Alternatives To Drinking Alcohol

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alex Lee, DSW, LCSW on February 17, 2021

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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

alternatives to drinking alcohol women exercising together
Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash

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 shows these benefits can last for several hours after your workout is complete.

Respondents to the American Psychological Association’s 2013 Stress in America survey said they experienced improved mood, higher self-esteem, and overall stress relief from exercising.

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 benefits, including improved immune system function and stress relief. It can even reduce anxiety in patients headed into surgery.

Research shows that taking music lessons might even improve mental health, promote cognitive function, and foster connections with others.

Get a Massage

Looking for a fun date night activity away from the bar? Try scheduling a therapeutic couples’ massage. Just one 30-minute massage 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 course as part of a small study at Northumbria University, couples reported long-term benefits like decreased stress, better coping, and higher relationship satisfaction.

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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. Meditation 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 antidepressants 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 meditation sessions in the workplace promoted more generous, altruistic behavior toward others.

Gratitude Journaling

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.

Gratitude itself is correlated with lower levels of stress and depression, as well as improvements in sleep and reductions in materialism. It even seems to improve cardiac health.

Alternative Drinks

alternatives to drinking alcohol mocktails on a shelf
Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash

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?

Creative Mocktails

If cocktails are your thing, try building your own “sober bar.” You can build the classics around one of these non-alcoholic liquor substitutes, or even try mixing your own mocktails from scratch. Test out one of these fun mocktail recipes, 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 brews. 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.

Sober Socializing

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.

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Written By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Alex Lee, DSW, LCSW on February 17, 2021

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