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Sober October:
A chance to practice mindful drinking any way you like


Sober October: <br> A chance to practice mindful drinking any way you like

I was recently chatting with our friends at Cutback Coach about their values, mission, and take on challenges like Sober October and Dry January. It wasn’t a big surprise to find that we both share the same perspective that mindful drinking is all about getting more out of life and enjoying drinking more. The conversation sparked the idea for this post, a chance for us to share a bit of our own philosophies and encourage a balanced, mindful approach to cutting back on drinking. (Check out Cutback Coach for a tool to help you drink more mindfully).

 

At both Ritual and Cutback Coach, we all enjoy drinking alcohol to some degree. This is an important distinction about who we are. We enjoy alcohol, but we also enjoy balance, clear mornings, and exploring non-alcoholic alternatives for the evening wind-down.

In general, we don’t believe in an all-or-nothing approach regarding alcohol health. In fact, it can create a dichotomy in the conversation that makes it virtually impossible to talk about cutting back on drinking without any judgement. For us, Sober October and other months like Dry January provide opportunities to celebrate the mindful drinking movement. While many people will choose to take some time off of drinking in October, we’re here to encourage alternative approaches that will help people stick with their goals and the healthy habits they learn.

The potential downsides of Sober October

“Sober October” is inherently presented as an all-or-nothing approach simply by the name. The framing could potentially turn people off. But we think the biggest risk to 30-day sober challenges is that they can set you up for failure in two key ways: First, you simply may not be ready to take 30 days off, so you decide to call it quits a week in and you suddenly feel like a failure. Recovering from that feeling of “failing” can be difficult and emotionally draining. In reality, you likely did accomplish something important by taking a week off of drinking, but it can be hard to celebrate if you didn’t complete the entire month as planned.

The second problem is that you may actually over-correct when you start drinking again after the 30-day challenge. This is fairly common with any sort of crash diet. When we completely stop ourselves from having something (whether it be alcohol or food), we naturally crave that thing more and more.

“When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food. Basically your brain becomes overly responsive to food, but you don't just notice it — it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting. It has an increased reward value. So the thing you're trying to resist becomes harder to resist. So already, if you think about it, it's not fair.” ~ Traci Mann, Psychology Professor at the University of Minnesota (2)

The potential downsides of Sober October aren’t around the health benefits per se, but more about how a short 30-day challenge isn’t really enough time to examine alcohol in the context of your overall health. This is where mindful drinking comes in and plays a key piece in our approach.

What is Mindful Drinking?

Mindful drinking is more than an idea. It’s a movement. A community growing larger by the day. It’s not about quitting alcohol but instead being aware of how much alcohol you’re drinking and its impact on you in the moment. It’s about recognizing the reasons for and the ramifications of drinking. It’s about improving your relationship with alcohol so you maximize enjoyment and minimize negative side effects like hangovers, regrets, and anxiety.

Benefits of mindful drinking

The benefits of a more mindful approach to drinking are virtually endless. Here are some of the most significant changes you’ll see when you start swapping full proof cocktails with Ritual.

  • Improved sleep. Alcohol in high amounts can disrupt sleep patterns, causing you to wake up tired and unrested. Cutting back on alcohol consumption has been shown to improve sleep quality substantially.
  • Anxiety reduction. Decreasing alcohol consumption by 30% in 30 days can lead to better sleep and reduced anxiety. Excessive alcohol consumption causes hormonal imbalances which can increase anxiety in stressful situations. 
  • Weight management. Overconsumption of alcohol is a common barrier to maintaining a healthy weight. At an average of 125 calories per drink, even a small reduction can make a big difference.
  • Lower blood pressure. Alcohol use in heavy amounts — greater than 3 to 4 drinks a day — is associated with higher blood pressure. Cutting back by 2 to 3 drinks per day can help lower both systolic and diastolic pressure.
  • Better liver function. Many physicians have seen an uptick in patients with alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol use can lead to a build-up of fat in the liver. This accumulation of fat can be a precursor to liver damage. A modest reduction in alcohol use can help prevent these potentially dangerous changes. 
  • Healthier skin. There are some aesthetic benefits of mindful drinking too. Heavy drinking is not a recipe for glowing skin. Heavy alcohol use can lead to more wrinkling and early aging of the skin. It is also pro-inflammatory, and can cause disruption of the usual function of blood vessels in the skin. This can result in skin that looks duller, drier and puffier, and may even cause facial redness and blotchiness.
  • More brainpower. The liver isn’t the only important organ that will benefit from more mindful drinking. One of the most common benefits that patients talk about when cutting back on their drinking is the greater focus, clarity and mental energy they enjoy. The result is often higher cognitive performance and greater motivation.

Tools for more mindful drinking

A non-alcoholic spirit is the perfect tool for a month-long, or better, life-long commitment to more mindful drinking. With a zero proof cocktail, you can enjoy the experience of a great cocktail without the unwanted effects. Because sometimes it’s more about marking a moment than it is about the alcohol itself.

Our friends at Cutback Coach have created an awesome tool to help you moderate your drinking. They build a 100% custom plan based on your current drinking habits and goals, then work with you daily via text message to help you track your progress and stay on target.

Check out Cutback Coach and sign up to start your journey toward more mindful drinking.

Different ways to approach Sober October

Sober October is almost here — a time before the holiday season to take a break from alcohol and give your body a chance to reset. When you swap Ritual in place of your full proof cocktail, you’ll quickly experience the benefits of your choice. Between a boosted metabolism, lower caloric intake and your liver’s improved ability to convert fat to energy, you should notice a slimming effect within the first few days. Couple that with better sleep, elevated immune functioning, and improved cognition, and you’ll feel the benefits in every area of your life.

But the change doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Even replacing just one or two drinks per week with a non-alcoholic version will reap immediate rewards. Here are a few different ways that the Ritual team is approaching Sober October, based on individual needs and goals.

  • 30 Days Dry. You’re in it to win it. You’re here to do the thing. 30 days without alcohol. But thankfully, with non-alcoholic versions of your favorite cocktails, you don’t have to feel like you’re living less.
  • The Cheat Day. 30 days without a drink can feel like a tall order, especially a couple weeks in. But with this approach, you stick with Ritual for six days, with one cheat day each week, that’ll keep you healthy and motivated to make it through the month.
  • The Half and Half. With this approach, you drink the same number of cocktails that you would typically drink in a week, substituting every other with a Ritual. You cut your alcohol intake in half without losing your rhythm.
  • The Single Swap. This approach offers the easiest adjustment, and is great for those who would otherwise stick to their normal routine. Simply swap in a single Ritual cocktail each time you drink. Having three? Make one a Ritual. It is, after all, the perfect third drink. During Sober October and always.
  • However you choose to take part in Sober October, there’s a Ritual that’s right for you. Shop all of our spirit alternatives here.