11-minute trick tames the alcohol urge

If you love your cocktails but also value good health, then you’re probably looking for a way to scale back your alcohol consumption.

Alcohol, after all, has been shown to cause at least seven types of cancer, interfere with quality sleep and contribute to rapid aging.

Not to mention the brain shrinkage associated with even just a couple of servings a day. The truth is, the more you drink, the less brain you have.

But cutting back on cocktails isn’t always easy…

If you’re a social drinker, for example, you may struggle to stick to one cocktail when friends keep ordering more. Or, if you and your spouse like to drink wine with dinner, you may be tempted to finish off the whole bottle, because you know it won’t be as good the next day. Whatever your reason for over-imbibing at times, you’re not alone…

According to 2015 statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, close to 30 percent of US adults reported binge drinking (having 4 to 5 drinks on one occasion) within the past month. Now, if you binge drink (or even just drink a bit too heavily sometimes) that doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. But it does mean you should think about scaling back for health reasons.

Of course, habits are hard to break. Sometimes sheer will doesn’t cut it. So, I’m going to share with you an 11-minute solution that could lead to less drinking and better health…

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Managing alcohol consumption with mindfulness

A study from the University College London found that mindfulness training could help you cut back on cocktails.

In the study, a group of 68 heavy drinkers (who weren’t considered alcoholics) were divided into two groups. One group learned relaxation strategies, while the other group learned mindfulness techniques.

People in the relaxation group didn’t cut back on cocktails at all during the week following their relaxation training. But people in the mindfulness group did cut back. They drank 9.3 fewer units of alcohol (about three pints of beer) less in the week following their mindfulness training than they had the week before.

Now, if you’re unclear on the difference between relaxation training and mindfulness training, let me explain…

In the study, relaxation training included a guided audio relaxation recording that prompted participants to soften their muscles, calm and unwind their minds and release tension in their bodies. The mindfulness training, which was also delivered through audio recording, taught them to be more aware of their feelings and bodily sensations. More specifically, it told them to pay attention to their cravings rather than suppressing them. When they noticed bodily sensations such as cravings, they were taught to think of them as temporary events that they didn’t need to act on.

Of course, the mindfulness training was the only one that succeeded in getting participants to scale back on alcohol… and it only took 11 minutes. The reason it works, according to researchers, is because it taught them to overcome their knee-jerk reactions.

“Practicing mindfulness can make a person more aware of their tendency to respond reflexively to urges,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Sunjeev Kamboj.  “By being more aware of their cravings, we think the study participants were able to bring intention back into the equation, instead of automatically reaching for the drink when they feel a craving.”

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Becoming more mindful

So, how can you use mindfulness to drink less and ultimately improve your health?

Well, you can start by:

  • Consciously observing your cravings without getting consumed in them. Approach cravings with a sense of detachment and curiosity. When you notice a craving, acknowledge it, then pay close attention to how it makes you feel.
  • Recognizing that you can feel a craving without acting on it.
  • Reminding yourself that the craving you’re feeling is a temporary sensation that will eventually pass.

You can also try this guided mindfulness meditation video for overcoming cravings. As an added bonus, you can use these mindfulness techniques for unhealthy food cravings, smoking and other unwanted behaviors too. So, a bit of mindfulness goes a long way on the path toward better health.

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  1. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” — National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  2. 11 minutes of mindfulness training helps drinkers cut back.” — MedicalXpress. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  3. K. Kamboj, et al. “Ultra-brief mindfulness training reduces alcohol consumption in at-risk drinkers: A randomised double-blind active-controlled experiment.” — International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.