Christmas is the season of peace and goodwill, novelty festive jumpers and, of course, thumping hangovers.
While many of us will be looking forward to the festivities, the steady stream of work parties and family get-togethers mean it’s common to spend much of December nursing a splitting headache.
However, it’s reckoned that more people than ever are trying to drink less alcohol. In fact, 4.2 million people in the UK now describe themselves as alcohol-free.
So you don’t have to accept hangovers as just another festive tradition, says Laura Willoughby. You can moderate, cut back or even stop.
The secret, she says, is mindful drinking – and it can work for everyone.
“Our drinking habits are so automatic that often we don’t even think about them – like opening the fridge after work and pouring a glass of wine,” says Laura, 45, founder of mindful drinking society Club Soda (joinclubsoda.com).
“Mindful drinking is about taking stock of when and why we drink, so we only drink when we make a conscious choice to do so.”
Here are Laura’s tips for a merry alcohol-free Christmas:
Make a list
Write down all the events you usually go to in December that involve drinking. Think about the drinks you enjoy, and who you enjoy drinking with. Then ask yourself if there are any events you don’t enjoy drinking at, but do so anyway because you feel obliged.
Try to reserve your drinking for the events and groups of people you truly enjoy.
Create new traditions
Build new Christmas traditions that aren’t linked to alcohol. It could be driving to a Christmas market and browsing the stalls, taking advantage of family-friendly events in your area, or having a movie night with friends.
Whatever it is, make sure it’s comforting and you’re spending time with the people you care about.
Ask for alternatives
Whether it’s your work Christmas party or a family event, speak to whoever is hosting it about serving interesting alcohol-free drinks. If you’re asked to RSVP with dietary requirements, say you’re alcohol-free. Don’t be afraid to be a bit demanding. Or, if you’re going under the radar, take your own drinks to the event.
Have an escape plan
If you’re worried that you will be pressured to drink a lot, have an escape plan. Arrange a supermarket delivery for 9pm so you have to be home for a certain time, or organise a taxi in advance. It can be cancelled later if you’re enjoying yourself.
Remember – you don’t have to stay at an event you’re not enjoying. Nobody will notice if you go home.
It’s OK to say no
If you’re trying to moderate your drinking and think it’ll be too hard to resist temptation at a particular event, then it’s perfectly OK to say you can’t go. Find something you’d rather do yourself, whether it’s sitting back with a box set, or cooking a lovely dinner.
Whatever you do, remember, it’s important to treat yourself well.
The key to drinking less is to be clear with people early on.
After all, the more unsure you sound, the more people will think there is wiggle room to persuade you otherwise. Tell people at the start of the night that you’re not going to drink much.
Be clear about the behaviour you want from other people too. Say: “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t pressure me to drink”. Then, move the conversation on and ask how things are going at work, or what the other person has planned for Christmas.
Delay your drinking
Make your first two drinks alcohol-free, rather than trying to moderate after you’ve had a couple of wines. That way, by the time everyone else is on their second drink, you can decide whether it’s an event you want to stay and drink at.
Trying to moderate when you already have alcohol in your system is more difficult. You can make better decisions when you’re sober.
Find a buddy
There are more alcohol-free people around than you realise.
So buddy up with people in your workplace who also aren’t drinking, and together tackle your HR department about alcohol-free options at your Christmas party.
- How To Be A Mindful Drinker by Laura Willoughby, Dr Jussi Tolvi, Dru Jaeger and Anja Madhvani (DK, £8.99) is available to pre-order now