Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mindful Drinking

Mindful Drinking

For example you can be mindful when you drink. Take a sip and really taste the drink. Shut out the other senses for a few moments and concentrate on the flavor, the taste, the texture of the liquid as it passes your lips, dwells in your mouth, and sinks down your throat. When did you last do that?

Wine at Christmas
When we drink mindfully, and bring awareness to the sensations that the drink brings us here and now, we drink more slowly and feel more satisfaction: so we drink less and enjoy it more.

But if we have a drink while our mind is on other things, like having a conversation, watching the TV, or thinking about tomorrow, we only have a fleeting awareness of the sensations brought by the drink, and we end up drinking more, in order to reach our desired level of satisfaction.

Mindfulness operates not just at the tactical level of the individual decision, but also strategically: by making us more aware of choices and decisions that we make in our everyday lives, which are often shaped by habitual thinking. This aspect of mindfulness is what Dr Jean L. Kristeller, a psychologist who specializes in applying mindfulness approaches to eating disorders, calls "wisdom functioning".

For example, consider the habitual, socialized nature of drinking during the festive season. Most of the time it is not our mind making a rational decision based on thirst that controls our drinking habits, it is automatic responses to social and environmental triggers ("fancy another one?", "how about a top up?", "try this one, you'll love it!", "why not?").

Applying the principles of Mindfulness to decision-making would cause you to pause and reconsider for a moment, the nature of the choices available to you here and now, and give you the opportunity to weigh them up, for instance, to ask yourself "do I really want this?" and to consider whether the consequences are worth it.

With respect to alcohol consumption, for instance, you may wish to consider this "top tip" for good mental wellbeing over Christmas, that Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation in the UK, gave recently:

"The celebratory spirit of Christmas and New Year often involves social drinking and although the consumption of alcohol might make you feel more relaxed, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and drinking excessive amounts can cause low mood, irritability or potentially aggressive behaviour."

"By not exceeding the recommended number of safe units, you will be better able to sustain good mental and physical wellbeing," he added.

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