Once you get into the habit of having a drink or two to unwind after work, it’s difficult to imagine doing anything else. After a long day, how else are you going to escape your worries? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to unwind after work without alcohol. If you give them a chance, you may find a newer, healthier “addiction.” Here are 8 ways to relax that do not involve alcohol:
1. Create a ritual around drinking tea — Alcohol addiction is complicated and has many causes. If you find yourself longing for a drink, it’s possible that the ritual of drinking nightly is a big part of what you’re missing. You may think of alcohol as a “treat” after a long day, so doing without it would leave you feeling deprived. If you think this may be responsible for some or all of your desire to drink, consider swapping the alcohol for tea. Try to avoid caffeinated teas if you’re looking to go to bed at a reasonable hour, but there are many herbal options and blends that can replace the ritual of drinking alcohol. Pay special attention to the details as you prepare and drink your tea. Associate the hiss of the teapot with the relaxing treat you are about to enjoy. As you sip on your tea, inhale and analyze the aromas as you may do with a fine wine. Involve as many senses as you can and you will gain a deeper appreciation for this new ritual.
2. Meditate — All drugs that lead to addiction appear to affect the dopamine system in some way. Alcohol causes an increase of dopamine in the reward pathway. This is consistent with all things that give us pleasure. Try replacing alcohol with something else that increases dopamine, such as meditation. Various types of meditation have been shown to increase concentrations of dopamine in the cortex. This isn’t necessarily a quick fix, but it is a lasting and healthy alternative to drinking alcohol for the dopamine surge.
3. Tap into your creative side
It doesn’t matter if you have creative talent. Honestly, it doesn’t. You can draw, paint, make jewelry or play an instrument. You can even color in a coloring book. Just try to create something. Activities like drawing can reduce the body’s cortisol levels, which is a chemical the body produces in response to stress.
4. Play a game
Interactions with family and friends can help shift your focus from drinking alcohol to having fun in other ways. If your family and friends aren’t available, try going solo with a one-player video game. Bonus points for choosing one that also incorporates movement and/or exercise.
5. Go to the movies
Most people have a “witching hour” of sorts when they are most likely to consume alcohol. But if you make plans to be somewhere where they don’t serve alcohol, it takes drinking out of the equation. Do this often enough and you’ll likely break your habit.
6. Take up yoga
If you delve deep into the practice, yoga can become a hobby that borders on healthy obsession. But you don’t ever have to get to that point in order to reap the benefits of this mind-body exercise. The most popular type of yoga in Western countries is Hatha yoga, which incorporates postures, breathing and internal cleansing. Yoga has been proven to encourage relaxation, but its benefits far exceed the calm that you’ll inevitably feel. If you take a yoga class, you’ll spend time with others who share your renewed interest in keeping your body in a healthy state. This should keep your mind from wandering towards alcohol.
Volunteering is another way to keep busy during times when you would otherwise be drinking alcohol. Volunteering has the added bonus of helping others, which may help you think more about other people’s problems than your own.
8. Go running
Imagine how fit you would be if you put on your running shoes and went for a jog every time you thought about taking a drink. Running or jogging is a cheap and easy way to prime the body for relaxation, and it’s almost impossible to drink alcohol while doing it. Running uses all the muscles in your body, so you’ll get a great work out and get those endorphins pumping naturally.
One of the biggest dangers of drinking alcohol is that it can quickly go from being a habit to a drinking problem, and it’s difficult to pinpoint when this is happening. So if you’re noticing that you rely on alcohol to unwind, it may be time to replace that habit with something healthier.
Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources and addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.