Why is drinking too much bad for me?
In the short-term, drinking too much alcohol can make you feel unwell. This might include feeling or being sick, having a headache or even increased anxiety. We also know that in the longer term, you may be at a higher risk of having more serious chronic illnesses. Regularly drinking too much alcohol is linked to:
- an increased risk of heart disease
- an increased risk of certain cancers
- a higher chance of being overweight
- issues with sleeping
- a worsening of mental health issues such as depression
With alcohol, less is more. So always aim to stay within 14 units of alcohol per week. Mindful drinking may help you to stay within these limits.
What is mindful drinking?
You might have heard of the term mindfulness before. Being mindful is when you put your attention into the present moment. The idea is that by doing this, you’ll worry less about the future or the past, which can be good for your mental wellbeing. Many stress reduction techniques use mindfulness as part of their approach. There is good evidence that mindfulness can reduce the effects of stress on your body.
Mindful drinking means paying more attention to what and how much you drink. The idea is that this can reduce mindless drinking – where you perhaps drink more than you intend to.
Mindful drinking is about noticing the sensations, tastes, and textures of your alcoholic drink. This can make you enjoy the experience, as well as making you less likely to drink more. Drinking mindfully can also make you aware of how alcohol makes you feel. You might notice you feel a little dizzy or sleepy – and this may make you to stop drinking sooner.
Top five tips for drinking mindfully
1) Savour your drink
If you’re making a drink at home, you could try measuring it into a colourful glass to make it feel more special. Using your senses when drinking can also help you to become aware of the present moment. So, when you drink, try to sip slowly, and notice how the drink smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth.
2) Decide how much you’ll drink
When out with friends and family it can be easy to drink more than you planned to. If people around you are drinking a lot, this can be particularly hard. But, deciding ahead of time how much you are happy to drink can help you to stick to your intentions. Being clear on your limits, and not being afraid to enforce them, can make you feel better the next day too.
3) Enjoy non-alcoholic alternatives
Part of the reason we like to drink can be because it feels like a treat or special occasion. But nowadays there are many low or non-alcoholic options for you to try. You can make your own mocktails, try alcohol-free beers or even choose something like kombucha – a sparkling drink made from fermented green tea.
4) Remove your triggers
Making behaviour changes can be hard if you’re surrounded by your drinking triggers. For example, if you keep alcoholic drinks near the TV, you might associate watching television with drinking. By moving them into a cupboard you’re removing the trigger. This can lead you to be more intentional about how and when you drink – instead of drinking out of habit.
5) Pause between drinks
Giving yourself a little break between drinks may help you to control how much you drink. It can also give you a chance to be mindful about how alcohol is making you feel. If you’re already feeling some effects from drinking, you may decide to switch to non-alcoholic versions instead.
If you’re worried about how much you’re drinking, then see a doctor to get the support you need.