It is no surprise that the pandemic dramatically shifted how people lived their lives. Women, especially mothers, were forced to take on huge loads during the pandemic including balancing motherhood, work from home, and distance learning for kids. As pandemic-related stress increased, so did alcohol consumption. In fact, a recent study shows that while American adults in general have drastically increased their consumption of alcohol during the pandemic, women specifically have increased their frequency of heavy drinking by 41%.
With people feeling screen fatigue and eager to engage in genuine connection, they are turning to socializing without alcohol as a way to remain present while also placing their health as a top priority.
What Sparked the Sober Curious Movement?
The “sober curious” or “zero proof” movement involves bringing mindfulness to one’s drinking habits and intentionally opting out of alcohol consumption at times, without abstaining from drinking altogether. The intention is to encourage exploration of your relationship with drinking in addition to experiencing the myriad of health benefits—both physical and mental—that come as a result of reducing alcohol consumption. This new movement has given people the permission to question their relationship with alcohol.
According to an article by the New York Times, the non-alcoholic beverage market is going to be worth an estimated $1.6 trillion by 2026. You might be wondering what is driving this trend. The answer is really multifactorial. The movement is rooted in mindfulness about what one puts in their body and a desire for authentic connection, especially in the post-COVID era. With health being top of mind for many, consumers are drawing the connection between alcohol consumption and how it makes them feel.
What Are the Benefits of a Sober Curious Lifestyle?
The sober curious movement isn’t necessarily about abstaining from alcohol all together, but more so about intentionally choosing moments of sobriety. Instead, this time can be used to gain a deeper understanding about one’s relationship with alcohol plus experience the myriad of health benefits that come from shifting away from alcohol.
The physical benefits are plenty. Abstaining from alcohol can help increase energy, improve sleep quality, boost your immune system, and even aid in weight loss. Reducing alcohol consumption has its mental benefits too. It’s no wonder the day after drinking can leave you feeling down; alcohol is a depressant and can affect the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain that worsen anxiety. Whatever your reason for choosing to explore sobriety, know that the reward of health benefits are plenty.
Tips for Trying a Sober Curious Lifestyle
If you find yourself questioning how alcohol impacts your life—like why you drink, how it makes you feel, and what it might be like to cut back on drinking or stop entirely—you may benefit from exploring a sober curious lifestyle.
One important thing to highlight is you don’t have to be a “heavy drinker” to reap the benefits of a sober curious lifestyle. Research shows that stopping alcohol consumption for even one month can result in immediate health benefits. It’s all about mindfulness, intention, and moderation.
Signs you may benefit from a sober curious lifestyle:
- You find it hard to say no to a drink (i.e. feeling the need to have a drink in a social setting even when you don’t necessarily feel like it)
- You use alcohol as a way to cope with or manage stress
- You tend to drink more than you’d like to
How to Get Started
- Create a plan
- Opting out of drinking will likely involve making changes in how you spend your time. For example, if after-work drinks are a regular occurrence, you will need to plan in advance how you choose to navigate the situation in order to stay committed to your decision. The good news? Many bars and restaurants now offer alcohol-free cocktails.
- Find support
- In a culture that revolves around alcohol for so many occasions, having individuals who support your decision will be key to your success. Consider sharing your plan as a way to stay accountable.
- Identify an alternative
- Alcohol-free beverage companies are popping up all over the place, making it easier than ever to find a delicious alternative. Personally, when I’m choosing not to drink, I like to order a soda water with bitters instead. I get the same satisfaction from the flavor of the bitters, plus it actually aids in digestion!
- Keep track of how you feel
- Use a journal or the notes section in your phone to take note of how you feel. Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy? Better digestion? Less brain fog?
And as always, give yourself grace. Allow exploring a sober lifestyle to be a judgment-free practice that embraces growth and learning.