Alcohol often goes hand in hand with socializing. There’s a tailgate for the big game. public holidays. Champagne toast at a wedding. Mimosas for brunch with friends.
But there could be many reasons why you’re not drinking – at least not this time. Or maybe someday.
You may be pregnant or may need to avoid alcohol for other health reasons. or you are the designated driver. Or you just don’t like how alcohol makes you feel.
So if you want to join in on the fun but skip the drinks, ask yourself this question: What do I want to get out of the party?
Chances are, it’s not really about the wine.
“It’s probably the social connection, the community, that the appreciation can bring,” says Eric Beeson, PhD, clinical associate professor at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Illinois. “Does alcohol aggravate it? Probably not.”
So lean into it. Here are the thoughts.
Have you heard of sober bars? They offer a full non-alcoholic drinks menu. This makes it much easier to celebrate in a bar setting without alcohol. And they’re popping up all over America, says Beeson.
Or you get something non-alcoholic on your way to a party or event. You may be surprised by all the options.
“For people who want to be ‘gentle curious,’ or who want to cut down on drinking, mocktails are an easy option,” says Melissa Siders, PhD, professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI). “The key is that it has to be something you enjoy drinking.”
You can go for Soda or Virgin Daquari. But why not spice things up with something unique?
Beeson loves to challenge bartenders to create the most creative non-alcoholic drinks they can imagine.
“When they say things like, What’s your flavor profile? Then I know this is a place I can dig in and celebrate with my friends.”
Use quality material. It’s not usually the ready-made sweet stuff, notes Seider.
everyone is different. This makes it hard to decide what is the “best” thing to do. But try something that requires using your hands, like riding a bike or playing tennis.
Board games are another good option. “Something where you’re not just talking, you’re engaged in an activity,” says Siders.
Or choose something you can’t (and shouldn’t) do while you’re drinking.
For example, Beeson says he went whitewater rafting for a bachelor party. “When you’re cruising a river that could kill you, it’s best to stay calm.”
Are you a party planner? be creative!
You can arrange a massage or “maybe something more competitive, like paintball or a round of golf,” says Joseph Volpicelli, MD, PhD, addiction specialist and founder of the Volpicelli Center.
Or your group can:
- Jump on an indoor trampoline park.
- Go to a climbing gym.
- Try indoor skydiving.
- Walk that ends with stargazing.
People often get longer-lasting satisfaction from doing things rather than buying them, says happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirski, PhD, distinguished professor and vice chair of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.
Most celebrations — with or without alcohol — are already experienced, says Kongomirsky. “Maybe you’re going to dinner or a party, traveling, or going to the spa with friends.”
Here are some of her other tips for celebrating to boost your well-being:
- spend time with others. Choose an activity that will help strengthen your relationships. “Anything you can do to connect with other people,” says Kongomirski.
- Accept a challenge. Do something that allows you to grow as a person. Or just try something new and exciting. “Go learn to skydive,” she says.
- pay it forward. When it comes to a party it might not be something you usually think of. But when we give back to society or do an “act of kindness” we feel good about ourselves. So when you socialize, meet someone who isn’t involved. Or even buy them a non-alcoholic drink.
Do you drink to feel more relaxed? Spending time in nature can relieve stress. So maybe you should take your party outside. You can do this:
- Meet your friends in a park.
- Take a group hike for a beautiful view.
- Make mocktails for a backyard gathering.
Bonus points if you choose something that gets you and your friends moving. Research supports what you already know from experience: Being active in the great outdoors can boost your mind and body.
You don’t want sugar to be your only reward. But it’s okay to treat yourself on a special occasion.
Find a new dessert spot near you. Or visit an old favorite.
You can also:
- Cheers to a new job with milkshakes.
- Celebrate your birthday with Sunday Bar.
- Combine fruits with a chocolate fountain at your wedding.
- Have s’mores after dinner if there’s a fire pit nearby.
It can be difficult to celebrate without alcohol when everyone around you is drinking. So queue up.
“If you go to an environment and you plan not to drink that night, tell a friend who can bring you a non-alcoholic drink or help you choose an activity that is incompatible with drinking, Siders says.
They can help you be confident in your alcohol-free choice — and have a good time.
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