Deciding to give up alcohol is one thing – actually achieving it can be another. We all fall into habits with drinking: get home from work and pour a nice beer, a wine, a G&T and sit down – the working day is done. Or you walk into a pub and order your usual. We’re also prompted by cravings. When we have a drink, the brain is positively stimulated in areas associated with happiness and reward, and after a while we start to connect the two – and for many of us seeing, smelling or even thinking about alcohol (or a place that sells it) causes the urge for a drink. If you’re thinking about giving up booze for an extended period this year, you’ll need to overcome these habits and triggers.
Here are 15 simple ways to do it from Helen Foster’s book Quit Alcohol (For A Month).
- Fool yourself and others by asking for your soft drink to be served in a beer glass if you’re usually a beer drinker. This can stop people asking why you’re not drinking – plus there’s something about holding that glass that’s reassuring.
- Check out the hashtag #HelloSunday Morning on Instagram. It’s full of people who have given up booze sharing what they’re doing now they’re not hungover.
- Brunch and breakfast are your friends – they’re the perfect time to see friends, but don’t come loaded with the expectation to drink.
- Avoid shouts. There’s always that one guy who decides you really did want a beer despite asking for lime and soda and next thing you know, you’re off the wagon.
- Breathe. If you’re wavering, take two deep breaths and tell yourself to make the right choice for you. It’s tempting to think, “I’ve done 10 days, one drink won’t hurt.” Taking breaths gives you time to recall that if your aim is to quit alcohol for a month, one drink will stop that.
- Keep telling yourself that you don’t drink. Saying “No thanks, I don’t want it” makes it twice as likely that you’ll resist than saying “No thanks, I can’t have that”, according to a US study. Saying “I can’t” signals that you’re giving up something desirable but saying “I don’t want it” gives you a sense of empowerment.
- Book early morning fitness classes or a personal trainer and schedule your sessions for 7am. The idea of trying to exercise early in the morning with a hangover should put you off giving in.
- Create a cash jar. Get a jar, mark it “My Sober Fund” and every night you might have drunk but didn’t, put the cash you estimate you saved in the jar. Make lists of what to spend it on when the month is over.
- Change your password. If every time you sign into your email you type “nodrinks2day”, it’s reinforcing the choice you’ve made.
- Put your goals on social media – and take note of the likes. It helps you achieve your goal, says a study from New York University, US, which found that people who told others they were going to achieve something were spurred on when others took notice.
- Repeat the mantra: “It will all still be there in 30 days” or however many days you have left. Pubs, clubs, bars and the bottle-o are not going anywhere during your month off.
- Wait 15 minutes. Cravings hit you quickly and hard, but if you can distract your mind and stop thinking about them they pass – usually within 15 minutes.
- Tense a muscle. If you’re starting to waver, simply clench your biceps, your calves or your glutes – research published in the Journal Of Consumer Research found that tightening muscles actually increases resilience and willpower.
- Go to brightly lit places or sit by the window. You make healthier choices in brightly lit environments, say researchers from Cornell University, US.
- Just aim to get through today. If a month without alcohol seems insurmountable, don’t think about it that way. Goals are often more achievable if we break them down into small targets. Setting the goal when you wake up in the morning just not to drink that day might work better for you than telling yourself you’re not going to drink for a month.
This article was originally published in Men’s Fitness.