Why we should embrace drinking mindfully post-lockdown
There are many things people have pursued during lockdown. This enforced period of retreating from our usual routines has meant a large proportion of the country have tried something new, or that they hadn’t had time for previously. That might be learning new skills, subjects, languages, propagating plants, taking up new hobbies or exercises. For some however, it’s been a chance to dive into the drinks cabinet and whip up a “locktail” or two. For me, one of these is learning how to embrace drinking mindfully.
It’s easy to overindulge when it seems the world is going to hell in a handcart, you’ve watched all of Normal People, and the surety of life has instead been replaced instead by a certain inertia. A report by the BMJ entitled “Covid 19 and alcohol – A Dangerous Cocktail” found that in the first three weeks of March, just as lockdown was looming for the country, people added more than just the odd bottle of Prosecco to go with their loo rolls because during this period, alcohol sales rose by a whopping 67%. This rise was down to many reasons: There was talk of pubs and restaurants shutting, social interaction being limited, both of which were anathema to a large proportion of the country.
Now the British are a relatively sociable lot, a national foible that rides tandem with our near-dipsomaniacal tendencies. This penchant for drinking was only going to be exacerbated as pubs closed and gatherings of anyone apart from your own household were banned. The reaction by some Brits was to shudder and immediately reach for the gin. However, there is also a much more serious side to this statement: many people suddenly found themselves unemployed overnight and plunged into a future that looked very bleak. Others may have been truly mortified to consider spending almost every waking hour with a partner or family member, particularly if they had a record of being abusive. Then there were people who may have become dependent on alcohol for a whole host of reasons: a pre-existing complicated relationship with alcohol; redundancy; a bereavement for a loved one or friend; boredom, anxiety about the future to name a few.
Full disclosure here: I love a drink. Yes, perhaps a bit too much sometimes. And maybe that does say a lot about me – I forget about the propelling feeling of two-pint buzz until I’m actually there, the fact I think I’m funnier than I am, the lack of inhibitions, the camaraderie that goes with drinking with others (and the cosy, peaceful pleasure of a can of fine craft beer on your own, when all your day duties are done). I completely understand all the bad reasons – yes it’s a distraction from everyday life. Yes, it’s unhealthy and leads to increased weight gain and higher chances of developing heart disease, strokes and cancer. And yes, I’m completely aware how it can ruin people’s lives and really, if not used responsibly, it’s a downright danger. So what are the ways to minimise it, and start drinking mindfully? Jana Abelovska, Medical Advisor at Click Pharmacy advises “I would suggest limiting your weekly intake to one drink per evening providing you had a day off once or twice a week, or one every other evening and then enjoying a few more come the weekend. If you are worried that you may be consuming too much alcohol, try to give yourself some hobbies which you can do to try and fill the time. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to help remain physically and mentally healthy, try to get outside at least once a day, read a book, focus on work, you could even try to substitute alcohol for non-alcoholic beverages such as non-alcoholic beer or wine. It may also be a good idea to limit the amount of alcohol you have in the house, so you aren’t tempted, this should be effective as it won’t be as easy to get to the shops.”
This much is true, but still human nature finds a way, and what with all the pubs turning to online delivery and adverts for wine and beer subscriptions filling up our feeds and encroaching on our inboxes, is it any wonder it’s hard to swap the odd tipple of seven for drinking mindfully? Of course it’s easy to pretend to ourselves that one or two won’t hurt. Dr Michael Mosely though, creator of The Fast 800 intermittent fasting plan has some practical advice for this:
“Some studies have shown that there are benefits in drinking a glass of red wine, but after a glass or two a day, the benefits drop off pretty dramatically and disadvantages start to emerge, particularly the risk of liver and breast cancer” says Dr Mosley. “The sensible reaction to all of this is to not give up drinking wine full stop but rather to enjoy your wine, to savour it and have one or two glasses a night. Call it mindful drinking. We have a tendency to gulp things down, but if you slow down and really enjoy what’s in your glass, you’ll probably drink less as well.” If Dr Mosley’s tips don’t make you think before uncorking the next bottle, then maybe we should also think about the effect alcohol has on our waistlines and general health. “Alcohol is also high in sugar, which is not only bad for your teeth and your waist, it is bad for your brain as well,” says Dr. Mosley. “This is partly because sugar, like alcohol, can be horribly addictive. Unless you do lots of exercise, all those excess calories will be laid down as fat. We know that people who are overweight or obese are much more prone to depression and anxiety, and that seems to be directly linked to the fat itself. Fat doesn’t just sit there, it sends out inflammatory signals. So when you pile on the pounds, particularly around the waist, you are not only damaging your heart but your brain as well.”
Sobering stuff, right? At the heart of all this though is the very real message that it’s fine to relax with your tipple of choice, but just be sure you’re drinking mindfully, and in moderation. After all, no one’s going to mind if you allow yourself a glass to celebrate the successful propagation of your peonies. And me? Well, after a successful morning run on a Friday, I spend the day looking forward to a fine-tasting craft beer or two that I can enjoy in the evening, safe in the knowledge that I’ll enjoy the taste but, more importantly, not wake up with the accompanying hangover and ensuing “beer fear” that would otherwise plague me all day. So, in the spirit of drinking mindfully, here are a few drinks I’ve been enjoying recently:
This new low alcohol beer is a refreshingly fruity addition to the Beavertown Brewery. Nanobot, a new low alcohol ‘Super Session’ IPA, is a 2.8% pint-sized powerhouse brewed with Sabro and Simcoe hops. That might not mean much to you so let me break it down: basically, they’re hops that are packed with floral aromas and fruity flavours. In Nanobot’s case, it equates to a moreish ale, festooned with a punchy citrus taste and juicy tropical top notes. Nanobot was created to give beer fans even greater choice when it comes to the experience of drinking mindfully, without having to compromise on flavour or quality.
A lightly sweet beer that’s perfect for those early summer evenings, its balance of slight bitterness combined with the burst of Citra and Ekuanot hops, results in a truly floral blast on the palette.
The fact it’s also brewed with the yeast from London Fog ale means it gives it more body, and is a real thirst quencher too.
As with so many other Pale Ale’s out there, Small Beer Co have managed to cram an assortment of flavours and notes into this very wee, but very perfect 350ml bottle. Again, the tropical fruits ride tandem with a balanced hop finish, thanks to the fact the company doesn’t allow the brew to spend too much time with the yeast, which would only reduce the fruity tang.
Kicking off your weekend, or starting your barbecue with this sessionable ale is a stone-cold surety to good times sans next-day regret. A true win for those embracing drinking mindfully!