Now you’ve decided to reduce your drinking, you’ve already taken the first step towards a healthier, happier life.
Research has found that amongst people who drink alcohol, the more they drink the more likely they are to feel dissatisfied with life.1,2
One possible reason why that’s the case is because of the impact long-term heavy drinking can have on your health. And research from the Office for National Statistics has found that feeling in good health has a bigger effect on life satisfaction than anything else.3
Sticking to the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMOs) low risk drinking guidelines (no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days, with several drink-free days and no bingeing) will lower your risk of several cancers, liver and heart disease. It will also lower your blood pressure.4
Cutting back on alcohol could help you save money, improve your relationships and get positive effects for the way you look and feel too – often within a few days.
Here’s how to get started, with our ten-step guide which can set you towards better sleep and a brighter mood.
1. Know the limits
The advice is the same for men and women. To keep your risk of health harms low, drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week, spread over three or more days with several drink-free days and no bingeing.
If you currently have a drink every night, it might not feel like a lot, but those units quickly add up over a week. For example, one medium glass of wine, or a pint of beer every night, adds up to around 16 units a week – more than the guidelines advise.
Having regular drink-free days can be an effective way of reducing how much you drink.
2. Set your goals
Each week set a goal and track your progress, whether you’ve achieved your goal or not. And remember, slip ups happen so don’t beat yourself up – if you haven’t hit your goal one week, make a fresh start the day after.
3. Identify your triggers
Do you know when and why you drink alcohol? Perhaps it’s a reward after a tough week or maybe a celebration goes hand-in-hand with a drink. Identifying your drinking triggerswill help you recognise when and why they happen, helping you to think about how you can replace alcohol with something else.
4. Ask for support
Having a supportive friend that knows you’re trying to cut back on your drinking can make a big difference. Tell them how important it is for you and why. Remember, you might not be the only one wanting to cut back, and you might even end up encouraging someone else to team up with you.
If you’re in a relationship, you’re often more likely to make a positive change for your health if you do it together.5 And we also have advice that can help even if you find your partner doesn’t want to cut down with you.
Beyond that, there is a big community online of people who are on the same journey to cut their drinking, or stop – you aren’t alone.
5. Plan ahead
If you have a stressful week ahead, plan ahead for something different to do that doesn’t involve alcohol. This can be as simple as going for a long walk, going to the cinema or booking a meal out. Plus it gives you something different to look forward to.
6. Take drink-free days
How many drink-free days do you have? Having at least three drink-free days every week will give your body a break from alcohol and help you stick to the low risk guidelines (no more than 14 units a week) to keep your health risks low.
Why not use them as an opportunity to pick up a new hobby or interest, be more physically active or find new ways to socialise. The MyDrinkaware app can help you set personal targets, with reminders for drink-free days when you want them. helps you build a personalised action plan to support your commitment to reducing your drinking.
7. Be proactive
Make life easier – don’t put yourself in situations you know will make it difficult to stick to your goals. For example, meet people in a cafe rather than the pub, offer to be the designated driver or perhaps join a sports team or a running club with your friends or partner. Try some of our other top drink-free activities.
8. Try switching to alcohol-free drinks
If you’re looking for a way to cut down on alcohol without cutting it out completely, alcohol-free or low alcohol drinks could be right for you.
These days, there are more, better tasting, low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks to choose from than ever before.
Drinkaware research has found regular drinkers of low alcohol products thought the taste had improved over recent years. Worries about the taste were more common amongst people who hadn’t tried them, with many people pleasantly surprised with the taste when they did.6
Why not try some on your next night out? Our ultimate guide to alcohol-free bars has some great ideas of places to visit.
9. Track your progress
Now you’re ready to enjoy life while drinking less, the MyDrinkaware app supports you like a life coach in your pocket. It helps you to track your drinks, check calories and see how alcohol is affecting your sleep - all with personalised support to achieve your targets.
Download it now to stay motivated by setting realistic, achievable goals that fit your lifestyle, and help you make changes that stick - at your own pace. Once you’ve set your personal goals, you can get tailored advice directly from the app on how you can spot your triggers, stay motivated to hit your targets, and take drink-free days.
It’s 100% free and there are no hidden costs, ever.
10. Don’t give up! And celebrate your achievements
Stick with it! More than 40% of our daily behaviours are determined by habits.7 That means building new, healthier ones is a process – and it also means it’s something that anyone can achieve.
With a bit of initial effort and focus you will find that, over time, your new healthier habits become more ingrained and subconscious8 - making them second nature.
And don’t forget to celebrate your achievements. Whether it’s relaxing on the sofa with a new boxset or film at the end of the week, or a day trip to a favourite place after the first month, don’t forget to reward yourselves when you smash a goal.
Download MyDrinkaware now
Confidential support is available
Drinkchat is a confidential online web chat service, for anyone who wants to talk to someone about their own or someone else's drinking. It's available weekdays 9am to 2pm. Alternatively, call Drinkline on 0300 123 11 10 on weekdays 9am to 8pm and weekends 11am to 4pm.