With the holiday season in full swing, alcohol consumption will increase more than any other time of year. In fact, wine and liquor sales in the U.S. increase by 69 percent and 79 percent respectively during the two-week period of Christmas and New Year’s. For many people, alcohol plays a huge role in the festive celebratory experience, and it’s been ingrained in our culture that drinking and holidays go hand in hand.
The holiday cheer will certainly be flowing this month, but often some of the most enjoyable aspects of the season can become tainted with the after-effects of drinking alcohol. We all know the post-alcohol headaches, anxiety, depression, nausea, and general feelings of lethargy that can really put a damper on our holiday spirit and keep us from feeling our best.
Imagine a holiday season where you wake up refreshed, hydrated, and ready to take on the day’s festivities and responsibilities with a clear mind and strong body. Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? Going booze-free over the holidays is absolutely possible, and it doesn’t have to kill your fun! In fact, you may find you have even more fun than you normally would after a few cocktails.
If you’ve decided to go alcohol-free this holiday season for any reason, fortunately there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself and still be social while avoiding the hangover. Whether you’re cleansing, on a new eating plan that excludes alcohol, experimenting with sobriety, or avoiding alcohol for any other reason during the holidays, here are a few tips to stick to your alcohol-free goals — and have fun along the way.
Have a buddy. Find a friend or partner who will commit to staying booze-free with you at the holiday party. It’s more fun when you have someone to share the experience with and stay accountable to, and you will have each other to laugh with (or leave with!) if you start to feel uncomfortable. If you don’t have a sober buddy to join you, have someone you trust in mind that you can call if you need to step out of the party for a minute. Let them know beforehand that it may be challenging for you to stay away from the booze, and that you might call them if you have a tough moment — even if it’s just to leave a voicemail and check in.
Make a plan. If you’re committed to staying booze-free at a party or event and this is brand new to you, you may feel nervous about other people asking you why you’re not drinking. While most people probably don’t care as much as you might think, decide how you’re going to explain it in advance so you feel confident about your choice to go alcohol-free. A line I liked to use when I first quit drinking was, “I’ve been experimenting with not drinking and I feel so great and have so much energy, I just want to keep it up!” Nobody can really question it when you say how much better you feel.
Plan a morning workout for the next day. If you’re going to a party or event where there will be booze flowing and you want to avoid it, sign up for a morning yoga class or workout for the next day. Having an early commitment will help you stick to your goal, as you’ll want to get a good night’s sleep and wake up the next day feeling your best. Once you get into that workout class, you’ll be so glad you stuck to it!
Hydrate. While your friends, family, and coworkers are drinking (which is very dehydrating — one of the major causes of a hangover), you can focus on hydrating more. You’ll feel amazing the next morning when you can wake up refreshed and make a healthy, nourishing breakfast for yourself and get a head start on your day. Your body will thank you!
Offer to be the designated driver. This is one of my go-to tactics for avoiding alcohol at parties — and it lets me feel great about taking care of others at the same time. Offering to drive friends and loved ones home is a wonderful and generous reason to stay sober, and you’ll have the peace of mind that everyone you love will have a safe way to get home.
Enjoy creating your own healthy mocktails. The easiest way to stay alcohol-free but still feel like you’re having a drink is to order sparkling water with lemon and lime, which will likely be at every bar, party, and event. But if you have the flexibility to bring your own drinks to a party, get creative! I love bringing ginger- or cranberry-flavored kombucha and mixing it with sparkling water, ice, and lime. Don’t forget to drink it out of a fancy glass!
Have a green tea. While I don’t normally recommend drinking caffeine at night, sometimes green tea is just the boost you may need to have a little pep in your step during the party. Many bars and restaurants will have green tea on hand, but you can also bring your own (a tea bag if you like hot tea, or a bottled, unsweetened iced tea to pour into a glass). It can be fun to feel like you’re having “something,” and green tea has soothing, mood-elevating properties.
Focus on presence and appreciation. If you’re worried about having social anxiety without alcohol to lean on, focus on staying as present as possible in conversations. Listen mindfully to what people are saying, ask them follow-up questions, stay curious, and become immersed in the conversation. Notice what you appreciate about each person you speak to, and what you appreciate about the gathering in general. Feel how good it feels to get to know people better with a clear head. Aim to be a cheerful presence in the room, and to make each person’s day a little brighter just by talking to you.
Help out the host. If a friend or family member is hosting the party at their home, offering to help them can be a great way to feel useful, busy, and involved while avoiding alcohol. Offer to help with the food, cleanup, coats, or greeting guests. Being helpful and making someone else’s life a little easier makes staying sober much more enjoyable.
Look at it as a fun experiment. Instead of looking at not drinking as something boring or that you “have to do,” treat it as a fun experiment. Pretend you’re a reporter who has to report back on what the sober holiday experiment was like. What does it feel like to go to your first party alcohol-free? What do you notice? How is socializing different? How are your food choices different? What parts feel less fun than usual? What parts are actually more fun? What are you surprised by? What are the most wonderful aspects of trying this? No matter what, you’ll get to know yourself better after the experience, which is a holiday gift in itself.
If you do choose to drink alcohol this holiday season and you’d like to be more mindful about making healthier alcohol choices, check out these tips on choosing alcohol wisely.