In the United States today, many people drink alcohol to relax. Whether it be a glass of wine at home at the end of the day or a trip to a bar with friends, drinking can feel like a necessary part of our daily routines.
One of the challenges people in recovery face is learning how to relax without drinking. Even if you have always had a healthy relationship with alcohol, it is important not to become dependent on it as a coping mechanism or feel like you need it to calm down. Learning to relax without alcohol is key to maintaining healthy drinking habits.
Finding ways to relax without alcohol is also important for anyone wanting to cut down or stop drinking. Whether you have struggled with alcohol use disorder or not, drinking less can have numerous health benefits. Research has shown that for people who consume more than two drinks a day, reducing your alcohol consumption can lower your blood pressure. Quitting drinking may also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of developing illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Related: Alcohol and sleep
Here are some alcohol-free ways to relax:
Taking a walk, jogging, or participating in other kinds of exercise has proven benefits for your mental health. Research has found that cardiovascular exercise can improve mood and reduce anxiety, helping you feel relaxed. Spending time outside and in nature can add to its relaxing effects.
So, if you are feeling stressed, instead of reaching for a glass of wine, try walking around your neighborhood. Whether you walk alone, with friends, or with a pet, walking is a free and accessible way to relax.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing only on the present. It involves letting go of past and future worries and being at peace with yourself.
People have practiced mindful meditation for thousands of years to relieve stress, and modern scientists have proven its effectiveness in treating a range of clinical mental disorders and other non-clinical problems.
You can cultivate mindfulness through a variety of exercises and meditation techniques. Deep breathing is a powerful mindfulness tool. It helps you focus on the present while reducing your heart rate and making you feel more relaxed.
You can also try body scanning, where you pay attention to how each part of your body feels. If other thoughts come your way, recognize them and then calmly guide your mind back to your body. This practice helps you to be fully present in the moment and let go of anxiety and stress.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a deep relaxation technique that can help relieve anxiety and stress. It involves tensing a group of muscles for five to ten seconds and then suddenly releasing the tension. You repeat the exercise with different muscle groups in your body.
PMR has proven relaxation effects for the body and mind. A systematic review published in BMC Psychiatry found that relaxation training, including PMR, effectively reduced anxiety symptoms. It is a great way to calm yourself down in the comfort of your own home whenever you feel the need.
Guided imagery is an effective stress release technique that involves picturing positive, peaceful settings to make you feel calm. When we visualize calm situations, our body and mind tend to relax, and we feel more at ease.
Guided imagery can have many benefits for your mental health. Research has shown it may help relieve insomnia, decrease the perception of pain, and reduce symptoms of depression. It is a simple relaxation tool with very powerful effects.
If alcohol is ingrained in your life and you’re struggling to think of ways to relax, be gentle to yourself! The most important and effective way to create lasting change is try, try, and try again.
Our brains take time to adjust to new things. Don’t beat yourself up or be discouraged if certain techniques or approaches don’t work right off the bat. Over time, you’ll find what works for you and what doesn’t, and best of all, you’ll be able to move forward with a clear head!