How to Relax & Unwind Without Alcohol

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If you’re like many adults, you turn to a cold one after a long day to help you relax.

And while there’s nothing wrong with moderate amounts of alcohol, it’s easy to let it go too far. Even if you’re able to keep it to one or two drinks, it’s still not the most effective way to cope with stress – especially long-term.

Fortunately, there are many ways to relax without alcohol that are healthier and much more effective!

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1. Read

A good book can help you relax after a busy day and get your mind off of life. Instead of drinking, try picking up a stress-relieving book to ease anxiety or find a novel you can immerse yourself in.

Next time you feel like grabbing a drink, try practicing mindful reading instead. 

2. Listen to Podcasts or Books

Podcasts or audiobooks are great ways to distract your mind and help you feel more relaxed.

There’s no shortage of podcasts, either – so whether you’re interested in personal development podcasts or want something a little more lighthearted and casual, there’s a podcast or audiobook out there for you. 

3. Take a Bath or Shower

There’s something so soothing about a hot bath or shower after a long, stressful day.

You can kick them up a notch and use stress-relieving bath products to make it a completely calming and rejuvenating experience. 

4. Go Outside

Connecting with nature is beneficial for overall health and wellbeing, but can be an instant way to feel calmer.

There are endless ways to experience the benefits of being outside, from sunbathing to hiking. Find your favorite outdoor activities and try to incorporate them into your daily life, especially when you’re most tempted to reach for a drink.

ways to unwind without alcohol

5. Move Your Body

Exercising releases endorphins, which help relieve pain and make you feel calmer.

Even if you don’t feel like running, you can still move your body in other ways to get the benefits of exercise and movement. Try dancing, going for a casual walk, Yoga, or swimming until you find your favorites. 

6. Meditate

Everyone has heard of meditating for relieving stress, but contrary to what you may think, it doesn’t have to be done on a floor with your legs crossed and fingers touching.

There are many ways to meditate, and even apps to help you get the most out of it. If you’ve never considered yourself to be the meditating type, try these beginner-friendly ways of meditating.  

7. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Practicing PMR is an easy way to reduce tension and stress that’s stored in your body.

In basic terms, you simply tense a group of muscles in your body (such as your calves or thighs) for 5-10 seconds and then quickly release the tension. Then you repeat with different muscle groups as long as needed. 

8. Do Breathing Exercises

Doing breathwork exercises is incredibly helpful for reducing stress and anxiety, as well as increasing focus.

There are so many different breathing exercises you can do, so experiment with a few and then keep doing the ones you enjoy. If you’re new to breathwork, start with these breathing exercises that can be done in ten minutes or less.

how to unwind without alcohol

9. Go For a Drive

For some, driving can be very therapeutic. Simply rolling down the windows and driving with no destination in mind while listening to the radio can be a surprisingly effective way to decompress.

10. Participate in Recreational Activities

Connecting with others can be a source of both fulfillment and calmness. Try going to a workshop in your community, a Yoga class, or volunteer at a local shelter.

This is especially helpful if you’re only used to social gatherings that revolve around drinking but don’t want to give up your social life. 

11. Pick Up a Hobby

Picking up a new hobby or improving the ones you already have can help you unwind from the day and de-stress.

Not to mention, they help you forget about wanting that drink in the first place. Find out different stress-relieving hobbies, like gardening or painting until you find one that sticks.

12. Hang Out with Friends

Hanging out with your friends can help you leave the day behind and relieve your pent-up anxiety.

Find some fun activities to do together or just binge-watch your favorite shows. If you usually have drinks together, make sure you let them know you’ll be ditching the alcohol.

ways to relax without alcohol

13. Get Creative and Explore Non-Alcoholic Drinks

It’s easier to replace your usual drink with a similar non-alcoholic beverage than it is to completely remove it.

So, find your new favorite drink by experimenting with options like green tea, kombucha, sparkling soda, and so forth –  or just remove the alcohol from your usual mix.

Bonus points if it contains stress-reducing ingredients like L-theanine, which have similar calming effects as alcohol!

14. Use Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a very simple way to feel less anxious and stressed.

There are so many ways to benefit from aromatherapy, from essential oil diffusers to lotions that are made with relaxing scents.

One of the easiest ways to use aromatherapy is by using stress-relieving essential oils, whether in a diffuser or applied topically.

15. Listen to Music and Soothing Sounds

Your favorite songs can help you shift into a better mood and feel more at ease, so put on your go-to tunes and sing along!

Likewise, soothing sounds and ASMR can give you the same relaxed feelings and help you curb stress. Try listening to nature sounds such as ocean waves, chirping birds, or anything else you find soothing. 

16. Use Guided Imagery and Visualization

An easy way to feel calmer almost immediately is to visualize a peaceful scene or use guided imagery to imagine a calmer environment. This is pretty much what it means to “go to your happy place”.

There are a lot of resources for guided imagery and visualization, so find the ones that work best for you and use them to help you decompress.

how to feel relaxed without alcohol

17. Work Your Brain

Not only will working your brain distract you from wanting a drink, but it will increase your mind’s function over time.

There are many activities that improve brain health, such as puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, board games, and apps. These are all great ways to relax and wear your brain out, so try one or two next time you want to avoid drinking.

18. Journal

There are so many mental health benefits of journaling, but it’s especially great for relaxing.

Whether you journal on your day to let out frustration, or you write about something you’re looking forward to – journaling is an effective alcohol-free way to decompress. 

19. Clean

Having a clean, tidy home is always more relaxing to be in than one that’s cluttered.

Not to mention, the actual act of cleaning can be very satisfying and soothing. Find ways to make your home more relaxing so it’s a place you can really relax in.

20. Pet or Play With an Animal

Next time you need to decompress, try cuddling or playing with your furry pal and give them your full attention.

Not only will it make you feel calmer, but it will also strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

If you don’t have a furry friend of your own, you can volunteer at an animal shelter or start a side gig like walking dogs.

how to relax at night without alcohol

Other Tips for Coping with Stress Without Alcohol

There are ways to cope with stress outside of alcohol, which just exasperates stress and anxiety.

Create a Transition Routine

Your usual drink is probably tied to a certain transitional time, such as getting home from work and forgetting about the day by pouring a glass of wine. 

You can create a healthier transition routine by instead pouring a non-alcoholic beverage or picking up a new habit in place of opening a beer. 

It’s helpful to have routines or rituals in place that help you ease out of work mode and into the rest of your night, so try to find ones that are better for you than alcohol.

Understand How Alcohol Affects Stress in The First Place

These tips are great alcohol-free ways to relax, but if you want to stick to them consistently, it’s helpful to actually understand how alcohol relaxes you in the first place – and why it’s not a long-term solution or a true fix despite its benefits.

Alcohol may seem like a great stress reliever, but really it just makes stress worse.

It’s actually the act of drinking alcohol that gives us pleasure and reduces stress, not the actual drink itself. When you understand how alcohol and stress play off of each other, it’s easier to find a healthier alternative.

Gain Awareness and Understanding of Your Triggers

Watch out for things that cause stress and make you want to drink. 

Whether it’s dealing with a difficult person or signing up for too many commitments, find ways to eliminate things that drain your mental energy.

Likewise, take note of things like your diet and how certain drinks or foods impact your stress levels. For example, things like consuming too much caffeine are known to worsen stress and anxiety.

Prioritize Your Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Alcohol may be okay as a nightcap here and there, but it can’t fix your problems.

When you’re trying to find ways to relax without alcohol, you also need to prioritize ways to take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing overall.

Not only will this benefit your life as a whole, but it will also make it easier to adopt new habits and cope with stress more effectively long term.

Things like talking to a friend to let your frustrations out, going to counseling to discuss your life situations, and so forth are all great ways to take control of your stress and be more proactive.

There are many other ways to invest in your mental health that don’t have to cost a lot of money or have to do with therapy, as well. 

Relaxing Without Alcohol Isn’t As Hard As You May Think!

Despite being the go-to stress reliever of many adults, alcohol isn’t the only way to relax.

Try some of these alcohol-free activities to chill out and decompress next time you’re feeling the pull to pour another drink. And don’t forget to find other ways to cope with stress long-term!

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Additional Resources

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About the author

Courtney Smith
Courtney is a freelance writer who uses her words to inspire change in the world and help people step into their best selves. When she's not writing on a variety of topics or coming up with healthy recipes she is trying to keep up with her two kids with an iced coffee in hand.

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