Imagine a typical holiday party: You and your friends, dressed to impress, feeling celebratory and reflecting on the best parts of the past year, and maybe even talking about your goals for the next one. There’s food, laughter, and probably alcohol.

For most of us, there’s some drinking involved in our yearly holiday celebrations, whether it’s beer or wine over dinner or a celebratory toast at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. A little bit of drinking is an essential part of many cherished holiday traditions, and we have a hard time imagining our end-of-year celebrations without that glass of wine (or three).

Most of the time, this drinking is simple fun. It loosens us up, helps us enjoy ourselves, and it makes that joke of Uncle Bob’s that you’ve heard a thousand times seem funny again. What we often forget (or choose to ignore), though, is that even light social drinking can have negative effects on our minds and bodies.

In the short term, having a few drinks can slow your reaction time, impair your judgment, and change or exaggerate your behavior and emotions. And, though many people think of drinking as a way to liven up a party, alcohol is actually a depressant, and for people already feel down during the holidays, drinking can make those negative feelings even worse.

Alcohol consumption (and we’re still talking about occasional, light drinking here) also has negative effects on the rest of your body. Just like it can depress your energy and mood, alcohol can also weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infection and illness. In older adults, these effects are even more pronounced, since the body’s water content goes down as we age, meaning that the alcohol will be less diluted once it’s consumed and will build up in the bloodstream faster.

Now, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, and I’m not suggesting that alcohol is evil. I personally love to enjoy a few glasses of wine while I celebrate the holidays with friends and family, and drinking red wine is part of many of my favorite holiday traditions.

What I am saying is that our bodies, our emotional wellbeing, and our overall health are incredibly valuable, and that mindfulness is an essential part of living a happy, healthy, balanced life. The choices you make create the life you live, and if you’re looking for a way to improve the way you think and feel this holiday season, paying more attention to what you put into your body is an excellent place to start.

What does this mean for holiday celebrations?

It means that if drinking alcohol makes you feel tired, amplifies your negative emotions, causes you to do or say things you later regret, or gives you unpleasant hangovers the next day, you can take a stand for your own wellbeing and opt for something non-alcoholic instead. If people ask questions, just light-heartedly explain that drinking alcohol can sometimes diminish your happiness and energy and that you want to be at your best. Chances are, they’ll understand, but even if they look at you like you’ve lost your mind, don’t let it faze you.

Remember that you are always in charge of your own body. (Isn’t it a little funny and tragic how much peer pressure persists long after high school ends?) You are the one who will ultimately benefit or suffer from your choices, and you always get to decide what’s best for your mind and body.

So, whether or not you choose to join in on the holiday toasts, take the time to practice mindfulness in all of your choices this holiday season, and remember that you have the power to create a positive, healthy, and happy life.

Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D. is an expert in personal and professional reinvention, authentic living, communication, and a lifestyle that focuses on holistic health of the mind, body and spirit. She is the author of Switch: Time for a Change, a memoir of her journey from holistic practitioner to professional dominatrix at 55-years-old after losing everything, and her passion and purpose is to empower others towards healthy authentic living. To learn more about Sandra and receive your FREE eBook “5 Steps for Better Communication, Sex, and Happiness (Did I mention better sex?) visit www.sandralamorgese.com.