How to stop every-day drinking
In a bit of a rut and thinking about drinking less? We’ve got plenty of tips to help you start cutting down on alcohol.
If you’ve got into the habit of drinking most days, it can take a little adjusting to break that routine. Here we take a quick look at some easy ways to cut down on your drinking and feel much better for it.
Know your units
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. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines recommend drinking no more than 14 units a week to keep your health risks low. To easily check how many units are in a drink, you can download the free MyDrinkaware app or use our Unit and Calorie Calculator.
Work in some drink-free days
One of the best ways to reduce your drinking can be to include some drink-free days. Cutting out just a glass of wine, or a pint of beer on three days a week could shave around 7 units off your weekly total and make a huge difference.
If four drink-free days seem like a challenge at first, start with two or three and work your way up to more. Reducing your alcohol intake means you’ll start to lower your risk of long-term health problems like liver and heart disease, as well as several cancers. Drinking less also has positive effects on the way you look and feel – from brighter moods to better skin and more energy.
If you drink regularly, it may be something you do almost without thinking so a bit of forward planning can go a long way. Try to decide in advance what days you won’t drink alcohol and spread them as evenly as possible. Do what works best for you but don’t be tempted to “store up” units or binge drink on the days when you are drinking.
You might find it helps to mark up your non-drinking days on a calendar, or your smartphone. You can also use the MyDrinkaware App to set your alcohol-free days and track your progress. Planning ahead also means you have more time to organise fun alcohol-free activities. We’ve got lots of ideas for drink-free days and outings, especially if you’re on a budget.
Change up your routine
Thinking about your triggers is a great way to reduce your drinking. It could be finishing work, putting the kids to bed, or simply a certain time of the day. Once you identify them, you can work out how to get past those triggers and create new habits. For example, planning a different activity for when you finish work like going for a run, or having an alternative ‘treat’ ready to enjoy.
If you’re doing a grocery shop, just buy enough for a specific occasion to help stick to your drink-free goals and save money while doing it. This will also stop you from having a surplus of alcohol at home. If you usually pop into the pub after work, change your normal route home. Or try out a different pub that offers some alcohol-free drinks. You could even try out an alcohol-free bar. Once you’ve broken that routine, you’ll probably find you won’t need to even think about it, or plan ahead.
Finding things to distract you from drinking is a great way to deal with any potential urges. It can also help to have some quick solutions at hand. Here are just a few.
Make some time to catch up with a friend
Tune into a podcast – we have some great suggestions on our online peer support page
Make a snack or a mocktail
Enjoy the outdoors – even if it’s just going for a walk, or five a side in the park
Try some calming activities like meditating or breathing exercises, or download a relaxation app to help you unwind after a long day
Be productive – try and tick off some of those life tasks you’re always too busy for, it could be some DIY, decluttering, or just planning your next holiday
Set yourself a challenge - you might find it motivating to set yourself a long-term goal to work towards on those days that you’re not drinking. That could be anything from hitting a certain number of steps every week, to a reading challenge, or couch to 5K.
Don’t be hard on yourself
As well as avoiding your triggers and having some distraction techniques ready, it can help to know that you may slip-up when you’re making changes to your drinking habits, but you can always get back on track. The good news is that anyone can reduce their drinking by taking a few small steps.
Check your drinking to find out how it could be affecting your health by taking the Drinking Check.
Find out more