How to stay motivated while cutting down on alcohol
Cutting down (or stopping) drinking can have huge positive effects for your health and wellbeing. It’s important to stay motivated along the way – try these tips to achieve your goals.
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Now you have decided to cut the amount you drink, you’re already on course towards some great benefits for the way you feel and your long-term health.
Like many important life changes, it’s an ongoing process rather than a one-off event. There are three stages to keep in mind:
But how can you stay motivated throughout your journey, and in the longer-term? This guide has practical tips that can help you stay on track and succeed.
Research into different techniques for cutting drinking has found that keeping track of your drinking and your progress can boost how successful you are.1,2 Download the free MyDrinkaware app now for an easy way to keep track of how many units (and calories) you have.
Think about why you want to cut your drinking – this is the motivation behind your goal. Write it down and don’t lose sight of it.
You’re more likely to stick to your goals if you have a clear reason for achieving them. Focus on what’s important to you and the reasons you want to achieve it.3
For example, you might:
Deciding to ‘cut back on drinking’ is a bit vague, making it harder to know if you’re achieve what you want. To give yourself the best chance of success, you need to choose something that’s specific and realistic for you.4
Work out how much you want to cut back by, then review your progress and measure your success.
People, places, time and feelings can all be triggers for drinking alcohol. Think about what your own personal triggers to drink alcohol are and how you can change your behaviour while fitting your lifestyle.
To succeed in reducing your drinking you also need to break the associations you have with the occasions you drink, and the things you do when you’re drinking.9 For example:
Like any change, there may be times that you doubt yourself or feel like you are missing out on what you had before. It’s a totally natural way to feel. Recognising this ahead of time – and working out how you can deal with those feelings – will help you avoid them from coming up as a surprise, and keep you focussed on your goal.
It’s also worth remembering that slip ups can happen for anyone – we’re all human! Don’t beat yourself up – if you haven’t hit your goal one week, make a fresh start the next. With a bit of initial effort and focus you will find that, over time, your new healthier habits become more ingrained and subconscious10 - making them second nature.
Keeping a note of how you feel as you cut back can be really motivating.
There are lots of benefits to reducing your drinking. You might have more energy, be sleeping better or feel more productive. Use the free MyDrinkaware app to see how many calories you have cut and keep track of the money you have saved by not spending it on alcohol.
It's important to recognise your achievements along the way.
Even if your progress has been small, give yourself some praise.
Think about how you can reward yourself for your progress. For example, if you’ve saved money, could you treat yourself to something that you will enjoy, like a cinema visit or some new clothes?
If you experience withdrawal symptoms when you cut back on alcohol, it could be a sign that you are dependent on alcohol, meaning it can be dangerous to cut down suddenly without professional support. Talk to your doctor or a health professional straightaway if you experience any unpleasant effects from cutting down your drinking.
Drinkline is a free, confidential helpline. Call 0300 123 1110. Alternatively, Drinkchat is a free online service for anyone who is looking for information or advice about their own, or someone else’s alcohol use. Trained advisors are on hand to give you confidential advice.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has a problem with alcohol there is a lot of help available. Here you can find useful links and phone numbers to get the support you need.Get Support
 Michie, S., Whittington, C., Hamoudi, Z., Zarnani F., Tober, G., & West, R. (2012). Identification of behaviour change techniques to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. 107(8): 1431-40.
 Treloar Padovano, H., Levak, S., Vadhan, N. P., Kuerbis, A., & Morgenstern, J. (2022). The role of daily goal setting among individuals with alcohol use disorder. Drug and Alcohol Dependence Reports, 2, 100036. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dadr.2022.100036
 Ojo, S. O., Bailey, D. P., Brierley, M. L., Hewson, D. J., & Chater, A. M. (2019). Breaking barriers: Using the behavior change wheel to develop a tailored intervention to overcome workplace inhibitors to breaking up sitting time. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1126. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7468-8
 Koivumaa-Honkanen, H., Kaprio, J., Korhonen, T., Honkanen, R. J., Heikkilä, K., & Koskenvuo, M. (2012). Self-reported life satisfaction and alcohol use: a 15-year follow-up of healthy adult twins. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 47(2), 160–168. https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agr151
 Jensen, P., Haug, E., Sivertsen, B., & Skogen, J. C. (2021). Satisfaction With Life, Mental Health Problems and Potential Alcohol-Related Problems Among Norwegian University Students. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 578180. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.578180
 Chen, W., Chan, T. W., Wong, L. H., Looi, C. K., Liao, C. C. Y., Cheng, H. N. H., Wong, S. L., Mason, J., So, H.-J., Murthy, S., Gu, X., & Pi, Z. (2020). IDC theory: habit and the habit loop. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 15. Retrieved from https://rptel.apsce.net/index.php/RPTEL/article/view/2020-15010
Last Reviewed: 3rd August 2023
Next Review due: 3rd August 2026