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Alcohol Alternatives — Healthy Ways to Relax Without Drinking

After a long day at work, one of the most common ways to unwind is to have a glass of wine or a cold beer to help one de-stress and relax.

However, there are plenty of alcohol alternatives to turn to instead of your usual beverage.

Emily Syphas, founder of Sober and Social, a community for those who want to avoid or reduce their alcohol consumption, had plenty of recommendations:

“Find a favorite alcohol-free drink, dance, read a book, meditate, exercise, make a cup of tea, light a candle, go for a walk, call a friend, journal, get an early night, watch Netflix, yoga, or order a takeaway,” she told Newsweek.

Nonetheless, there are those who like the process of having a relaxing evening drink but may be seeking alcohol-free ways of doing so–and there are plenty of options out there.

Newsweek spoke to experts to learn about how to avoid liquor as a means of relaxation and the benefits of alcohol alternatives.

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol can indeed help lift one’s mood, though Syphas warned against relying on it as a way to unwind.

“I don’t think alcohol should be used as a method of relaxation as it can make us feel lower and less relaxed in the long term. Alcohol is a depressant and alters the chemicals in our brain. At first we can feel more relaxed and confident as our body produces extra dopamine when we drink, this makes us feel good and gives us an initial buzz. However, afterwards our body will be depleted of this which can then lower our mood.”

She added that regular consumption as a means of lifting one’s spirits could be detrimental in the long term, as it may hinder your brain’s natural ability to release dopamine, the natural chemical your brain releases to make you feel good.

“Long term, our body gets used to the dopamine we create for it through alcohol so it makes less dopamine to compensate. If drinking becomes a regular thing, we can become dopamine-deficient which contributes to us feeling low,” Syphas told Newsweek.

One of the main advantages of ditching booze is evident: the lack of hangovers. Though Syphas explained there are additional benefits which may contribute to greater health.

“No hangovers, less anxiety, better sleep, properly dealing with my emotions and feelings, being more present in my life, less regrets and feeling more in control of my life,” she added.

Alternatives to Alcohol

It may be challenging knowing which alcohol alternatives to turn to, which led Professor David Nutt, Chair of Drug Science and author of Drink? The New Science of Alcohol And Your Health, to create his very own alcohol-free drink, Sentia.

“Sentia is a new, functional botanical drink that I have developed to give the good effects of alcohol without, or with much less risk, of the bad ones,” he told Newsweek.

Professor Nutt also recommended herbal teas with Valerian or Camomile, while Syphas’ said alcohol-free beers are her preferred booze-free option.

“Personally I find alcohol-free beer the best for this. There are some amazing brands including Lucky Saint, Big Drop Brew, Drop Bear and Fungtn. The ritual of opening an ice cold alcohol-free beer after a busy and stressful day gives me a release in the same way and my body and brain always thank me the next day,” she said.

Professor Nutt recommends herbal teas with Valerian or Camomile.
Getty Images

How to Quit Drinking Alcohol

Nonetheless, neither Professor Nutt nor Syphas necessarily advocate for a full exclusion of alcohol, but instead a rebalancing of society’s wider dependence on alcohol and the building of a healthier relationship with booze.

“People shouldn’t avoid drinking alcohol as a means of relaxing but they should try to stay within limits and not use it to deal with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or PTSD,” Professor Nutt stated.

He also recommended keeping track of visible benefits of each drink people consume, cutting out those that may be detrimental or do not provide any added value.

“Every drink you have should be giving you a clear benefit–sociability, relaxation, etc. So monitor the effects of all your drinking days and next time eliminate any drinks that you cannot honestly say did that,” he said.

Syphas pointed out that a transition to alcohol-free drinking does not need to be made cold turkey, but instead can fit into a wider transition towards healthier lifestyle choices.

“Take regular breaks–I recommend one to three months if possible–find a community or friends that are on the same path as you. Feeling supported and not alone is really important if you are going to rebalance your relationship with alcohol for the long term. Focus on your nutrition and getting enough sleep, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need some extra support.

A view of Perrier’s mocktails during New York Fashion Week. Mocktails are a popular way of enjoying a nice drink without having to consume any alcohol.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images