It’s not an easy task, especially if drinking alcohol is the norm for you, but it is possible to make a change which will significantly benefit your health and well-being. Here is some advice on how to begin cutting back on alcohol.
Set Clear Goals
Setting clear goals can help you achieve any objective you’re working towards. Whether you want to cut back on alcohol for health reasons or for financial reasons, it’s useful to decide exactly what you want to achieve, being as specific as possible.
Start setting your realistic goals by writing down the maximum number of drinks you want to consume each day and the maximum number of days a week you want to drink. This is a more realistic place to start than going ‘cold turkey’ on day one.
Having a writing plan will help you stay motivated as you can refer to why you want to cut back on alcohol. Keeping this motivation for making this change in mind will help maintain your efforts whenever you’re feeling low.
We recommend recording your drinks to help reduce or slow down drinking by keeping notes on your phone or in a notepad when you’re out. In addition to counting the number of drinks you’re consuming, it’s also important to ensure you’re aware of what you’re drinking. Accurately measuring the volume of alcohol and its strength will help you track how much you’ve drunk; this is key if your goal is to drink within the recommended guidelines.
Some people may find it useful to sip their drinks slowly or by ensuring that they limit themselves to one drink per hour. Studies have found that drinking alcohol quickly puts you at a greater risk of misusing alcohol and developing a dependence on the substance. Drinking a non-alcohol drink in between each of your alcoholic drinks is another helpful way to slow down your consumption and reduce the effects of a hangover.
It’s a bad idea to drink on an empty stomach; eating can also reduce any cravings for alcohol, so you may find it useful to try and replace when you’d normally have a drink with eating something to fulfil that craving. This is also true when substituting your drinking with a hobby or something that will occupy your time when you’d usually be drinking. Try exercising, making new friends, spending more time with family and friends, or starting a new hobby.
Plan for Triggers
Many people associate certain times of the day or certain people with consuming alcohol. The most common times are after work, special events, or nights out with friends; however, some situations are more likely to trigger an urge to drink excessively than others.
It’s common to crave alcohol when you’re feeling down, finding it difficult to sleep, feeling stressed, having argued, trying to relax, or when others around you are drinking. Over time, you’ll notice your drinking triggers and can document them alongside your plan so that you can be more aware of them and plan for how to get through these moments.
It can be useful to change your habits, adjust your routine, or find better ways to deal with stress than resorting to alcohol. Avoiding certain places, people, and activities that you associate with alcohol will make it much easier to cut back on drinking.
Exercising produces a euphoric feeling during and after a session. This has been proven to improve the mood of people who excessively drink as this increase in endorphins acts as an inhibitory factor to consuming alcohol. Regular exercise will also help improve your physical and psychological well-being, which is crucial when attempting to make significant changes in your lifestyle, particularly when cutting back on alcohol.
Although drinking alcohol reduces your fitness performance, if you work hard at improving your physical fitness through exercising and eating a healthier diet, you’ll find this to be effective in combatting your excessive drinking whilst counteracting some of the many negative health impacts alcohol causes.
Studies show that the more you exercise, the less alcohol you drink. As exercise pumps up your blood, giving you better circulation, you’ll feel better from the natural release of dopamine rather than turning to the unnatural release of dopamine that you get from drinking alcohol. Choosing to exercise will also promote further good choices to be made as you work towards cutting back on alcohol.
Learn from Your Past but Don’t Dwell on it
It’s easy to let past experiences with alcohol cloud your motivation on whether you’ll be able to stick to your plan and successfully cut back on alcohol. Each time you take a small step towards reducing your alcohol intake, reward your success, no matter how small it may seem. Learn from any mistakes you might have made in the past and factor these into your plan to ensure they don’t happen again.
If you’re still struggling to cut back on alcohol, then you may have developed a dependency on the substance. In this case, you may need to try alternative methods for rehabilitation to quit alcohol altogether. You can join a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre like Asana Lodge or by searching for alcohol addiction support services in your area with the NHS here.
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