What is Sober’s Curious Movement and why is it so popular?

Many people think that, when it comes to alcohol use, it’s all-or-nothing; You either follow total abstinence or drink whatever you like. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There is a movement aimed at helping people better understand their relationship with alcohol and make healthier choices for themselves without necessarily giving up alcohol completely. This is called quiet curious movement.

Let’s take a closer look at it all: what it is, how it differs from total abstinence, and how (if you’re curious about it!) you can embrace the movement in your own life.

What is “Quiet Curious” and why is it having such a moment?

“The Everybody’s Curious movement was launched by Ruby Warrington and her book, Very curiousinside [late 2018]”, says Elisa Peimer, LCSW, a therapist who has worked with a Sober Curious support group. “Sober curious is a way to become aware of alcoholism. People who follow it learn how to recognize what triggers their drinking, what the act of drinking means to them, what needs it is fulfilling, and how it is adversely affecting their lives.”

The movement quickly gained momentum, as it allowed people to explore a more sober lifestyle without committing to completely giving up drinking. “The movement encourages a sober (or more sober) lifestyle, but also embraces and welcomes people who aren’t ready to completely give up alcohol,” says Ian Andersen, co-founder of mindful drinking and moderation app Sunnyside.

The rise of the quiet curiosity movement can also be seen as an extension of the more mainstream health, wellness and mindfulness in general. “As mindfulness in general has become more popular, being transparently curious seems like a natural extension of healthy lifestyle options like a plant-based diet, yoga and meditation,” says Molly Watts, author and host. Alcohol minimalist podcast

Finally, Soba’s curious movement has gained quite a following on social media. And as more people and influencers embrace the movement — and are willing to talk about their choice to drink less, or not at all — the movement has spread to more people. For example, “Hashtags like #mindfuldrinking and #sobercurious are driving millions of views on social media,” says Andersen.

How is being quietly curious different from being completely quiet?

Getting sober differs from traditional sobriety in a few ways—most notably, it doesn’t require abstinence from alcohol. Instead, it encourages people, as the name suggests, to be curious about their drinking and aims to make better, more mindful choices about their alcohol use.

This allows people to “explore life without alcohol without fully committing to not drinking,” says Dr. Brooke Scheller, a doctor of clinical nutrition who specializes in nutrition to support a sober or sober-minded journey.

“The focus is not just on abstinence, but the choices we make when the stresses of our lives drive us to relieve them with alcohol instead of more healthy means,” Pimmer says.

It also appeals to a wider audience. Although total abstinence is recommended for individuals with alcohol use disorders, quiet curiosity movements are appropriate anyone People who want to have a better relationship with alcohol—or who want to reduce their drinking for reasons other than addiction or alcohol use disorder, such as improving their health.

“Previously, abstinence was mostly reserved for those who identified as having a problem with alcohol,” Scheller says. “Over the past two years, people are now exploring a sober-minded lifestyle by reducing or even completely cutting out alcohol for physical and mental health reasons, to improve their careers, relationships, or even because of illness. The hangover habit.”

“Sober curiosity offers a flexibility to admit your alcohol use may not be healthy without the rigors of an all-or-nothing approach,” Pimer says.

Curious? Tips on how to embrace movement

Practice mindfulness when you drink. Mindfulness is the foundation of transparently curious movement.

“Confirmed curiosity is about mindfulness—looking at your actions in the moment and being honest with yourself,” says Peimer. “Notice what happens for you when you decide to drink.”

Before you take a drink, pause for a moment. Ask yourself “Why am I taking this drink?” – and then, based on the answer, decide if you want to go ahead and have a drink. For example, if you stop to think about reaching for a drink, you might realize that you’re trying to manage challenging emotions like boredom or anxiety—in which case you might skip it in favor of a healthier coping mechanism, like calling a friend or going for a run.

Practicing mindfulness in the moments when you want or reach for a drink can help you better understand the motivations behind your drinking — and whether those motivations align with the kind of relationship you have with alcohol.

Be curious and ask yourself some deep questions. In addition to bringing mindfulness to those moments when you want to drink, being soberly curious means… well, being curious. Ask yourself some deep questions about your relationship with alcohol. “Think about what drinking means to you,” Peimer says. “Is it helping you create an interesting narrative? Is it a reminder of happier times? Is this a sign that the weekend is starting?”

Understanding the reasons behind your drinking can help you make better, healthier choices about if and when to drink.

If you want to take things a step further, you can ask yourself some questions about what it would be like to give up alcohol completely or to consume less of it. “Ask yourself what your life would be like without alcohol,” Peimer says.

If you want to see how drinking can affect your sleep score, check it out after a night out with friends. You can try comparing your sleep score on a night with a night you didn’t sleep. (Learn more about how to tap into Fitbit’s sleep tools with your sleep score here.)

Plan ahead. As mentioned, part of being sober is being mindful when you drink. But right now it’s important to be aware, some are harder than others. And if there are moments when you think it might be hard to say “no” to a drink — even if you want to? Plan ahead for them. “Try to plan in advance for events where you wouldn’t normally drink,” says Watts.

For example, do your Sunday catch-up brunches with your friends always end with you having one too many cocktails? Instead have a plan for what you’re going to drink (for example, a sparkling mocktail) – and what you’re going to say.

As the old saying goes, “Failure to plan is planning to fail”. Make sure to plan ahead for potentially challenging situations.

Try some non-alcoholic alternatives. If you want to change your relationship with alcohol – but really enjoy the taste of beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages? There is good news.

“We’re…seeing a huge boom in the non-alcoholic beverage industry,” Scheller said. “Whereas stores used to only sell one or two NA beers, we’re seeing a huge range of NA beverages in liquor stores, grocery stores and even small markets – making it easier to access alcoholic beverage options.”

There have also been some serious improvements in the quality of non-alcoholic drinks—so you don’t have to sacrifice taste with a buzz. “A lot of people are really surprised at how delicious some NA drinks are and how you can get the mouth feel of your favorite drink without the negative aspects of alcohol,” says Watts.

Instead of drinking every time you normally drink (for example, with dinner or in the evening while you’re watching TV), “try alternating your regular alcoholic beverages with an NA option,” says Watts.

And have fun with it! As mentioned, there are tons of NA options on the market—so pick a drink that sounds interesting, delicious, and something you’ll be genuinely excited to try. “Having options that you can get excited about that aren’t alcohol is a great way to change your habits,” says Andersen.

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