If you’ve been inspired by Dry January, it might be time to reassess your relationship with alcohol.
For some, giving up alcohol entirely is just not realistic, but then getting hammered each weekend isn’t sustainable either (both for your health and wallet).
Make a plan
When University of Bristol researchers looked at data on the drinking patterns of nearly 3,000 drinkers, they found very few people managed to keep their alcohol intake down when followed up six months later. The reason being? They didn’t make a plan and stick to it.
Lead author Dr Frank de Vocht, from Bristol Medical School, said: “We wanted to find out if motivation alone changes limiting intake. Sadly, although people start with good intentions, our results suggest that something more is required for those intentions to make a difference.”
He suggested that people who genuinely want to change their drinking habits should obtain “structural support”. For example, using smartphone apps so your intentions are in writing and can’t be brushed aside.
Count your drinks
Download the Dry January and Beyond or Drinkaware apps, both of which help you calculate how many units you’d like to cut down by and keep track of how much you’re drinking throughout the year.
Alternatively, you can just keep a drinks diary and jot down how many drinks you normally drink, so you can cut back by just skipping one or two drinks a week. Remember: the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommend taking at least three drink-free days each week.
These days, you can go to pretty much any bar or restaurant and be met with an extensive list of mocktails or non-alcoholic options. Additionally, there are new low-alcohol beers and wines popping up in supermarkets all the time.
Do your research and practise your smug face for when you sip on a delicious (and zero embarrassment) virgin mojito at Friday night drinks.
Downsize your drinks
If you still want to drink booze but don’t want to consume as much, make the units go further by opting for smaller sized beverages.
Ben Butler, Drinkaware’s marketing and communication director, explains: “If you’re a beer drinker, make the units go further by drinking halves instead of pints. If you’re a wine drinker then opt for a smaller glass.”
Don’t go it alone
If a few of your mates did Dry January and want to continue reaping the benefits, get them to cut down alongside you. That way you can all keep track of one another and offer a bit of moral support when you feel like you’re slipping.
Try dinner-only drinking
If you struggle with cutting down, Butler suggests adopting a new rule in your life where you only drink when having dinner. That way one won’t lead to 10 (unless, of course, you’re at the world’s longest meal).
Buy a measure
If you are drinking at home, buy an alcohol measure and make sure you use it so you’re not free-pouring too much booze into your glass. Your liver will thank you for it.
Find new pastimes
If your social life used to consist of work, going out for drinks and going home, why not take up some new hobbies to help fill the gap? The gym is a great time-filler and it’s excellent news for your health. Darren Rolfe, CEO of Steps Together rehab centre, recommends spending more time outside too. “Exercise and fresh air is great for the body and mind,” he says. “If you fancy a drink, go for a walk instead.”
Alternatively, learn a new skill, redecorate your home or help someone with a project. As Rolfe puts it: “Keep busy.”
Speak to your GP if you need more support
Sometimes cutting down on your alcohol intake is no easy ride. If you’d like more support, Alcohol Concern recommends speaking to your GP. They will be able to put you in touch with your local alcohol support service who can offer you a few weeks of support to help you get your strategy in place.
Find out more about the support on offer here.