the mistaken impression of a shortfall that should be regained when the period of abstinence ends. As a result, whether consciously or unconsciously, you might end up actually increasing your consumption when you start drinking again.
Remember that a month without drinking alcohol does not compensate for past abuses, nor will it make the abuses that follow less harmful. It is much wiser to drink in moderation regularly than to excess on occasion.
Mindful drinking: a healthy alternative
If ending alcohol consumption for a specific period of time seems difficult and you’re already clinging to the prospect of ending your dry period with a drunken celebration, this may not be the best option for you. Rather than undertaking an abstinence exercise, consider respecting your limits and integrating mindfulness and moderation into your life as a daily practice.
What does this mean, exactly? Being mindful consists of living in the present moment, while paying attention to your inner experience and to the external stimuli that can affect this experience. All experiences and states of mind are welcomed without judgment, with self-compassion, and with no intention of reacting to them.
You can reap many benefits simply by developing regular mindfulness, (whether you choose to consume alcohol or not) and commit to at least one or two alcohol-free days a week. Several studies have shown that people who integrate mindfulness practices into their daily lives have a slight tendency to consume less psychoactive substances, including alcohol.
Remember that this is still not a miracle solution. Although it may help some, others may find it insufficient. If total abstinence or mindful drinking seems unattainable to you, then it may be appropriate to seek professional help to address your drinking habits.
Through the mindfulness approach, the desire to consume alcohol is given some context based upon the emotional experience that a person is having and the external factors that can influence that experience. In addition, mindfulness allows the experience to be focused on the taste of the beverage rather than a search for the effect it can cause. You are mindfully granting yourself this small pleasure all within balance.
If a period of abstinence is something that you are still seeking, remember that you can always choose to enjoy a non-alcoholic cocktail (mocktail) instead. Mocktails are also ideal if you are following Éduc’alcool’s recommendation to alternate alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic ones. Alternalcohol offers more than a hundred delicious recipes for thirst-quenching drinks that will enhance the flavour of a moment, whether you are relaxing or celebrating.
Above all, remember that the best kind of challenge is the one that makes you feel good.