How to enjoy an alcohol-free Christmas

giphy-1

The silly season is rapidly approaching, and for many, this means work Christmas parties, celebrations with friends, family gatherings and indulgence in food, gifts and all things jolly. As your social calendar fills up, here are some tips on how to avoid filling your glass along with it.

We understand Christmas can be a stressful time, especially if you’re trying to drink less. Many of our celebrations involve drinking (often to excessive amounts) as part of the holiday spirit, and it is hard not to feel a pressure to conform to these expectations.

It’s important to have a few backup solutions to surviving a sober Christmas, and listing some advantages of taking it easy with the booze will help with your motivation. Think of how much you’ll save by not splashing out on those expensive bottles of champagne! And how nice it would be to minimise the chances of drunken confrontation with the in-laws, or saying something inappropriate to grandma over copious gingerbread cookies.

We have gathered some of the best advice around to help you continue your positive relationship with alcohol this Christmas.

To enjoy an alcohol-free Christmas, you need to have a plan

giphy

Be selective about the events you attend

Remember that you don’t have to go to every event; if there are certain celebrations that you know will make it really hard for you to feel good about your drinking goal, maybe consider skipping them. Attend the ones that will not focus so much on drinking to have a good time.

BYO drinks

Take your favourite non alcoholic drinks to the party with you, like a bottle of soda and a lime or a few ginger beers. This way you’re not missing out on drinking altogether and it may be a smart tactic to stop people asking you if you want a drink every five minutes.

Plan activities that don’t involve sitting around drinking

Organise a friendly game of backyard cricket, ice skating or DIY holiday card making. Watch a Christmas movie or print off lyrics for carols and have a classic, festive sing-a-long.

Have a reason and get real

Be assertive with your decision to not drink and come prepared to talk about why you have chosen not to. Some people are genuinely interested, and who knows, it may even inspire them to think about their own relationship with alcohol.  

Come up with an exit strategy

If it all just gets too much and people are giving you a hard time about not drinking, or everyone’s too smashed to have a slur free conversation, just get out of there. Most of the time they will hardly remember you leaving anyway. Just give the hosts a call at a reasonable hour in the morning to thank them and explain why you felt like you needed to leave.

Focus on the love

Find the joy in spending quality time with those you love, doing the things you love!

giphy

 

Learning to savour

taste-good.gif

How often have you sculled a delicious beverage? Or scoffed down a tasty meal without even thinking about how the food was prepared or how the flavours complement each other?

What we are forgetting to do when we follow this behaviour is savour. Even moving away from the experience of food, sometimes we’re so preoccupied thinking about what to do after a beach walk that we forget to watch the waves, listen to the sea gulls and really feel the sand between our toes.

While savouring involves pleasure, it is in fact more than that. It involves mindfulness and conscious attention to the experience of pleasure. When we are more aware, we notice and acknowledge pleasure., whether that be through feelings and emotions or through a stimulation of our senses. What this allows us to do is filter out distractions, and become awed by being in the world.  

The savouring experience 

giphy.gif

Ever experienced a moment that you will never forget? This is savouring! When we reflect back on a treasured moment, often we can remember exactly what we were wearing, the smell in the air and the temperature outside because our minds took a mental photograph and we savoured a memory.

Practicing savouring is practicing mindfulness

giphy.gif

Often we don’t find satisfaction from mindlessly doing. We can appreciate something more when we take the time to savour the thing and therefore experience a deeper level of gratitude.

Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the greatest mindfulness zen masters of our time, teaches us that “Each minute we spend worrying about the future and regretting the past is a minute we miss in our appointment with life – a missed opportunity to engage life and to see that each moment gives us the chance to change for the better, to experience peace and joy.”
And like most things, it’s a practice

The health benefits of savouring

And if you weren’t already convinced, savouring is actually good for your health! For example, positive psychologists have found that savouring is protective against depression, while dieticians have found savouring food is both better for digestion and an excellent way to keep that bikini bod in shape.

So what can I learn to savour?

Often when we think of savouring, we think: wine. Sommeliers and amateur wine tasters are good examples of people who practice savouring.

But as we’ve already mentioned, almost everything can be savoured. Bread can be savoured. The moment can be savoured. Even places can be savoured. So now we’ll consider how you can learn to savour what is lauded as the best drink of the day: tea.

giphy.gif

Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Although we often refer to the long history of alcohol in human society, tea is another substance that can compare in terms of cultural significance.

We have a few ideas to get you on your way to becoming a tea connoisseur by practicing the art of savouring:

How to savour tea

  • Perform a tea ritual, where the process is not about actually drinking the tea but all about preparing and serving.

The best thing about savouring?

giphy.gif

You can do it whenever, wherever. And if you happen to be around Sydney in October and want to put your new skills to the test, sink your teeth into Sydney’s Good Food Month and savour the flavours.

 

How to holiday sober

chillin.gif

When we think of holidays we usually think of sipping Pina Coladas on the beach somewhere exotic, feeling guilt free for doing absolutely nothing but enjoying some sweet, sweet chill time.

We tend to splurge on fancy accommodation, shopping sprees, food, and for many: plenty of booze to celebrate taking some time out. But what if there were a way to find balance on your holiday? Bring it back to why you’re there in the first place. To unwind? To explore a new place and create experiences?  

But why should I lay off the alcohol while on holiday?

Balancing alcohol and travel is possible! And in fact, it is a great way to get the most out of your holiday experience.  Here is why you should give it a go:

  • Holidaying sober means there will be nights you will remember and memories you won’t forget.
  • You’ll make the early morning pick up in the lobby for a tour you’ve booked and paid for months in advance.
  • You won’t crave greasy, fast food from overpriced tourist joints all day.
  • Wake up feeling fresh to get outdoors and explore.
  • You’ll meet people and make relationships not based on the sharing of tequila shots but on the sharing of stories.

You don’t have to be a ‘booze traveler’!

Okay to this all sounds great. But there is one destination most people would completely rule out as a sober holiday…Vegas! We believe you can do Vegas sober and actually have an excellent time! 

How to do Vegas sober

giphy.gif

Viva Las Vegas, the Holy Grail of alcohol and ‘all you can eat’ buffets.

You may think there’s not much else to do but party and gamble the days away, but Vegas is packed with activities one can enjoy without alcohol. 

Check out fun things to do around Sin City (Sober)

There are loads fantastic things to do in Vegas, you just need to do your research! Enjoy all kinds of world famous entertainment from magic shows to burlesque dancing. Enjoy the bright, flashing Vegas strip from rooftop terraces or create a mocktail tour of the grandest hotel pool bars.

See the natural surrounds: get active

giphy1.gif

Not only is Vegas notorious for strip shows but also the surrounding natural environment.

To keep your figure in shape and deter you from the minibar, there are tons of adventures offered for those who like to stay active while on holiday.

Hike one of the many trails or go on a sunrise balloon ride over Grand Canyon, book a driving experience on a vegas race track (wouldn’t want to try that one hungover) or kayak the Hoover Dam.

Bonus Active Holiday Tip: While it’s great to have a break from wearing active wear when travelling, wearing exercise clothes really is practical for most activities (and doesn’t take up much room in the suitcase). You can wear your sneakers and tights on the plane, for morning walks and to and from hotel facilities.  

For those after something a little more relaxing, why not treat yo’ self!

Check out some of the best day spa’s on the Strip:

 

Pretty much, if you can do Vegas sober, you can do anywhere sober.  Sticking to a balanced holiday will mean you won’t overdo it. Viva Las Vegas!

 

How to develop a fitness habit and actually stick to it

Last Sunday one of our amazing Hello Sunday Morning members, Ruby, totally smashed the Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon. But I know many of us are thinking, “Gym? Who’s Jim?”  And boy, do I know that sentiment. When it’s been so long since you’ve exercised, all fitness related terms begin to sound like a foreign language.

But you’ve tried to hop back onto the exercise bandwagon. We’ve all tried. The thing is, the routine just doesn’t stick. Or at least it hasn’t, yet.

So how do you start and maintain an exercise routine? We have some ideas.

How to start and maintain an exercise routine

Prepare

giphy.gif

Although it can be tempting to write this off as no big deal, starting a fitness routine can be a genuinely tough task. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your Doctor about your plan to start exercising, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while and/or have other health concerns. If that’s not for you, jump ahead and start making yourself a fitness plan.

One of the biggest mistakes that we make is not setting appropriate goals when we plan our exercise routines. Have you heard of the SMART criteria for how to create good goals? What this means in terms of exercise goals is that they need to be targeted, show measurable progress, and be realistic.

The key word here is realistic. I think many of us jump the gun when creating these sorts of goals. Expecting yourself to run five kilometers every day, right off the bat, is a great ambition –– but not a realistic goal. So take it easy and ditch the all-or-nothing frame of mind. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Everyone’s realistic goal will look different. Maybe when you’re a week in, the plan is to go for a run three times a week. At this stage your indicator of success may simply be: did you get out the door? You might’ve walked the whole way, but as long as you got out of the house when you intended to, you checked off the box.

Further down the track, when you’re more comfortable with your three-day-a-week walk/run, you might set the intention to run for 30 minutes on each occasion without taking a break. Maybe you could start adding other activities to your routine, like resistance training. Perhaps throw in a longer run on the occasional Sunday. Soon enough it will be like brushing your teeth – a healthy habit.

Mix it up and see what works

giphy (1).gif

Try different activities

Usually, when we think of the word ‘exercise’, we imagine either toned people cheerfully running in the sunshine, or Schwarzenegger’s figure pumping iron at the gym.

But you’ll be happy to hear that there are so many other activities that count as exercise. Rock climbing, Zumba, yoga, team sport, parkour, dancing – the list goes on (and on, and on …).

You could even try one of those workout plans that everyone’s always raving about at the water cooler. Typically these provide you with an interesting and specific exercise routine, access to a community of fellow exercise-ees, and sometimes even a nutrition plan. Kayla Itsines, we’re looking at you.

Try exercising at different times of the day

Morning workouts

Some people try exercising in the morning and it becomes their everything. And it’s true: this is a great way to start the day, giving you the energy and headspace you need to kickstart your morning.

Here are a few tips if you’re planning on giving the morning workout a go:

  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before;
  • Plan the workout you’ll be doing. If you’re going to a class in the morning, book it in. If you’re doing your own thing, maybe consider roping a friend along to hold you accountable;
  • Set an alarm: don’t snooze. As soon as the alarm goes off, that’s it. No second guessing. You’re up. Dressed. Out the door.

P.S. a secondary tip here: keep your alarm away from your bed so you actually have to get up to turn it off.

  • If you’re anything like me, with a tendency to remain half-asleep for at least an hour after rousing, consider writing yourself a morning to-do list. Brush teeth, water plants, drink coffee. check, check, check.

Evening workouts

For those of you who groan at just the thought of waking up to see the sun rise, there is always the trusty old evening workout. This is actually an excellent way to destress at the end of the day. Plus, there is the obvious benefit of getting to snooze a little longer in the morning. Pack your exercise gear with you when you leave in the morning for work. The key thing to remember here is that if you go home before exercising, you’ll probably just end up eating a snack on the couch. (It’s okay, we’ve all been there!) Again, classes are a great idea in the evenings.

It all just depends on how you roll. You’ll figure out what exercise time is best for you.  

Try exercising both alone and with others

Solo work-outs mean you get time and space for yourself. It means that you can work at the level that best suits you and really absorb yourself in the exercise task.

On the other hand, exercising with others also has its benefits. Primarily, you’re held accountable for turning up. If you’ve promised your mates you’ll turn up on Sunday morning for a doubles tennis match––unless you want to be “that guy”––you know you’re going to go.

Eliminate excuses

giphy (2).gif

If you’re serious about this, eliminating excuses should become your priority.

At least at first. Once exercise is a part of your routine, you can begin to work your life around your fitness schedule.

But the biggest excuse we tend to pull out of our back pockets is time. The thing to remember is, no one has time to exercise. Not even those people who do exercise regularly. You have to make time to exercise.

Plus, there is evidence to suggest that if you exercise in the right way, you might not even need to invest much time at all.

Other excuses might include:

“I don’t have access to a gym,” to which we say there are plenty of workouts you can do outside of a gym.

“I don’t have a babysitter,” in which case we suggest ways to get fit with kids in tow.

Even, “I actually just hate exercise” simply means talk therapy might help.

The list of exercise excuses is neverending. But if you look hard enough there’s a reasonable counterpoint to each one of them. Eliminate excuses and you’re halfway there.

You don’t need to become an Exercise Person

giphy (3).gif

You definitely know who I am talking about when I describe Exercise People. These people are persistently posting health food and fitness photos on Instagram, and invariably touting activewear at all times, even when they’re not actually exercising.

But, really, you don’t need to become an Exercise Person (i.e. change everything about yourself) when you begin to exercise regularly. Just because you brush your teeth every day doesn’t mean you’re “super into dental hygiene,” although that’s probably a good thing if you happen to be. Think of exercise in this way: it’s just another part of your average day.  

Get to it

giphy (4).gif

Our final piece of advice? Frankly, now’s the time to just stop thinking and start exercising. So hop–step into your sneakers and grab some H20 on your way out the door, because it is time to get physical! Don’t forget to applaud yourself for every workout. And voilà! You’re on your way to starting and maintaining an exercise routine.

 

How to survive a music festival

Summer these days is the time for some serious music festival hopping. Sunshine, friends and good music. What’s not to love?

But festivals are beginning to acquire a bad rep.

They’re sweaty, expensive and exhausting. In fact, it’s not a stretch to consider the similarities between attending a festival and the experience of a hangover. Which is to say, they can both be the actual worst.

But what to do when, despite those inconvenient truths, you still long to turn up starry eyed for your golden performers? Whether you’re rocking this event sober or not, we have some tips for you to have the best summer festival season yet.

How to have the best music festival experience

Shred for stereo

giphy (1).gif

Just kidding. But prepping for a festival physically will probably improve your experience of it. Don’t worry, that doesn’t necessarily mean actually getting fitter! But more along the lines of making sure you’re hydrated, sleeping well the night before, and having a good meal before the event.

If you’re camping out at a festival, sleeping well could prove a little trickier. But there are things you can do to improve the chances of having a good sleep, which is why you should check out these tips for camping at a festival.

When it comes to food, festival meal options are often meagre, and usually gut-wrenchingly expensive. The solution to this problem: snacks. Trail mix, muesli bars and lollies are simple and delicious ways to beat the tummy grumbles without breaking the bank.

Be pragmatic, people! Sunscreen. Water. Snacks. These things seem like no big deal now, but on the day they will *literally* feel like life-savers.

Planning and prioritising

giphy (2).gif

Sigh. Does it sound like we’re turning a fun event into an organisational chore? It really doesn’t have to be! I mean, you probably do this stuff already, but make sure you check out the festival program beforehand.

Does this sound familiar?

“Gah! CC the Cat and the Tinpan Orange are on at the same time‽”

We hate to break it to you, but sometimes, you need to compromise. Prioritise.

Who are you attending the festival with? What’s their taste in music? You’ve got to consider these things before selecting your fam! Maybe even discuss your game plan together before heading in. Goooo team!

Take what you need

giphy (3).gif

You know that feeling, when you’ve been battling it out in the scorching heat for eight hours, and as the sun goes down you begin to feel yourself slow down. Woah. Now you’re feeling it in your bones. This isn’t tiring. It’s bloody exhausting.

A couple of points here. If you feel miserable standing in a mosh pit to get the best spot for an act that is starting in three hours, you don’t have to do it. Isn’t the sole point of this experience to have fun? I mean, don’t get me wrong – I totally get you. I have been there, and will be again. There is some part of our overstimulated, overtired brains at that point in the day that says, “stay, it will be totally worth it!” And it might, but it also might not. I guess it’s a form of FOMO.

Chilling a little further from the stage, near some pals and owning some dancing space – this battle plan is often far more enjoyable.

Taking it further, if you’ve had enough of the event, that’s also cool. There is sometimes a bizarre but powerful force of social energy that keeps us sticking around. But just know that you can bail if you want to. Take what you need from the experience, and then, if you want to, leave.

So think about what you need. Pack your bag (light). And get ready for festival season: we’ve got some exciting Sunday mornings to say “hello” to.

Talking to Dad about alcohol

Ah, dads. We love them. We fight with them. Some of us are them.

giphy.gif

They are the architects of the best/worst jokes known to mankind (depending on your taste). And for many of us, they represent great pillars of strength and sanctuary. Fatherhood is a beautiful thing.

And it can be easy to forget that our dads have lives of their own. Between giving life advice and being consistently overbearing, dads remain in the middle of their own journeys; they have their own lives and hopes and dreams.

When was the last time you asked your dad how he is doing? I mean really asked him. Person to person. Is he struggling with anything at the moment? Does he feel comfortable talking to you about his emotional circumstances? The answer might be no. And that is okay. But chances are that there is a wealth of wisdom lying latent in your dad’s catalogue of personal experiences.

For example, have you ever talked to your dad about his relationship with alcohol? It is a difficult topic to broach, terrifying even. I mean, where do you begin? Honestly, he probably feels the same way as you do, wanting to share his experience but not sure where to begin.

How to talk to your dad about alcohol

Think about what to say

giphy (1).gif

You know when you’re caught in a persistent cycle of thoughts before you’re about to have the conversation you’ve been dreading? Rumination. It can be truly toxic. So don’t let that occur. Just think about the issue vaguely. And then let it go until you have the conversation. If you begin to feel that sensation of dread creeping up on you, stop. Acknowledge it. And move on with your day.

Be gentle, but direct

giphy (3).gif

By this we mean: don’t ambush them with the subject, but also make sure not to beat about the bush. You want to talk turkey and get to the crux of what you want to say. This conversation will, at first, be confronting. Wait for the right time. Take a deep breath. Say the thing.

And believe me, there will come the moment, just before you open your mouth, during which you will want to bolt. Your insides will turn to mush and your voice will be stolen, having dissolved into thin air in a split second. But that is okay. You’ve got this.

Begin the conversation: share something about yourself

giphy (5).gif

But how to actually begin the conversation? There are many ways you could approach the topic, and the best for you may vary depending on your relationship with your dad. But generally, a good tip is to share something about your experience with the issue. So you could say something like “I have been thinking a lot about my relationship to alcohol lately. I have realised that it has been really valuable for me to reflect on it.” In your own words, of course, but you get the idea. Saying something personal demonstrates to the other person that you are comfortable (or maybe uncomfortable, but open to) being vulnerable around them.

father_cry
Illustration by The Oatmeal

In her TED talk, Dr. Brene Brown discusses the power of vulnerability. It is exceptionally difficult to let yourself be vulnerable in front of others. To be vulnerable is gutsy. To be vulnerable is brave.

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen,” says Dr. Brown. Letting ourselves be vulnerable. And, she adds, “staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” Which, many have argued, is sort of the point of everything. We are wired to connect to other people, it’s one of the things that has enabled humans to be so successful as a species.

Plus, even though we don’t talk about it, most of us are actively seeking those honest human connections. We are looking to have more meaningful conversations, even though it often feels as though we are caught in a rut of small talk.

When it comes to talking to Dad, being vulnerable and having these talks can feel extra harrowing. Dads are tough. Dads embody masculinity. For many of us, their support can feel like a emotional sanctuary. And this remains true.

Although we’re often taught the opposite, being emotional is tough. Being open and unguarded is the most mortal and powerful things we can do.

Humour

giphy (6).gif

Despite having raved about how difficult this is in the past few paragraphs, this conversation will ultimately be wonderful. Strange, scary, wonderful. All of it. So don’t be afraid to be yourself. Use a bit of humour, be engaged and excited to be having this discussion. In fact, laughter is even suggested to be great way to get people to open up.

Laugh about how scared you were to have this conversation. Laugh about how difficult all of this is.

Don’t assume anything

giphy (4).gif

And finally, don’t make any assumptions about where the conversation will go. We project so many of our personal biases onto other people, all of which are based on our personal experience of the world. And we sometimes forget that we will never completely know people. We know things about them. We know what they like and what they dislike. But no person will ever completely know what is going on inside the brain of another. So don’t assume anything. Let yourself be surprised.

So, this Father’s Day, have a difficult conversation with him, and give him the gift of connection.

 

How to host a dinner party

Dinner is about far more than sustenance. Birthdays, work meetings and first dates; our most important moments in life occur over dinner. In fact, the ritual of mealtime can be truly nourishing and meaningful.

So just what are the key ‘ingredients’ to hosting the best dinner party around town? We’ve got the recipe.

Step 1: Plan it in advance

giphy

It is crucial to plan. But unless you are planning a wedding, this needn’t be a monster of a task to plan months in advance. How many people, how much food, what kind of food, location, budget and so on. Plan to know what’s coming up.

Step 2: The basics

giphy (1)

When

When will you be hosting this dinner party? Ask a few prospective guests and make sure there are no big events or birthdays around then.

Where

Do you have enough space at your place? Or can you hold it inside or outside? What will the weather be like?

There are no textbook answers to these questions. Some like to host parties in smaller spaces that feel cosy, occupied and busy. Decide what you prefer and what options are available for you.

Who

Now, consider your invitees. You want a good number of people cosying around your dining table. You will want to consider whether they will all get along. Consider no-shows and plus-ones.

The food

Now for the exciting bit! What enticing delicacies will you serve up? Key thing to remember here is that you don’t want to be too busy cooking on the night, so consider dishes that you can make in advanceAnd a useful tip: avoid crazy dishes that you have never made before. This could very well equal disaster and a last minute run to the local takeaway. Know that complicated dishes are not necessarily more impressive than simple meals made with good ingredients and a whole lot of love!

Have you thought about dietary requirements? You’ll need to factor these things into your food set list too. As a fail safe, maybe try to have a vegetarian/vegan alternative in case there are any guerilla herbivores in the mix.

You can even look into recipes suggested specifically for dinner parties.

Step 3: The big day

giphy (2)

On the night

One of the most difficult things to do: relax and have fun.

Even though (inevitably) you’ll have half your mind on your schedule and other hosting duties, try to be present and savour everything going on around you. While it may seem that your duty is to feed your guests, in reality it is for you to spend time with them. Don’t start to clean up mid-event; you can get to it later, and hopefully with a bit of help!  

Don’t stress

Despite all your wonderful planning, expect things to go wrong at the last minute. Learn to adapt. That’s part of the fun! Self-professed “maniacal-perfectionist” and homemaker extraordinaire Martha Stewart says wisely, “So, the pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges.” Stay in control and never panic.  

Try to expect the unexpected. The first guest will arrive early. You’ll encounter an unexpected dietary requirement. Children will make a mess. These things happen! But if you’re well prepared, you’ll still be able to kick back and have a blast while you’re at it being an excellent host.

Quoting, again for her dinner-party savvy, ol’ Martha Stew, “there is no single recipe for success. But there is one essential ingredient: passion.” Just add the final garnishing touches, and voilà: you’re hosting a dinner party!