Are you indulging in a bit – or a lot – of alcohol during the Chinese New Year festivities? Perhaps it’s time to consider the idea of being “sober curious”!
This concept, which has come up in conversations following Dry January (a month of abstinence), encourages a more intuitive and thoughtful approach to drinking. Unlike avoiding alcohol altogether, it encourages us to take a closer look at our drinking habits, without requiring us to stop drinking entirely.
We could, for example, decide to drink sensibly during a special occasion or have a taste of a special wine. The idea is to make these moments rarer and more precious.
The term was popularised by Ruby Warrington 2018 book “Sober Curious”. Sobriety coach and author Gayle Macdonald told Cosmopolitan UK that this type of approach is more flexible, offering a less abrupt transition to abstinence.
“It’s not about immediately giving up alcohol completely or forever, which can be quite scary or steeped in shame and guilt,” she noted. “It’s more about looking at your relationship with alcohol and the role it plays in your life.”
Deciding to drink less alcohol, or none at all, has been trending for years, and this idea has particularly won followers among younger generations. According to a Gallup poll published last August, 62% of American adults aged 18-35 say they drink alcohol, compared with 72% 20 years ago.
While there are many reasons for this, the health benefits of abstinence figure prominently. According to the World Health Organization, “harmful use of alcohol” is responsible for three million deaths each year, or 5.3% of all deaths.
Several studies show a correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and even mental health problems. And contrary to popular opinion, a 2023 study published in Jama Network Open concluded that alcohol consumption, even in low or moderate quantities, was not associated with a reduced risk of mortality or the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Quitting drinking, on the other hand, can have multiple benefits, such as improved sleep, concentration, memory and the immune system – all of which helps to restore energy levels.
If you want to give the sober curious approach a try, Macdonald has some advice: “A first step is to ask important questions like: ‘Do I really need this glass of wine, or would I be better off not drinking tonight?’ Asking deeper questions about what you really need at that moment, or why you’re reaching for a drink, will help to uncover the reason behind your drinking.”
She also suggests finding a non-alcoholic drink to use as an alternative as it makes things a lot easier. “And if you’re not enjoying yourself,” she concluded, “go home!”