How to Have a Holly, Jolly, Booze-Free Holiday

The holidays are upon us and it’s full steam ahead for a long season packed with lavish galas, office parties and get-togethers with close friends and family. No matter how much you look forward to the merriment, life isn’t always like a Norman Rockwell painting and even the happiest, most well-adjusted people may discover challenges around every corner. Instead of feeling jolly, many people are isolated, anxious and depressed.

Attitude is Everything

It’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly important when life becomes a whirlwind of holiday travel and extravagant parties, but it’s important to manage your expectations.

If you’re absolutely convinced you won’t have a good time without getting drunk, you’re right. If you’re sure that tension at work will stress you out, or that family responsibilities will drive you crazy, you’re likely to be exhausted by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around.

On the other hand, if you can set your worries, complaints and grievances aside, you’re bound to have a happier, more relaxed holiday season, even in spite of potential minefields that may lie ahead.

As silly as it may sound, make an effort to find joy in the simple things like twinkle lights or the smell of fresh pine. Remember that the season will end before you know it and life will pick up exactly where you left off. You may just carry those positive feelings into the New Year.

Practice the Art of being Finicky

Don’t feel obliged to attend every event that comes your way, no matter how spectacular. It’s okay to decline an invitation once in awhile, even (or especially) if you’re famous for being the life of the party. Plan wisely and be choosy.

If you know from past experience that an event is trouble waiting to happen, pay attention to your gut feeling and stay away. Most parties aren’t compulsory and it’s perfectly okay to skip a few events, especially the ones that are sure to test your resolve.

Remember to Have Fun

Some events are nearly impossible to avoid. If you must attend due to work or social obligations, bring along a savvy friend who has mastered the art of having fun without getting drunk.

It may seem like everybody around you is celebrating with a cocktail in each hand and you are the only sober person in the room. In reality, you may be surprised how many people choose not to get completely wasted.

Don’t forget why parties were invented in the first place. Once you’ve taken a few necessary precautions, it’s time to relax and have fun! Mix and mingle. Dance. Laugh.

If the revelry is getting out of hand, excuse yourself politely and make a speedy exit. Just think: You’ll be refreshed and able to remember it all when you wake up in the morning.

Here’s to Good Health

The holidays can wear you out, but temptations are easier to avoid if you’re feeling well. Get enough rest and take a break if festivities feel too stressful or family drama is running high. As they say in some treatment programs for addiction, avoid situations of “HALT” (hungry, angry, lonely, tired).

Most importantly, pay close attention to your diet. It wouldn’t be the holidays without luscious desserts, but try not to overindulge in the sweet stuff. Like booze, sugar releases a flood of dopamine in the brain, which makes you feel good – until it doesn’t, or until it spills over into excessive drinking.

There’s a reason why they call it a “sugar hangover”; when the sugar high wears off, you may feel fuzzy, tired, moody, nauseous and headachy; for many people cravings for alcohol are a natural consequence. Keep your sugar intake at a reasonable level and minimize blood sugar spikes by pairing sugar with protein and fiber-rich foods.

Order seltzer or sparkling water if you think socializing requires a drink-in-hand, or if you’re accustomed to toasting the occasion with a bottle of the finest bubbly.

Create Your Own Holiday Tradition

It’s a myth that everybody needs alcohol to have a good time, so don’t fall for all the hype. It’s true that drinking creates a certain type of camaraderie, but it isn’t magic and long-lasting friendships usually aren’t built around getting drunk.

Think about creating new, meaningful traditions that aren’t associated with booze. The holidays might be the perfect time to plan a trip to an exotic new location, experience a thrilling new adventure, or throw your own alcohol-free party. Paint the town red without assistance of alcoholic beverages. This year, dare to be the one who does something different.

If drinking is creating serious problems in your life, there’s nothing wrong with beginning treatment during the holidays or straight after. In fact, it may be the greatest gift of all, or the best new year’s resolution you’ve ever seen through.

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