In a world where wellness trends are constantly evolving, one movement is gaining momentum: the “sober curious” or “sober sometimes” lifestyle. The sober spectrum is no longer just in-or-out like it used to be. In the UK, a wave of people are embarking on a journey of mindful drinking, questioning old habits and seeking a more balanced lifestyle.
Activities that don’t involve boozing are becoming more prevalent within friendship groups, social media and workplaces. And conversation around alcohol and going sober has increased considerably in the last 12 months, with search volumes for “low-alcohol” and “mocktails” increasing by over 50%. So what does it mean to be sober curious and what are the benefits and challenges?
Unplugged co-founder, Hector Hughes, decided to ditch alcohol completely shortly after launching Unplugged in 2020. “I was jaded by the going out & socialising and no longer really enjoying it, especially the next day. It hadn’t occurred to me that going sober was an option until I stumbled upon this video which recommends a book called “Stop Drinking Now”. I read the book and that was it.”
What Does It Mean to Be “Sober Curious”?
Being sober curious means questioning your relationship with alcohol without the pressure of completely giving it up. It's about taking a step back and assessing why, when, and how much you drink. It’s about exploring a spectrum of choices, from ditching the hangovers a few weekends a month, doing Dry January or being 99% sober. This trend is driven by a desire to experience life with more clarity and less dependence on alcohol. Ruby Warrington, author of "Sober Curious," defines it as "a non-judgmental, exploratory approach to drinking." It's about being mindful of your choices and understanding the impact of alcohol on your health and wellbeing.
Why Is the Sober Revolution Happening Now?
It's a confluence of factors. The UK is experiencing a wellness revolution, with people prioritising their physical and mental health. Social media is amplifying stories of those choosing alternative paths, and conversations about responsible alcohol consumption are breaking down stigma. The awareness of the negative effects of alcohol consumption, coupled with a cultural shift towards healthier lifestyles, has inspired many to reconsider their drinking habits. The rise of social media has also played a role, offering platforms for sober influencers and communities to share their experiences and support each other.
Science backs it up, too. Studies show that reducing alcohol intake can lead to improved sleep quality, enhanced cognitive function, and a reduction in the risk of chronic health conditions.
“It’s been completely life changing. My life is just easier now. I’m more resilient, more comfortable in myself, and much at developing other positive habits.” Hector Hughes
Benefits of Mindful Drinking
Mindful drinking offers numerous benefits, such as improved mental health, better sleep quality, and enhanced physical health among those who reduced alcohol intake. Mindful drinking can lead to increased self-awareness, healthier coping mechanisms, and improved relationships, as you're more present and authentic in your interactions.
Better sleep quality
Improved energy and motivation
No hangovers (or hang-xiety)
Better physical and mental health
Challenges of Mindful Drinking
Transitioning to a sober curious lifestyle isn't without its challenges. Social pressures and the pervasiveness of alcohol in our culture can make it a little more difficult. “There is certainly some social pressure but people generally care less than we think. It’s really making peace with it yourself after years of drinking being, frankly, part of our identity. I tried three months off earlier in the same year and struggled with this, but it meant by the time I quit fully I was ready and it wasn’t as difficult.” Alcohol is also used by some of us to unwind and reduce stress so it can be a challenge to find alternative habits and mechanisms to unwind.
Expert Tips on How to Cut Back or Go Sober
The key is starting small and knowing why you’re curious to step back from drinking. Is it for health reasons, social reasons or a challenge for a period in your life. Hector also says “I would certainly recommend reading “Stop Drinking Now” by Allen Carr. Especially if it’s on your mind.” These are his other top tips too.
Begin with alcohol-free days and gradually increase them. Dry January is a great place to start.
Do it with someone.
Find a friend or connect with sober communities online or in-person to do it with. Hector says, “accountability is another big one. Find someone to take a break with. When I did 3 months off it was with a good friend which made more enjoyable”
There’s tonnes of incredible mocktails or alcohol free beers and spirits available now, so you can still feel like you’re having a drink - without the hangover.
Embracing a sober curious lifestyle is about making mindful choices that align with your wellness goals. It's a personal journey of discovery, awareness, and, ultimately, a more balanced lifestyle. Remember, it's not about perfection, but progress.
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