The world we live in is a hectic one. As we all struggle to negotiate our way through jostling crowds to get to work, facing a day spend fighting to be heard once we are there only to do it all again on our way home, it can be easy to find yourself feeling lost, disconnected, and alone. For many, to escape is to switch off when we finally make it home- not just our electronic devices, but also our minds.
This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.
Whether it’s staring blankly at a TV screen, numbly eating snacks without tasting anything, or somehow how finishing a bottle of wine despite only remembering drinking a glass (or, indeed, all three of these vices) we’re all guilty of wanting this escapism from our crazy, 90-mile-an-hour lives. But don’t we deserve better than this?
Even for people like me, who enjoy wine for its character, there’s a certain degree of wariness about it. It’s alcoholic, after all; something health professionals warn against, government creates statistics about, and peers pass judgment on. But if we abandoned these paralysing worries, and instead embraced the good side of wine- its rich history, its ability to bring people together, the medical studies that have shown it’s actually good for us in moderation- we might be able to understand how wine can, and very much does, have a beautiful part to play in our lives, if we just open our arms to it.
Imagine this, for a moment. At the start of every day, you are given £86,400. No strings, no hidden requirements - that’s your money. The only condition is that at midnight, it will disappear. You can’t accrue the money from day to day, so what would you do with it?
As it happens, you are given 86,400 of something each day. Time.
There are 86,400 seconds in every day, and each one is a gift that you have to accept, but cannot keep. They shouldn’t be glued down with a cheap bottle of wine bought for the sake of drinking it.
Wine is a thing to be passionate about, and you don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy it. Whether it’s a £5 bottle from Tesco, or a vintage Bordeaux, a wine will always have a voice that you can listen to. Mindful drinking is about engaging the senses, being present, and turning the act of drinking into an event in itself. Take a sip. Wonder at how the wine went from grapes on a wine to the glass in your hands, and let the its smells and flavours wash over you, erasing the day’s worries like footprints on a beach. Enjoy a glass alone, or pair it with food. Notice the differences when you do. Copy the continentals, and praise wine as the social thing, the family thing, the celebratory thing that is so very much is. Ponder how Spain, Italy, France and so many other countries, consider wine an essential for every occasion, to be drunk at any time of the day- and yet, they have so fewer problems with it.
Statistics for the UK, however, are promising. Our younger generation drink less, but spend more overall - leaving the “all or nothing” approach behind, in favour of quality over quantity. Nobody’s perfect of course - yours truly is still liable to a hard and fast approach to alcohol consumption every now and then. But when it comes to wine, at least, I’ve learnt the value of taking my time.
These days, mindful drinking is an ever-growing trend, but it has been around for a while. Articles on the topic point towards Buddhism as a source, believe it or not. Whilst monks of old were not encouraged to drink, some modern-day members prefer to combine their journey of spiritual health with the comfortable enjoyment of a glass of vino. Which is more than okay, and we have a lot to learn from their practises.
Like the other mindfulness techniques of yoga and meditation, mindful drinking aims to help the drinker reduce stress, soothe anxieties, reflect on the day’s events and look forward to the future, whilst also fully experiencing the joy of the present. The latter is a habit that we, the jittery, dissatisfied, over-worked and over-stressed generations, need to relearn.
Perhaps, by practising things like mindfulness, we can prevent ourselves from forming unhealthy relationships with the things that that are placed in front of us every day; alcohol, food, social media and TV. Mindful drinking isn’t a substitute for an alcohol recovery problem, but it is certainly a way that most of us can engage with a- let’s be honest, very popular- fraction of social life, in a healthy way from the very start. It’s one that isn’t difficult to start, costs nothing, yet offers so much in return.
And it’s never too late to begin. The next time you sit down with a glass of wine, try it. Like I said before, you don’t need to know anything about wine to enjoy doing it; if you sit down with your partner and hark on about “bouquets” and agree that all you can actually taste is slightly sour grapes, that’s okay. What’s happening is you are staying in the present, enjoying the moment rather than shutting down like a machine after the work day is done with you. Relish the passing of those 86,400 seconds, and look forward to waking up tomorrow with a fresh start… and possibly another bottle to discover.
Happy mindful drinking, everyone!