If you identify with any of the above scenarios, try the expert tips below to reduce your alcohol intake (or even eliminate it altogether).
- Measure your drinks.
“The first step is to understand how much you actually drink,” says Katie Witkiewitz, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico and author of the 2019 study, “Advances in Alcohol Science and Treatment Use in Scientific Advances.
A standard glass of wine is 5 ounces, which contains about 12% alcohol. A shot of distilled spirits like vodka contains 1.5 ounces and 40% alcohol in equal parts. A 12-ounce can of beer contains about 5 per cent alcohol, and a standard glass of sherry is 3 to 4 ounces and contains about 17 per cent alcohol, according to the NIAAA.
Use the NIAAA Beverage Size Calculator to determine the amount of alcohol in various beverages.
- Track your consumption.
“Once you have an idea of how much alcohol you’re drinking, it’s helpful to track how many drinks you drink per day,” Witkiewitz says. “You can use a calendar, a log, or any number of tracking apps.” Drink Control Alcohol Tracker or Less are two examples of free tracking apps available on iOS devices.
- Make a plan.
People who set daily consumption limits consume 10% fewer drinks each week than those who don’t, according to data from 10,000 U.S. users of the Cutback Coach app. Well start to the week is an indicator of success: members who stay below their scheduled limit on Monday and Tuesday are almost four times more likely to reach their goal for the week.
“Get started easily,” Crews suggests. Instead of aiming for total abstinence, for example, try drinking less than seven days a week. “Try sober Mondays or sober Mondays to Wednesdays,” he says.
- Tell family members and friends that you want to be healthier.
Reframe your alcohol intake as you would any other health behaviour you want to change, such as eating better or exercising more, and share it aloud with your loved ones. This social approach can help normalize the change you’re trying to make, Witkiewitz says. “You don’t have to have an alcohol problem to want to improve your health and quality of life by reducing your alcohol consumption.”
- Try a month of abstinence.
“Try to make a ‘dry’ month like dry January, go dry for sober July or October,” Moore says. In January 2020, more than 6 million people reportedly took part in Dry January, a campaign to reduce alcohol consumption organised by Alcohol Change UK. Follow-up research suggested that most tended to drink in healthier amounts afterwards.
If you turn to alcohol for anxiety relief, try exercise as a healthy alternative. “For those who have access to and enjoy outdoor activities and other physical activity options, we know that physical activity, especially in nature, can be very helpful in reducing anxiety and coping with other negative moods,” says Witkiewitz.
- Drink water.
You might take alcohol when you’re thirsty, Crews says. Drink a soothing cup of tea or a full glass of water before drinking – once your thirst is quenched, you may no longer feel the need for alcohol.
- Eat before and between drinks.
Food can absorb alcohol in drinks, so eating before or even while you drink can lessen the effect and can make you want to drink less, Crews says.
- Make a plan for cravings.
L’envie de boire viendra inévitablement, alors faites un plan pour cela. Rappelez-vous pourquoi vous voulez réduire, parlez-en à un ami et distrayez-vous avec un passe-temps ou un exercice, suggère le NIAAA. Acceptez que vous en ayez envie et que cela passera.
- Remove alcohol from your home.
If you tend to drink too much every time there’s any alcohol in the house, get rid of it completely, the NIAAA recommends.
- Beware of anger, resentment or grudges.
Do you turn to alcohol when you simmer angrily? In his book Living Sober, Alcoholics Anonymous suggests managing these feelings with exercise, discussing the situation with a trusted friend, resting, and choosing a “live and let live” mindset instead of drinking.
- Avoid loneliness.
If you drink to relieve the pain of loneliness, make a conscious effort to connect with others. Alcoholics Anonymous warns its members about hunger, anger, loneliness or fatigue, which can make you more vulnerable to the urge to drink. Find activities that mentally and emotionally nourish and bring you joy, and identify ways to connect socially with your friends, Witkiewitz says.
- Get online support.
You don’t have to leave the house to get support from others who understand and respect what you’re trying to do. You can find it online with sites like Cutback Coach, which helps you create a custom plan, Tempest, Moderation.org, or Ben’s Friends for people who work in the food and beverage industry.
- Avoid triggers.
What drives you to have a drink? An acquaintance who talks non-stop? Are you watching stock market news?”We encourage the use of an informal mindfulness practice when you feel triggered,” says Witkiewitz. Stop at the moment to take stock of what is really happening, what emotions, sensations, and thoughts are present, bring the consciousness to breathe, and then make a choice about how you want to react to the situation. Maybe he’s still drinking, maybe he’s not. Maybe it’s calling an old friend, going for a walk, or spending time with a beloved child or pet.
- Learn to say “No.”
Be prepared for those times when someone will offer you a drink. Find words to help you decline politely but firmly. “No thanks” is a simple and clear statement. You can also keep a soft drink instead, ask a friend to support you in difficult situations, or simply go out early if the temptation becomes too strong, the NIAAA suggests.
- If you slip, go back to your plan.
Don’t give in to shame and regret, just restart your plan. “Success depends on how you react to setbacks and things that are imposed on you,” Moore says. “If someone’s strategy for drinking less isn’t working, it’s crucial to recognize and reflect on lessons learned and take action – at least an appropriate next step – to start making a change.”