Mindful Drinking is Here to Stay
We sat down with Sunnyside Co-Founder Ian Andersen, and here's what he had to say.
The topic of mindfulness and more specifically, mindful drinking has been growing over the past couple of years.
It’s not all that surprising that more and more people are becoming more interested in this movement, especially after having to deal with a mentally exhausting few years in the pandemic.
"Athletic has led a shift towards mindful drinking without sacrificing quality,” says Co-Founder and CEO, Bill Shufelt. “Thirty percent of US adults drink no alcohol and of those who do, 30 percent drink less than one alcoholic drink a week. Consumers want great tasting, refreshing craft beer without the alcohol or hangover and Athletic has proven time and time again that we will pave the way in the industry."
Here at Athletic Brewing, we want to celebrate every positive decision you make for your lifestyle. Many people developed strong habits around drinking, and in many cases, excessive alcohol consumption rose signficantly.
In order to better understand this movement, we spoke with Co-Founder at Sunnyside, Ian Andersen. I asked him several questions about Sunnyside, mindful drinking, and strategies you can apply to your own life in order to be more mindful.
Here’s what he had to say:
What is Sunnyside and what made you want to start the company?
“My co-founder Nick and I started Sunnyside in October of 2020. We were looking for a solution that would help us drink more mindfully. We were getting older, and we wanted to start adjusting our own habits and relationship with alcohol. So we started to investigate what was out there in the market, and we were surprised to find that the only options that really existed were focused around quitting drinking or sobriety.
There wasn’t much in terms of moderation and mindfulness. We wanted something that would help us track and plan our alcohol consumption, much like you would do with a fitness or diet tracker, like Noom, or Headspace. We wanted something that could fit in our overall health toolkit.
So at that point, the lightbulb kind of went off for us. Nick went ahead and created a text message based system as a small trial. We rounded up a few of his buddies to get some early feedback. And it was really positive. We realized that there are millions of US adults who drink, but don’t necessarily want to quit drinking entirely, but rather want to cut back on their drinking and create healthier habits in general.”
What is mindful drinking and why is it important?
“Mindful drinking can take different forms for different people. I think of it as a way of drinking and enjoying alcohol by really reflecting and optimizing your own consumption in a way that fits your lifestyle and your own personal health goals.
With Sunnyside specifically, a lot of our members are simply trying to develop healthier habits for when they do choose to drink.
So mindful drinking is really a way to be more present when you are consuming alcohol- and understanding how alcohol is impacting you in the moment, so that you can enjoy the experience of drinking more, instead of letting it get away from you.
Mindful drinking is also about understanding why you’re drinking. For some people it’s a fun social activity, and for others it’s a way to unwind at the end of the day. Some people also have a drink as a nightcap to help them fall asleep.
But the potential issue with some of these behaviors around drinking, is that they can become habit-forming overtime. With a more mindful approach, you can start examining whether or not you really need those habits and rituals in your life. And so it comes down to being able to carefully draw the connection between your own behaviors, your health goals and your drinking patterns.
Nick and I still enjoy drinking, but by practicing more mindful habits we can be more intentional about how much we are consuming.”
What’s the difference between mindful drinking and moderate drinking?
“When we speak about moderation, it’s much more quantifiable. Moderate drinking is a way to specifically drink less. But mindfulness really lets you become present and understand how alcohol connects to your mind and your body. In a nutshell, you could say that moderation is a measure of quantity, whereas mindfulness is a measure of quality.”
Why didn’t you take the sobriety route?
“For 3 months I did completely stop drinking, and I felt amazing after that time. But for me, drinking has a lot to do with connecting with people. So I didn’t want to lose the parts I enjoyed about drinking.
I personally like dive bars and the experience of them. I think there’s this romanticized idea around drinking in a dive bar that is relaxing to me.
In college a lot of social activities revolved around drinking, so I have also seen my friend group from college transition from always making plans that involved drinking, to now drinking much less and trying to find opportunities for connection without the alcohol.
The interesting thing now is that when we do drink, it’s much more special and can amplify our get-togethers, rather than becoming a crutch for these social situations.”
What are some tips and strategies for more mindful drinking?
1) Find a confidante
My first suggestion would be to find a confidante. Someone who you can trust. One of the biggest challenges cited from Sunnyside members is that they struggle to cut back on their drinking, because their friend group might be heavier drinkers.
But it’s unrealistic and problematic to try and just find new friends. I was in a similar situation, but I decided to talk to one of my closest friends who I often enjoy drinking with, and was just direct and honest with him about my desire to cut back on drinking. I framed it more about how I wanted to improve my connection with him.
So we decided that we would drink less together and it kind of became this mission for both of us and our friendship is a lot stronger because of it.
2) Explore non-alcoholic options
Next, I would introduce non-alcoholic drink alternatives into social settings for yourself, but also as a way to introduce new ideas to your friends.
Whether that means trying out a mocktail, or an non-alcoholic beer like Athletic Brewing Co, which is actually one of my favorite non-alcoholic beer options. When I was younger my dad would drink non-alcoholic beers, but those options just tasted like sugar water.
But brands are getting way more creative and innovative with how these non-alcoholic options are crafted. And I think Athletic has really done a great job of creating low-calorie options that actually taste really great!
3) Make a Plan and Communicate it
Talking about your plan with someone in advance to a night out can be really empowering and a fun challenge. Creating a plan is one part, but having someone keep you accountable is a great way to be more mindful and avoid going too overboard.
And it’s in no way admitting you have a problem, but being able to communicate that you want to change some of the behaviors that leave you feeling less than perfect the next day.
How do companies like Athletic Brewing fit into the mindful drinking movement?
One of the ways that I think Athletic Brewing fits so well into the mindful drinking space, and feels particularly special, is because they are trying to replicate the craft beer experience without losing the quality of ingredients.
I truly feel that at the end of the day if you pop open a can of Athletic beer, you’re getting the same ritual of opening a beer. And you’re getting the experience you would get from a traditional IPA without sacrificing taste.
Having more options like Athletic means it becomes a lot easier to balance your fridge or your bar with something else you can reach for that is a non-alcoholic option.
And ultimately, companies like Athletic Brewing are introducing consumers to new options that they didn’t really know they had access to. It’s incredibly important too, and as more consumers start seeing these options in places where they typically purchase alcohol, it expands the opportunity for people to find balance and reduce some of the stigmas around drinking less.
Where to go to learn more about mindful drinking?
For anyone who wants to learn more about mindful drinking, I would naturally recommend visiting Sunnyside’s website.
Sunnyside offers a service that is a monthly subscription to help people proactively cut back on their drinking, without the pressure to quit. We also offer a lot of resources including our Mindful Drinking 101 guide that is referenced earlier. And if you have any specific questions you can always reach out to us for recommendations!
Mindful drinking is something that should be considered a long-term journey and lifestyle choices. Practicing better drinking habits has its ups and downs, but over time it can be something that really improves your sense of wellbeing.
You can find out if Sunnyside is the right choice for you by taking the 3-minute quiz, so that you can start building healthier drinking habits!