In small doses, alcohol is celebrated for creating pleasurable feelings and reducing negative emotions. Unfortunately, the drug’s effects can lead people to overindulge, resulting in health problems and addiction.
As such, there are a variety of reasons to reassess your relationship with alcohol. Whether you feel like you’re developing a dependency or simply want to take a break, here are some proven methods for cutting back on your drinking.
Make A Plan
The first step to curbing your alcohol intake is to brainstorm an achievable strategy. If you’ve tried and failed to cut back in the past, this might require smaller steps, such as setting a drink limit for the week, or choosing days in which you won’t consume any alcohol. 1
Even if your relationship with alcohol is healthy and you’re drinking less for a fundraiser (such as “Dry Feb” or “Sober October”), it’s smart to keep your expectations practical. Setting your goals too high and prohibiting alcohol altogether might undermine your chances of success.
Write Everything Down
Start a journal to outline your strategy and track your progress. Keeping a tally of how many drinks you consume and when you have them will help you stay focused and accountable. If pen and paper aren’t your thing, a number of free apps can help you monitor your intake. 2
Taking detailed notes can also identify triggers that urge you to drink in the first place. Do you tend to drink when engaged in certain behaviors or activities? Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) warns its members to avoid getting too angry, tired, lonesome, or hungry, as those moods can make people vulnerable to cravings 3.
Remove Alcohol From The House
Here’s an obvious one! Keeping your home booze-free is a quick way to avoid the temptation of alcohol. If getting a drink requires leaving the house and traveling – a lot farther than the nearby fridge, at least – you’ll be less likely to indulge.
Maintaining a safe distance from alcohol is just as important when you’re away from home. Make an effort to avoid places, people, and stimuli that make you want a drink. If you determine that your drinking is related to daily stresses and anxieties, explore new ways of coping with those emotions. This leads us to the next step…
Try New Things
If drinking has become something of a hobby for you, it’s crucial that you replace the activity with something else. While that “something else” could be a non-alcoholic drink, the idea is to reclaim an activity which gives you pleasure – thereby providing feel-good moments.
Exercise may take more physical effort than raising a glass, but it provides a better release of dopamine than alcohol is capable of 4. If getting a sweat on isn’t your cup of tea, no worries! Even going for a walk outside can counter a craving and take your mind off having that drink.
Other proven ways of improving your mood, while steering clear of alcohol, include watching a good film, catching up with a friend, or getting reacquainted with your artistic side. Grab that sketchpad, or take up a musical instrument. After all, curbing your drinking is an opportunity to enrich your life.
A growing trend among the health-conscious crowd is mindful drinking, which promotes “thinking while drinking” in order to gauge the role that alcohol plays in your life. 5 For example: Are you drinking for the sake of drinking, or to complement a social moment with others?
To initiate this mindful approach, it’s encouraged to time out your drinks. “Aim to make a single drink last at least 45 minutes, and ideally an hour,” says psychologist Michael Levy. 6 Interestingly, slowing down your consumption rate will increase your enjoyment of the beverage.
Another tip implores drinkers to pause between each drink. Instead of finishing one drink and pouring another, ask yourself if you really need more alcohol. Mindful drinkers treat the pause between drinks with real reverence, as it’s a chance to reflect on what they’re doing.
Don’t Give Up
Most people who successfully scale back or quit drinking altogether only manage to do so after several attempts. 7 So don’t let a minor setback derail your desire for a healthier relationship with alcohol.
There has never been a better time to reevaluate your drinking habit, as numerous resources are available to help you find a personalized approach. Whether you need an in-person group like AA, or the online connections of the “sober curious” movement, a variety of guides can help you take the next step in curbing your alcohol consumption.