In the olden days, it used to be that many dads never had to change a diaper and that bars, booze and poker nights were the norms for male bonding rituals. Thankfully, modern manhood offers a much wider range of experiences, including the healthier option of bonding without booze.

Still, old norms die hard, even in modern times. Many men have learned in college or their early adult years that the best place to meet potential mates was out at a bar or at a party where people got drunk, dressed provocatively and looked for the next notch on the bedpost. When someone has become habituated to this way of socializing, it can seem impossible to socialize without a drink in their hand. (Learn how alcohol treatment at FHE Health is helping people bond without booze and live healthier and happier lives.)

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The Case for Finding Other Ways to Bond Besides Booze

Yet the negative effects and consequences of boozing are often harder to deny as times goes by. With greater maturity (and hopefully more wisdom), it is easier to see how alcohol may have adversely impacted one’s judgment and emotions, sometimes leading to missteps and embarrassing moments.

A real-life example from my college days – That first drink or shot to calm anxiety turns into the annoying guy who is loud, aggressive, or worse, crying in the corner. Follow that with the nasty hangover, the tired and worn-out feelings and missing work on a Monday, and there is no denying that the previous night of boozing may not be the best thing for one’s health and wellbeing. But what to do?

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Consider Drinking Less or an Alcohol-Free Lifestyle

It may be time to consider drinking less or an alcohol-free lifestyle. Being a “modern man” means a lot of things. Whether dating or in a relationship, remember that good thing do not lie at the bottom of a bottle. No relationship, career or health guru will give the advice to “drink more” to be more successful.

Culture has changed to emphasize health, activity and exercise. There also remain the perennial benefits of having a better body and appearance. Studies have shown that people who are “attractive” (a loose term that does not require the looks of a Chris Hemsworth) tend to succeed more than “unattractive” people—in many avenues of life.

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In other words, there are many great incentives to adopt a sober lifestyle. They can provide the motivation needed to begin implementing healthier habits.

8 Tips for Bonding Without Booze

While motivation is an important ingredient in a successfully sober lifestyle, it is not the only one. To be successful, many people also need help with the “how” of bonding without booze. Here are some tips that may help:

1. Try a one-month experiment

If you have not tried an alcohol-free, social life, it may feel more manageable to try experimenting with sobriety for one month (as opposed to forever). While you are at it, try some new ways to connect with others in more meaningful ways (activities that will pay off more than hanging at the bar every night).

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2. Get active

Joining a fitness-related group is a great way to meet people who are looking to improve themselves and be healthy.

3. Do something other than sitting and drinking

People feel more positive when they are moving. Having an active date rather than a passive one can make people feel more upbeat and engaged and might be a plus for your interaction.

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4. Sober = Remembering

If you cannot remember the name of someone you met at a bar, your contacts list could be full of names with no recollection, and you may have been too drunk to get the most out of your social time. If you keep your booze to a minimum or lose it altogether, you are going to have better chances at good connections. You just make better choices (whether it is a friend, a mate, or a colleague). You also will be in control and more likely to avoid a black mark in someone else’s contact list.

5. Sober people are way more interesting

Being sober can make you a better listener— (drinkers tend to do a lot more talking than listening)— and people tend to respond more positively when they feel listened to. Attentiveness can increase a person’s attractiveness and make them way more interesting to others.

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6. Hang with the winners

People who get ahead are out there doing things. Getting involved in activities culturally, spiritually, or for fun means that you are with people who could be good connections to other good things. While you can still meet good people at a bar or a party with alcohol, your chances of connecting to that next job or serious relationship are probably better when you are not tipsy. (Just watch the guy at a company party who gets drunk…probably not the boss’ pick for that promotion).

7. Learn to be yourself

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Not drinking to become more social, more at ease, more something, means you have to get to know yourself. Dealing with anxieties in a sober way can open up all sorts of doors. If you are tied to a drink to “make you okay,” that is a slippery slope. Just ask the guy who drank before his wedding, and see what the bride said. Maybe being nervous is better than falling down. Just saying.

8. Enjoy being more fulfilled

At the end of the day, lives that are full with good things are also richer. This is not to say that people who drink are bad or that they cannot function, but a person’s quality of life correlates with how they spend their time. If someone drinks a lot in order to be social, is that a good use of their time (the most important commodity)? When you get active, take care of yourself, and truly connect with interests and others, life is just better. And another thing: Happy people have better relationships.

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A Concluding Challenge

Bonding without booze is possible, so why not give it a try? If alcohol is a necessity like air, money or water, then life should pretty quickly go downhill without it. If you can find a way to not need it (and maybe occasionally imbibe), then you will be more in control and will have more chances of getting to where you want to go, developing better relationships both professionally and socially and putting your best foot forward. Learning how to bond without booze can be an opportunity to be a stand-up guy who gets noticed for the right things and not the wrong.

Consider this final challenge. If you are not in a relationship, go to a dating website or to Facebook and take a look at the pictures and profiles. Notice how they make you feel. Which pictures elicit more of a positive impression or sense of connection? The pictures of people jogging, playing in the park with their dog or at a nice restaurant dressed up, or the pictures of people drunk or hungover?

Now take a look at those pictures of you, whether in your phone, Facebook, etc. Which ones would you send to a potential employer or to your mom? Those pictures can tell you a lot about what matters and who and what you want to be.

The article is provided by Dr. Beau A. Nelson, DBH, LCSW, Chief Clinical Officer at the national behavioral health provider FHE Health.

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