Millions of people across America have serious drinking problems. This is because, of the common use of alcohol in everyday social settings. In addition, many people turn to drinking as a form of relaxation or stress relief. Whatever the motive for alcohol use, a pattern of excessive intake can result in the onset of alcoholism or clinical alcohol abuse.
Fortunately, there are a range of healthy alternatives to drinking. These alternatives address some of the main motivations for alcohol consumption and don’t lead to the use of any other mind-altering substance.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) sets daily moderate intake for men at a maximum of four standard drinks. Women stay within range when they consume no more than three standard drinks a day. To avoid increasing their risks for alcohol-related problems, men must also keep their total weekly intake under 15 drinks. Women must keep their weekly intake under eight drinks.
Some heavy drinkers have diagnosable symptoms of alcoholism. However, most do not. Instead, they exceed the limits for moderate intake by taking part in the practice of binge drinking. An alcohol binge is defined by the act of consuming enough beer, wine or liquor to achieve a state of drunkenness (i.e., a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08) in two hours or less.
In America, roughly one out of every six adults meets this standard one or more times a month. Regular binging can raise alcoholism risks by as much as 50 percent. There are a broad range of alternatives to drinking for stress relief. One time-tested option is involvement in an aerobic activity such as:
These activities provide their benefits by doing two things. First, they reduce the body’s production of cortisol, adrenaline and other stress-generating hormones. In addition, aerobic exercise can help increase the body’s output of “feel-good” endorphins. Production of these chemicals is especially associated with participation in endurance sports like long-distance running.
The list of relaxing alternatives to alcohol use also includes a number of more targeted relaxation techniques. Examples of these techniques include:
Meditation – Focused breathing and other meditation techniques can help reduce anxiety levels, as well as ease pain sensitivity and feelings of depression.
Body scanning – Also known as progressive muscle relaxation, this approach combines focused breathing with gradual, intentional release of tension in muscles throughout the body.
Deep breathing – This approach promotes relaxation by replacing stress-promoting shallow breathing with slower, deeper inhalations and exhalations.
Movement exercises – Exercises such as qigong, tai chi and yoga promote calm and focus through a series of slow, controlled body movements.
Guided Imagery – People who use this technique promote relaxation by focusing on pleasant or inspiring situations, places or past experiences