Last Updated on March 27, 2021
If you’ve quit drinking recently, or decided to cut back on alcohol, one challenge you might be facing is how to fill the gap. So many people use alcohol to cope with stress, as a social lubricant, or simply to pass the time. But if you’d rather not drink very much, or at all, you might be wondering “what should I do instead?” What are some alternatives to drinking alcohol?
Whether you’re in recovery from alcohol abuse, or simply want to rethink your drinking patterns, here are a few ways to replace alcohol within your daily life. Below, we’ll cover some alternative activities, stress-management techniques, and even alternative beverages to sip at your next gathering. Wherever you’re at in your relationship with alcohol, we hope these strategies will be a helpful starting point!
Alternative Activities to Drinking
One problem many people face when they quit drinking is plain-old boredom. Perhaps your social life generally revolves around drinking, and you need a break from that environment. Or maybe the things you used to do while drinking just don’t seem as interesting sober.
Fortunately, there are tons of fun things to do without alcohol, including activities that can actually improve your health, while reducing stress.
Start an Exercise Routine
If you’re looking to swap out your nightly trip to the bar with a healthier habit, try exercise instead. Hitting the gym or a fun workout class (think aerial yoga or kickboxing) with a friend or coworker can help you beat stress without the hangover. Even a quick 20- or 30-minute exercise session has calming effects—and research shows1 these benefits can last for several hours after your workout is complete.
Take Music Lessons
For something less physical, you could also try picking up an instrument. Group music lessons can be a much more exciting way to make new friends than grabbing drinks after work. Music also has powerful health benefits3, including improved immune system function and stress relief. It can even reduce anxiety in patients headed into surgery.
Get a Massage
Looking for a fun date night activity away from the bar? Try scheduling a therapeutic couples’ massage. Just one 30-minute massage5 session can reduce stress hormones, lower heart rate, and curb high blood pressure.
Not only can massage reduce stress, it can also bring you closer to your partner. You can even DIY a couples’ massage at home with powerful results. After completing a three-week massage course6 as part of a small study at Northumbria University, couples reported long-term benefits like decreased stress, better coping, and higher relationship satisfaction.
Alternative Stress Management
While many people drink socially, it’s also very common to drink alone. This especially true in the time of COVID-19, when so many are staying home for social distancing. But if you’ve decided to quit or cut back, and you’re feeling bored or stressed in the house, what are your alternatives to consuming alcohol? Amidst the pressure of the times we’re living in, you may be wondering, “how can I relax without drinking?”
One of the easiest things you can do to feel calmer right now is to sit down for a moment, clear your mind, and begin counting your breaths. Meditation7 has been found to reduce anxiety, and a long-term practice may even lead to permanent stress reduction. In one study, mindfulness-based therapy proved as effective as antidepressants8 in relieving symptoms of depression.
Best of all, you can get benefits from meditation after just a few minutes of practice. A 2019 study found that just five 10-minute meditation9 sessions in the workplace promoted more generous, altruistic behavior toward others.
If you’re skeptical of meditation, or it isn’t a good match for you, try a gratitude journal instead. Whether you’re thankful for big things, like a roof over your head, or the little things, like a good hair day, writing them down has clear benefits for stress relief.
What if your daily wind-down ritual involves opening a beer, or mixing yourself a cocktail? Or what if you frequently attend gatherings where alcohol is served, and feel awkward without a drink in your hand?
The good news is that it’s now much easier to find interesting drinks to replace alcohol. The sober curious movement has meant a surge in popularity for creative mocktails and delicious substitute liquors and beers that taste great, without the effects of alcohol. If it’s hard to give up your evening ritual, or avoid social situations where you often drink with friends, why not simply go with an alcohol substitute?
If cocktails are your thing, try building your own “sober bar.” You can build the classics around one of these non-alcoholic liquor substitutes14, or even try mixing your own mocktails from scratch. Test out one of these fun mocktail recipes15, or simply experiment on your own. Try combining club soda with juices or flavored syrups for a base. Then, add garnishes like fresh herbs, maraschino cherries, or a salt-and-sugar rim to really make it your own.
High-Quality Non-Alcoholic Beers
If you prefer beer, you’re in luck as well. Non-alcoholic beers are getting better and better with each passing year, with many microbreweries stepping in to create tasty alternatives to the better known brand names. Try one of these alternative brews16. Be aware, however, that non-alcoholic beers can still have up to 0.5 percent alcohol content. If you’re really looking for zero, be sure to check the label to see if it’s alcohol free.
If you often drink with friends, try ordering one of the above options at the bar, or even a simple club soda. Sometimes, just having a drink to hold will do the trick. There are also more options than ever for sober gathering places. Bars that serve mocktails, even exclusively non-alcoholic drinks, are popping up in many major cities. Why not invite friends out to one of these places, and enjoy a night out without the pressure of having to consume alcohol?
Even for those who simply want to cut back, having tasty alcohol alternatives on hand can be a great way to keep party drinking under control.
Summary of Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol
Choosing to limit or cease your alcohol consumption can feel intimidating—especially if you’re concerned about the effects on your social life. However, it’s very much possible to lead a full life without drinking alcohol.
Activities like exercise, music, and massage can provide opportunities to hang out with friends—or plan a date—without going to a bar or club. If you rely on alcohol to wind down at home, effective stress relief alternatives can include meditation and gratitude journaling. Finally, there are many delicious alternatives to alcoholic drinks for the sober or sober curious.
If you’ve tried all of the above and are still struggling to cut back on your drinking, it’s also easier to find support than ever. Ria Health’s program can help you establish new behavior patterns around alcohol, and learn new techniques to control your drinking. We also offer anti-craving medication, digital tools, virtual support groups, and expert medical and coaching support—all through an app on your smartphone.
If you’re ready to make a change, without turning your life upside down, schedule a call with a member of our team today.