Fancy a sober summer? Staying alcohol-free in the sunshine
If a hot summer weekend means you're likely to wake up on a Sunday afternoon with a pounding headache and a mouth drier than some of the chat-up lines on Love Island, you might want to rethink your strategy and cut down on your alcohol intake.
The good news is that while everyone gets excited about doing a dry January, the best months for reaping the benefits of a booze-free month are secretly the summer ones. Warm weather, long days, and lots of outdoor events are all things we look forward to. So why not make the most of them hangover-free and filled with energy?
And if this will be your first summer without copious amounts of sauvignon blanc or Pimm's, the good news is, you really don't have to give up your social life in the process.
Here are some top tips for a non-drinking summer...
1. Find your new tipple
Force of habit means we'll often panic-order our 'usual' at the bar before we've even thought about considering one of the many alcohol-free options on offer. Luckily, there are now lots of delicious virgin tipples that go far beyond a bottle of Britvic or can of fizzy pop.
"The new wave of low and no-alcohol drinks is just getting bigger and bigger," says Laura Willoughby, co-founder of mindful drinking movement Club Soda (joinclubsoda.co.uk). Willoughby, who has been teetotal for seven years, suggests spending some time trying and testing to find the one that works for you - whether that's zero-proof beers, non-alcoholic spirits or craft sodas. "Once you've found a favourite, keep the fridge stocked and know that when that urge strikes, you have something other than water to look forward to," she adds.
On that note, it's a good idea to Marie Kondo your booze trolley of any temptation while you're at it. "If you want to stop drinking on weeknights, it's a good idea to get rid of the alcohol that's in your house," says consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell, an addiction expert based at the Priory's hospital in Roehampton (priorygroup.com). "That way it won't be so easily accessible."
2. BYOM (That's bring your own mocktails...)
There's nothing worse than turning up to a summer BBQ to find the booze-free guests haven't been catered for. Rather than caving and cracking open a Corona, plan for the worst by whipping up a batch of grown-up, booze-free mocktails ahead of the event. "Not everyone wants to drink, but everyone wants to socialise and feel like they belong," says Camille Vidal, founder of healthy hedonist platform La Maison
"Many people don't realise that non-drinkers can have something that is crafted and made with passion and attention in the same way that any other cocktail would be, so they can be part of the party. With a bit of preparation, you don't need to feel like you're ordering off the kids' menu."
Her favourite drinks to make for friends include a 'Zen Garden' (Seedlip Garden 108, green tea, London Essence & Co White Peach and Jasmine, and cucumber to garnish) and something called a 'Gingembre' (Everleaf aperitif, Gimber ginger, honey water and London Essence & Co Ginger Beer). As well as Vidal's website, there are loads of recipe ideas to whet your whistle on the likes of Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram.
3. Moderation rules for sunny days
Set some rules and stick to them. "Don't drink 'til dinner," says Willoughby. "A beer in the pub garden with lunch may sound like a great idea at the time, but with the summer heat it can really go to your head - and it all catches up with you in the end.
"Try making your first two drinks alcohol-free too, so you can assess clearly whether you're planning on a late night or whether you would rather be up early tomorrow and enjoy the good weather," she adds. "We often drink to stay at things we don't enjoy, when really we should just go home."
If you're simply looking to cut down your units, shandies are the perfect moderation drink for summer - "once you are halfway down your drink, top it up with another mixer," Willoughby advises.
"Alternating your alcoholic drinks with water is a good tip, and if you're drinking, make sure it's not on an empty stomach," adds Dr Campbell.
4. Tell friends that no means no
Pressure to drink from friends or others can make it hard to cut back or quit. "Our society completely revolves around drinking, especially in the summer, and it's likely you'll have to be in a setting that involves alcohol at some point or another," says Dr Campbell.
He adds that you don't have to apologise or give reasons about why you're cutting back. "Just say, 'I'm not drinking at the moment', and leave it at that," he explains. "Often, the people who have an issue with you abstaining have a problem with drinking themselves."
5. Find some booze-free hobbies
Finally, drinking more mindfully doesn't have to be boring and it doesn't mean staying home alone all the time.
"The good weather gives you loads more options that don't revolve around drinking," says Willoughby. "Why not try something new with friends like paddleboarding, walking hidden trails, an outdoor theatre excursion or a last-minute weekend away somewhere quiet and remote?"
The more packed your itinerary is, the less likely you are to wander to the nearest pub and wake up the next day with a great big hangover. Even better, you'll save some spare pocket money in the process.