Alternatives to Drinking

Everyone wants to find ways to reduce stress and relax in our fast-paced society, and for many, this means sitting down with an alcoholic drink at the end of the day. Yet recently, there's been a growing health movement to seek alternatives to drinking as a means of relaxation. While imbibing occascionally may not affect your health, people with certain liver conditions or a history of alcoholism may be especially motivated to find alternatives to drinking.

Too many of us may feel social or cultural pressure to drink--to pass the time, unwind, or socialize with friends at clubs or parties. For some, cutting back on the drinks may seem like a recipe for social isolation. However, with a little imagination you can find ways to relax and be social without drinking. What's more, some of these activities may actually result in a healthier, happier you! We've come up with a few suggestions below to get you started:

Join a local exercise group: Group exercise can be a great way to get out and meet people in a social setting that doesn't involve alcohol. Internet resources such as are making it easier than ever to organize and join group activities even outside of the big city, and the offerings are becoming more and more diverse, with activities from yoga and jogging to hiking and parasailing. The great thing about joining a fitness group is that it presents a way to meet likeminded people while tending to your own health and wellness. Plus, regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and encourage normal sleep patterns.

Host a tea party: Too often, hosting a friendly get-together means stocking up on alcoholic beverages. However, "across the pond" in England the tea party has remained equally popular, and it's beginning to catch on in the United States. Tea parties make great alternatives to drinking parties because they stimulate you to explore a healthier form of social drinking. Black tea contains much less caffeine than coffee, making it perfect for a midafternoon pick-me-up that won't leave you feeling jittery. Herbal teas such as peppermint and chamomile can be taken in the evening and won't interfere with your quality of sleep. Try a South Pacific spin on the tea party by serving kava "tea"--which is prepared cold, not hot--along with spicy and savory snacks just like in an authentic nakamal!

Set up a home spa: After a long day at work or running errands, it can be tempting to unwind quickly with a cold drink once you get home; yet drinking too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep and may leave you feeling groggy. One soothing alternative is to take a long hot bath in the evening. Hot water relaxes muscles to ease tension and stress, and you can easily add calming essential oils such as rose, lavender, or clary sage for additional relaxation. Gents, if all this sounds too frou frou, keep in mind that a hot shower can have the same rejuvenating effects.

Listen to music: Many settings supposedly dedicated to music appreciation, such as concerts and clubs, are unfortunately also epicenters of drinking culture. What's ironic about this is that certain melodic, harmonious types of music can have relaxing properties of their own! Listening to music is one of the easiest alternatives to drinking: simply put on some soft music whenever you feel stressed or tense. Classical or ambient styles are among the best for relaxing effects. You can also play music in the background while doing chores like cooking, cleaning the house, or paying bills to keep yourself focused and on task.

Develop hands-on hobbies: Drinking alcohol can become a habit, a way to pass the time. Try replacing it with other free-time activities that engage your hands, mind and senses, such as playing a musical instrument, sculpting, painting, journaling, or gardening. These alternatives to drinking are especially effective for people who drink out of boredom or as an accompaniment to more passive activities like watching TV. Hobbies also give you goals to strive toward, such as raising plants or completing a work of art, which offer more long-term engagement than opening that second bottle of beer. Finally, much like the social exercise suggestion above, finding a hobby you enjoy can also be a way to meet people through classes and workshops.

There are also ways to enjoy occasions traditionally associated with drinking, such as parties or visits to bars, without actually drinking. If you can, choose a setting where there's something else to do: play darts or pool at a pub, go bowling, or get out on the club dance floor. This minimizes the time you spend sitting and drinking. Most bars and pubs also serve more substantial food these days, so try ordering some food with that beer: a full stomach can dilute the effects of alcohol if you do choose to drink. And if you simply feel strange not drinking in a social setting, choose a non-alcoholic drink such as water, juice, or soda to give yourself something to sip and keep your hands occupied.

Despite the prevalence of alcohol in our society, we believe the public is gravitating toward healthier lifestyles that involve cutting back and seeking other ways to unwind. Alternatives to drinking exist, and we hope this article has helped you see that they can be just as enjoyable and ultimately more rewarding.