How A GP Recommends Trying Out Mindful Drinking This Christmas

by Alice Broster

With office Christmas parties, dinners out, and catch-ups with old friends all making the festive season what it is, it’s hardly surprising that Christmas is full of booze. However, if you're interested in slowing down and taking a more considered approached to drinking at the moment, here are five ways to drink mindfully this Christmas, according to an expert. When your entire social life around the month of December revolves around alcohol, it can seem totally impossible at times, but watching what you drink may be the best gift you give yourself this Christmas.

The health implications behind drinking too much are pretty varied, but we all know the negative ones pretty well — tiredness, nausea, headaches, anxiety. In other words, hand overs from hell. And, sadly, just because it’s Christmas time, it doesn’t mean hangovers are off duty too. GP for Vitality Health Insurance Dr Dawn Richards explains, “As we head into the celebratory festive period, risks of binge drinking are higher than usual. 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.”

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink with friends at this time of the year, but here’s what you can do to stay on top of how much you're having.

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Stick to your units

"Really try to stick to this NHS recommended 14 units per-week as much as you can," Richards says. "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 mental health." If you’re unsure how many units are in your favourite tipple, you can always check out the NHS website.


Consider a different size or type of drink

If you’re not one to turn down a drink, consider having one with a lower alcohol-by-volume percentage or simply a small measure — a single rather than a double, for example.

“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,” Richards says.

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Order a mocktail

Cocktails are delicious, there’s no denying it. However, when you’ve got a number of events of the trot, the thought of drinking can become less and less appealing. “Try ordering a ‘virgin’ version of your favourite cocktail from the bartender without alcohol,” Richards advises. You don’t need to do this every round but it’s a good way to break up the night while still indulging in something special.


4. Stop & think

Being mindful about drinking isn’t about cutting alcohol out altogether. Instead of going out and losing control, think about why you’re drinking and prioritise when you might want to drink. This is an incredibly personal decision and Richards advises that you “decide what’s right for you based on what you want to achieve and go from there.”



Go alcohol free before a big night

There are some events, especially around the festive period, where you want to let your hair down and have a good time. But if you really want to enjoy the special nights you have planned, you need to plan some non-drinking nights ahead of time.

“I’d recommend 2-3 consecutive alcohol-free days around Christmas time as this helps your system recover and can reset your tolerance, too,” Richards says.

By deciding when you’re going to drink and sticking to it means you’re likely to enjoy it more when you do. “A simple ruling can make it easier to stick to. For example, ‘Tuesdays to Thursdays I don’t drink,’” says Richards, “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.”



When it comes to setting rules on booze, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The most important thing to do is take some time and really think about what your personal limits are and what you want to get out of this time of year.