Mindfulness – Not Relaxing – Will Stop Heavy Boozing, Science Says

Who’d have thought finding healthier ways to relax would steer people away from getting on the lash?

Mindfulness - Not Relaxing - Will Stop Heavy Boozing, Science Says

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

Heavy drinking isn’t always precluded by feelings of angst and stress, but anyone who’s had a 9 to 5, a particularly hard week, a stressful day or even a panicky half hour can know the feeling of needing a stiff drink. The idea is that drinking allays our fears and worries, and helps us - especially us stiff upper lip British sorts - to relax.

But researchers at University College London have found a way of stopping heavy drinkers from caning it quite so much; and in fact, it’s not about relaxing, it’s about working harder.

Mindfulness, as opposed to meditation, is about being present in the moment, and aware of what your feelings and cravings and urges are. That’s why researchers played an 11-minute tape (lol, not a podcast?) with tips on mindfulness to heavy drinkers. The result was they, on average, drank 9.3 fewer units per week. That’s a whole bottle of wine!

Lead author Sunjeev Kamboj wrote in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology (say that five times after five drinks!) ‘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.’

The study was done on 68 people who drink 24 to 28 units, who were considered to have a high level or increasing level of risk when it comes to drinking.

While half were trained mindfulness techniques, reports The Times, the others were trained in relaxation techniques. Though you might think that relaxation techniques would provide people with a tranquil soothing calm substitute for drinking, that wasn’t the case. Mindfulness was, however, good at reducing the drinking. The conclusion from this study was that potential problem drinkers could intercepted and stopped from getting into dangerous drinking habits.

The solution is? Think about drinking, think about it…hard.

If you’re experiencing drinking that is harming you or your relationships with those around you, visit NHS Choices.

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How I Realised My 'Social Drinking' Was Actually Alcoholism

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Image: Max Mumby/Indigo

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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