London’s first ever Mindful Drinking Festival takes place on Sunday 13th August, an opportunity for tasting the growing range of alcohol-free beers, wines, cocktails and craft sodas. But what does mindful drinking actually mean, and why are more and more LGBT people cutting down on alcohol, or stopping altogether? Our friends at Club Soda tell us more in this guest blog.
What is mindful drinking?
A lot of LGBT socialising happens in pubs and bars. That can be a problem if, for whatever reason, you want to cut down on your drinking, or not drink at all. How to say “no” when you are surrounded by alcohol and people drinking and having a great time?
Of course there are some non-boozy places to meet too, like the monthly “Queers Without Beers” socials organised by London Friend and Club Soda, but most of still want to go out sometimes. So what to do?
We believe that you can change the way you think and feel about alcohol, and that you can decide for yourself how often and how much you drink. All it takes is a bit of planning and preparation.
We often talk about “mindful drinking” at Club Soda. It is an attitude. For lots of people, mindful means moderation. That could be choosing a lower percentage drink or cutting the numbers. Some do sober sprints, taking a month off every now and then. And some others go completely alcohol-free.
People have different motivations too. It could be about slimming or fitness, saving some cash, keeping your mind sharp. Whatever your plans and goals, always remember this: drinking alcohol is never compulsory. Being mindful about your drinking is all about deciding what is right for you today. You are in control.
The seven habits of highly mindful drinkers
Winging and mindfulness don’t go so well together. So plan, plan, plan. Try to find bars with a better range of low and no alcohol drinks, so that you can choose to drink or not to drink. Tweet them, call in advance to find out what they have, so you know your options in advance.
- Don’t panic
Stay strong at the bar. Don’t let a flash of indecision make you fall back on your ‘usual’. Take your time. Stay mindful. Chat to the bar staff about what you want to drink, and what they have on offer. They might love the challenge of whipping you up a virgin cocktail!
There are plenty of people who never drink and who are cutting down (one in five people in the UK, actually). So you can take a few moments to decide what to order.
- Fake it
Sometimes you just don’t want another boring conversation about why you are not having a ‘proper’ drink. So fly below the radar. Here are a few sneaky tips…
- Arrange a ‘usual’ with the bar staff. They love helping you fake a Gin and Tonic (T&T) or putting a fizzy elderflower in a dressed up champagne glass.
- The never-ending shandy. Start with the lowest alcohol beer you can find, and just keep topping it up with lemonade or soda at each round.
- Pimp your water. Not sure if the pub you’re going to has something you like? Smuggle in a bottle of your favourite cordial and pimp your fizzy water all night
- Assess your mood
Drinking when you’re happy can be great. But drinking when you’re lonely, tired and emotional? You know how that ends. Rather than add a hangover to your problems, face them head on. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Think ‘HALT’! Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Probably best to look after yourself rather than hide in drink. Listen to what your body needs.
- Stick to your guns
Make your decision, put it into words and practice saying it out loud, “I have decided not to drink tonight.” Have a witty explanation at the ready if you need one.
If friends won’t give up trying to persuade you, shift the spotlight onto them. How was their day? What’s the best cat meme they’ve seen? Just move the discussion away from your drinking choices. Remember, you don’t need anyone’s permission to make a decision that is right for you. No one has the right to persuade you otherwise.
- Safety in numbers
Everyone else is drinking, right? Well, not really. When you start to look around, you realise how many people aren’t drinking. Your pregnant friend, your friend on a health kick, your Muslim friend, and even just your friend who had too much last night and is nursing a wicked hangover. Seek them out, and go out together. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a crowd of people drinking alcohol, a crowd of your own can really help.
- Be an active customer
If we want the last LGBT venues to stay open, we need to stay friends. You want them to stock a great tipple; they want to know what drinks will keep you coming back. So ask them to stock your favourite non-alcoholic beers or craft sodas. Before they know it, those non-alcoholic drinks will be flying off the shelves.
If you are looking for some non-alcoholic drink inspiration, why not come to the Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival? Taste all the best non-alcoholic beers and wines, soft drinks and healthy new concoctions, enjoy some street food and live music. The festival is on Sunday 13 August at Bermondsey Square, London SE1, from midday to 6pm - and there will be a Queers Without Beers meetup there too! You can RSVP on MeetUp or Facebook or just turn up and find us.