The Mindfulness of Drunkenness

By Posted in Skills and Tips

This article is by mindfulness expert Andy Hix from Zen@work.

Alcohol to relax and seduce

I once told my Swiss friend that in this country, we only get together ‘romantically’ when we’re totally sozzled. Otherwise, we don’t have the confidence. He found this hard to believe, so I asked a friend sitting on the other side of me if he was inebriated when he first got together with his now wife. He said, “I couldn’t even see!”

Alcohol plays such a central role in our society. It’s an integral part of relaxing, partying, holidaying, dating, dancing, dining, commiserating, celebrating,  seducing, schmoozing, and coping with work Christmas parties. We even use drinking as a remedy for having drunk too much the night before.

A mindful approach to alcohol is not to judge it as good or bad, but merely to notice the effect that it has on us and decide if it’s desirable.

I love alcoholic drinks. A cold lager on a hot day, a hoppy bitter in a rustic pub, a fruity glass of red with my dinner. However, I’m increasingly finding that I don’t like what the active ingredient does to me.

My ability to focus plummets, I’m less sharp in conversation and less able to listen. The next day, even if I only had a couple of drinks, I have less energy and I often feel like my body has been mildly poisoned, which of course, it has.

Smug about sobriety

In contrast, when I’m sober on a night out I enjoy being able to really pay attention to people when they’re speaking, be quick enough to occasionally say something witty and feel clear-headed and fresh the next day. In fact, I often feel quite smug about my sobriety!

One major reason we drink it as a way of dealing with things in life that make us feel awkward or uncomfortable. The mindfulness approach is to turn into the experience, to allow ourselves to feel the full extent of it and in that way let go or get over it.

If you’re feeling stressed about work, anxious about approaching someone you fancy or self-conscious about dancing in front of people, let it be. Notice what it feels like. Notice what thoughts you’re having. Notice what sensations you feel in your body. Be curious about what’s happening and allow it to happen.

Mindfulness approach

The mindfulness approach says that just by shining the light of non-judgemental awareness on these experiences, we can transform them and in time, deal with them with greater ease. It’s important to note that being non-judgemental means not telling yourself “I shouldn’t be feeling like this”. Tell yourself that it’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling.

Try meditating every day for ten minutes per day and see if that affects your desire to drink. I recommend setting your alarm ten minutes early and making it the first thing you do in the day. It gets you off to calm start and ensure that you don’t keep postponing it until you’ve ‘got time’. I recommend the app Headspace, which guides you through a daily programme.


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