10 Ways to Unwind Without the Booze

Alcohol-Free Ways to Wind Down

In the U.S., millions of people celebrate “Happy Hour” to decompress at the end of the day. Whether it’s at a bar, a casual get-together with friends, or alone with some beers or a bottle of wine, drinking to unwind is par for the course in American culture. And this lifestyle is clearly reflected back to us on TV and in other media advertising by its portrayal of people smiling and having fun, which then makes drinking alcohol seem like the best way to feel good.

Are You a Heavy Drinker Without Knowing It?

To put your drinking in perspective, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy alcohol users in this way:

  • Men who have over 4 drinks in a day or more than 14 drinks per week.
  • Women who down more than 3 drinks per day or more than 7 in a week.

If you’re like many other people, your drinking habit might have gotten worse during the pandemic, even when restrictions were placed on social interactions. According to a research article in JAMA Network Open, in March 2020—right off the bat—store sales of alcohol in the U.S. increased 54% over the previous year, while online liquor sales increased a whopping 262%!

Another study that was published in December 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health assessed changes in alcohol consumption during the pandemic. The researchers found that 60% of the participants drank more, with almost half of that group drinking to help them manage their stress. This is essentially the same reason so many people use alcohol to unwind at the end of the day anyway.

10 Alcohol-Free Ways to Wind Down

Even though its use is very common, alcohol is a toxin. In addition to the potential for addiction, it increases your risk of liver, heart, pancreas, and brain diseases as well as colon, breast, oral, esophageal, rectal, and liver cancers. Therefore, learning to de-stress without that cold beer, cocktail, or glass of wine will do wonders for the health of your body and your brain.

Learning to de-stress without that cold beer, cocktail, or glass of wine will do wonders for the health of your body and your brain. Click To Tweet

Here are 10 great ways to wind down without the booze:

1. Go outside and get some fresh air.

Whether it’s taking your kids to a park, walking the dog, or going for a long stroll while listening to some music or a podcast, simply getting out of your work orbit, moving your body, and shifting your focus onto positive things can help you feel more relaxed.

2. Read a book.

If you’ve been on your feet all day and can’t wait for a chance to relax on your derriere, sit down in a comfy chair (instead of on a barstool) and spend some time reading a good book. Stories can capture our attention and help to shift our thoughts away from the day’s stressors.

3. Cuddle or play with your pet(s).

The mere act of spending time with your furry friends can lower levels of the notorious stress hormone, cortisol. At the same time, it boosts levels of oxytocin which helps you relax. Petting your dog or cat can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

4. Exercise.

One of the best ways to shake off the day’s tension is by breaking a sweat and getting in a good workout. Not only is exercise effective in lowering cortisol levels too, but it also increases the production of endorphins, the body’s pain-relieving hormones. And, if you’ve had a really tough day, consider playing a competitive game of tennis, pickleball, racquetball—or even ping pong—to exercise your body and your brain!

5. Do some yoga.

Whether you’re a total beginner or an advanced practitioner, this 5,000-year-old practice helps to reduce mental and physical tension. It can improve muscle strength and the breathing exercises that are incorporated into the movements or poses can induce a sense of calm and clarity.

6. Spend time on your favorite hobby.

If you like to garden, carve wood, play an instrument, paint, sew, or engage in other creative leisure activities, take time after work—or whenever you’re feeling stressed out—to immerse yourself in it for a while. Shifting your focus onto something enjoyable, like hobbies, can lower your blood pressure and stress hormones. Plus it’s fun, which is why you like to do it!

7. Try some meditation.

Sometimes after a long day, it can be difficult to turn off all the noise in your head, which then prolongs feelings of stress. Meditating can help you let go of all that chatter while lowering stress hormones and at the same time enhancing your brain function. If you’ve never done it before, you can find plenty of free beginner meditations online.

8. Have a nice long soak.

Take some time to yourself and draw a hot bath with some lavender, bergamot, or cedarwood essential oil sprinkled into the water. Soaking in the tub causes your skin to release endorphins which makes your muscles relax, so it can be the perfect antidote for a long day.

9. Watch a comedy.

Whether it’s a TV show, stand-up act, or hilarious movie, laughter is one of the best ways to release your tension Interestingly, when you’re having a good laugh at something really funny, your stress response system gets activated at first but then lowers itself. This reduces your blood pressure and heart rate causing you to feel relaxed and happy—with a smile on your face.

10. Choose a non-alcoholic drink.

It is 100% possible to gather with your friends and have a great time even when you are going booze-free. Sparkling water with some lemon, lime, or a few drops of flavored stevia, a low sugar mocktail, or even ice water is refreshing and will give you something cold to sip on while enjoying good company.

If alcohol consumption has become your go-to way of coping, you are certainly not alone. Many others increased how much they drink too and now are struggling with overcoming this bad habit. However, by practicing new ways to unwind and release your stress, like the ones described above, you’ll discover how possible and easy it is to decompress in a healthy manner while protecting yourself from the harmful effects of alcohol.

Alcohol and drug addiction can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. 11. Find another job. Monitor your stress level.

    Comment by Igor — August 16, 2021 @ 7:06 AM

  2. Great facts and suggestions – like a cold glass of water refreshing to read and know and do.

    And SING, sing your praise to the Lord… “how much good that it’s gonna do ya…” (Amy Grant)

    Comment by Lois — August 16, 2021 @ 11:29 AM

  3. Hypnosis

    Comment by Juhl Rayne — August 16, 2021 @ 4:28 PM

  4. Great info! Learned something new about the benefits of having a dog.

    Comment by Kumarie — August 17, 2021 @ 7:29 PM

  5. Alcohol actually gives me the lift my brain craves… it’s not really the winding down that attracts me to it (although I’m sure it’s an attraction that involves a few interwoven neurotransmitters including Gaba). I sometimes wonder if this means I am dopamine or serotonin deficient. Alcohol gives me a euphoria and excitement that I don’t feel in life… this makes hard for me to quit. Life gets so blah and gray. I also really don’t enjoy cannabis – this give me another clue that Gaba is not the problem.

    Comment by Cat — December 22, 2021 @ 7:37 AM

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