Dr Emma L Davies is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University, UK. In this article, she updates us on a project that started as a result of a post on this blog. On the 22nd June 2016, I published a post on this blog called ‘Reflections on sober raving: alcohol free fun for further research? This post is about what happened next.
The post that started it all
The original post was about alcohol-free events that involve music and dancing, often described as ‘sober raves’ or ‘conscious-clubbing’ events. At conscious-clubbing events, the experiences are enjoyed without alcohol and other drugs. The term conscious-clubbing puts this kind of event in opposition to clubs and festivals where alcohol and other drugs are used to enhance experiences and interactions between people. A wide range of different types of events can be considered ‘conscious-clubbing’ and people have enjoyed these for many years for spiritual reasons and to improve wellness. However, our current focus was on early morning raves, and evening events that might appeal to a student population. Such events might replace a more traditional club night out with alcohol and other drugs, and perhaps mean that a person was consuming less alcohol overtime than they usually would.
I originally wrote my blog post after attending a conscious-clubbing event in 2016, having reflected on the potential psychological benefits, such as feeling connected to other people, and improving well-being. I also wondered about how attending such events, even if only semi-regularly, might influence an individual’s alcohol consumption during other events. For example, would experiencing oneself as a non-drinker and still being able to have a good time, lead to a positive view of being a non-drinker on other occasions? At the end of the post I invited people who were interested in the topic to get in touch to chat about possible research projects.
The research team
Following the blog post, the following people got in touch and we started to discuss research ideas:
Kyle Brown is a Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University, UK.
Joanne Smith is a (nearly completed) PhD student at Northumbria University, UK.
Mattias Johannsson is a Senior Lecturer at Örebro University, Sweden.
Kimberley Hill is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Northampton, UK.
After my initial unsuccessful attempt to secure some funding for the research, we decided to proceed with a small unfunded study. We received ethical approval from Birmingham City University, to explore a) people’s experiences of attending conscious-clubbing events, and b) attitudes towards these events and their acceptability to young people.
Kimberley, Joanne and Mattias are in the process of conducting interviews to explore experiences of people attending the events. So far, these interviews have been fascinating and suggest the range and depth of benefits that conscious clubbers are gaining. Kimberley said:
“Hearing from individuals who taking part in conscious clubbing or sober raves has been truly fascinating. These interviews have focused in depth on the in-depth transpersonal and transformational experiences of those taking part in these events. In particular, many individuals have described these events as life-changing, as they are helping them overcome substance abuse or addiction, form long-lasting friendships and improving their health and wellbeing. It is clear that these events have implications for future prevention interventions and we are looking forward to disseminating our findings. We would love to hear from you, so if you go to any of these events please get in touch. We are interested in hearing from people of any age and from any country to inform this exploratory work”.
We conducted an online survey at the start of 2018 to explore attitudes and acceptability of conscious clubbing events. In total, 281 people from the United Kingdom took part (80% women, mean age 22 years (SD = 7.65)). We have just submitted a chapter to an edited book, which reports some of these findings. We are also just about to submit a journal paper reporting the remainder of the findings. One of the most interesting implications of these findings relates to people’s resistance to events that do not involve alcohol. This seems to be particularly problematic in terms of dancing. Many participants report that they need to be drunk to be able to enjoy dancing. Attitudes towards conscious clubbing events were negatively correlated with alcohol consumption. In other words, people with heavy alcohol use may be less likely to find them acceptable. However, for participants who regularly attend conscious clubbing events, the benefits appear wide ranging. They report feeling connections with others, and feeling joyful and free. Perhaps getting people through the door on the first occasion may be the hardest step.
Existing dance interventions aimed at young people have shown promising positive results on mood, wellbeing, self-concept, body awareness and reduction of symptoms of anxiety and depression1 2. For example, students who took part in a four week Biodanza intervention showed significant reductions in stress and depression compared to a wait list control group3. Findings such as these further cement the idea of pursing research into the conscious clubbing experience.
Our intention is to use the findings from our initial research studies to inform the development of an intervention that might increase the number of nights out without drinking. Following a talk that Kyle and myself gave at the UK National Union of Students Alcohol Impact Conference earlier in 2018, we have made contact with some student groups who are interested in taking this forward.
Watch this space for another update in 2020! Until then, we hope you have many opportunities to enjoy music and dancing with or without drinking.
About the author:
Dr Emma L Davies is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health at Oxford Brookes University. She conducts research into young people’s health and wellbeing, with a specific focus on exploring behaviour change theories, intervention design, and reducing alcohol misuse. You can find her on Twitter @I_am_emma or email her at: edavies[at]brookes.ac.uk.
- Connolly, M. K.,Quin, E., & Redding, E. (2011). dance 4 your life: exploring the health andwell‐being implications of a contemporary dance intervention for femaleadolescents. Research in Dance Education,12(1), 53-66. doi: 10.1080/14647893.2011.561306fff [↩]
- Duberg, A.,Hagberg, L., Sunvisson, H., & Moller, M. (2013). Influencing self-ratedhealth among adolescent girls with dance intervention: a randomized controlledtrial. JAMA Pediatr, 167(1), 27-31.doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.421fffffffff [↩]
- Lopez-Rodriguez, M. M.,Baldrich-Rodriguez, I., Ruiz-Muelle, A., Cortes-Rodriguez, A. E.,Lopezosa-Estepa, T., & Roman, P. (2017). Effects of Biodanza onStress, Depression, and Sleep Quality in University Students. J Altern Complement Med, 23(7), 558-565.doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0365 [↩]