Mindful Drinking: Why I’m Doing It This Holiday Season

Raise a glass to feeling good.

By Camille Styles
Cocktails at Hillside Farmacy in Austin

Last Saturday morning, I woke up feeling foggy and a little irritated with myself.

We’d had friends over the day before for an early afternoon hang out… that turned into dinner… and then late night talks around the fire. And yes, some of my day-after fatigue was due to the fact that I went to bed at 2am and Henry woke me up 4 hours later, ready for the day. But my lack of sleep was definitely compounded by the fact that wine was consumed in varying amounts for (cringeing as I write this) nine hours or so. I was never actually that tipsy, but I have to admit that I have no freaking clue how many drinks I consumed over that period of time. I was cooking, putting the kids to bed, and then deep in conversation, and as a result, my sips of wine became an afterthought of which I had almost no awareness.

A part of me wants to say, “It’s fine! You had fun! Live a little!” And while that’s partially true, I also hated the way I felt the next day.

I focus on wellness in all the other areas of life from food to working out to getting enough sleep, so it seems only natural that I’d bring that same feel-good approach to drinking, too. And while binge drinking in the US is reportedly at an all-time high, I’ve also noticed a subtle shift among many of my friends who are choosing not to drink on some nights out, or they’re swearing off wine because it gives them headaches, or adopting a California sober approach (fascinated by this term, haha.) Have you guys felt the shift, too?

Scroll on for why I want to take a more mindful approach to drinking alcohol — this holiday season and right into 2020.

holiday cocktail party outfit

I want to take back my weekends.

I work hard to feel good. Filling my plate with nourishing foods, exercising most mornings, getting enough sleep — these are the practices that keep me feeling vibrant and high energy so I can show up for the people in my life and do my best work through the week. But if I’m being honest, when I have more than two drinks on a Friday night, my vibrance is zapped for most of the day on Saturday. Maybe some people can get away with it and bounce back the next day, but I’m not one of those people. I’m a grumpy mama to my kids, fulfilling my obligations but laughing less, complaining more, and generally not being the person I want to be.

But those Friday nights when I’ve set an intention for just one or two drinks before the wine is even opened… and then switched to bubbly water with lime when the clock strikes 9 o’clock?

I wake up the next morning feeling wholly like myself, with plenty of energy to soak up the weekend and a smile on my face remembering the great conversations and hilarious moments from the night before. Those Saturdays are filled with farmers market trips, conversation-filled workouts with friends, and memory-making with the kids. And bonus points that those energetic vibes are a boost to my libido, too.

Entertaining with Sakara -- Spicy Rosarita Cocktail

Mindful drinking supports healthy skin and slows down aging.

You know that feeling when you wake up after drinking wine the night before, and your skin just feels tight, dry, and lifeless? Ugh, the worst. Alcohol is a dehydrator to your entire system on par with airplane travel or forgetting to drink water over an entire workday. In other words, it zaps you. And dehydration happens to be one of the most aging things you can do to your skin, not to mention the oxidative stress (ie breakouts and puffiness) caused by alcohol that no amount of retinols or fancy serums can counterbalance. I was texting with a friend who had been at our house last Friday (and felt similarly awful the next day), and we agreed that late-night drinks just make us feel older. Turns out, it wasn’t in our imagination:

“Not only is alcohol a diuretic forcing the water out of our bodies, but it also makes it more difficult to rehydrate afterwards so you will be left with dry, flaky skin and your fine lines and wrinkles will be more visible thanks to the lack of fluid in your skin,” says skin expert Michaella BolderLe sigh.

Dr. Sara Gottfried, author of Brain Body Diet (my go-to for anything hormone-related), says that alcohol, “causes weight gain, robs you of your sleep, wrecks your ability to cope with stress, and accelerates your aging.” If we’re focused on looking and feeling our best, it only makes sense that we take a holistic approach that considers our alcohol consumption as one factor in our overall health.

But before we all swear to never drink again, I’m also a believer that enjoying ourselves, relishing the moment, and connecting with other people are major factors to our health, too. And since (at least in my current life stage) drinking can be a really fun part of all that, I’m not ready to swear it off. But having one or two (as opposed to three or four) is just as conducive to having a great time, especially if I savor every sip and let the taste, aroma, and the way it pairs with my food actually register. For a fraction of the sugar and bad feels the next day.

the prettiest holiday cocktail party!

It helps me be more present with the people I’m with.

Many people think that alcohol is the ultimate social lubricant, but the idea that our social exchanges are better because of drinks is a myth. Sure, a few drinks makes you less inhibited… but that doesn’t always equate with being our best selves. When I’m more mindful about how much I’m drinking, then cap it at a point where I still have total clarity, I’ve noticed that over the course of the evening, the conversations I have with others are more thoughtful and insightful. I’m able to ask better questions and be more intentional with what I’m sharing. And when you get down to it, great conversations and connections with others are really what I’m hoping to get out of any night out.

As Jen Batchelor, founder of nonalcoholic spirit brand Kin, said here:

“We want to feel more, not less — to wake up fresh and ready to take on the day, in full consciousness, clarity, peace of mind.”

I can definitely get on board with more of THAT feeling in 2020. Who’s with me?