When Happy Hour is No Longer a Happy Place: The Healthy Alternatives

Happy hour at a favorite bar can mean letting off steam, meeting new people, or simply just forgetting a tough day at work, and all for a lower price. But, for some, going to a bar for happy hour is never a good idea. Although millions indulge in this pastime, a rapidly growing number of individuals find the same level of enjoyment—and no accompanying hangover—by engaging in social activities that don’t involve drinking.

The Interesting History of Happy Hour

The term “happy hour” was born in the early 19th century, and described the time of day when boxing and wrestling matches would occur onboard U.S. Navy ships. It wouldn’t become associated with alcohol until the Prohibition era of the 1920s when determined drinkers enjoyed a libation or two at a speakeasy before dinner in a law-abiding, “dry” restaurant. By the 1960s, happy hour was widespread, complete with drink specials and entertainment, thus making it a regular post-work, pre-dinner activity for many.

Alcoholics and Bars Don’t Mix

Coworkers will often go to happy hour together after work to wind down and socialize. However, this can pose a dilemma for 12.7% of Americans identified by a recent JAMA Psychiatry study as having alcohol use disorder (AUD).1 Not going means missing out on the conversation and after-work bonding, but going can mean that temptation is everywhere.

There are ways for alcoholics to enjoy their time at happy hour without alcohol; for example, they can simply drink water or soda, or order a “virgin” version of a popular drink. However, for others, just being in a bar can be triggering and impossible to avoid temptation.

Healthy Happy Hour Alternatives

There are many other after-work activities besides drinking that allow coworkers to socialize and enjoy some downtime, and which ensure that no one misses out on the opportunity to get to know coworkers better.

Get Physical

two girls nordic walking for exerciseWalking, jogging, yoga, and cycling are all great ways to socialize with coworkers without drinking. The reward, instead of the buzz from alcohol, is a rush of feel-good endorphins that come from getting exercise. Another bonus? These activities also benefit everyone’s health.

Learn Something or Get Creative

Local art galleries and museums can offer coworkers the opportunity to move, as well as learn about and discuss history or art. The bonus here is the mental stimulation, which can be ideal for coworkers in creative teams. The same is true of attending a crafting or cooking class.

A Group Pampering Session

Instead of drinking, a pampering retreat can be a highly rewarding, healthy alternative. A good massage, pedicure, or manicure can make everyone look and feel good, as well as allow for plenty of bonding time. An early dinner at a fancy restaurant or shopping at a high-end store can also count.

Professional Support at BlueCrest Recovery Center

For recovering alcoholics, professional drug and alcohol outpatient treatment is the best compliment to your efforts to live a healthier lifestyle. BlueCrest Recovery Center’s outpatient program helps those post alcohol detox involves a holistic approach to recovery by treating the mind, body, and spirit; call 888.292.9652 to learn more.


  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2647079

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