Sticking to intentions
Going sober this month or reducing your drinking? Here's some tips to help you stay focused on your goal when that initial motivation starts to dip.
The New Year is a great opportunity to reset and achieve something you can be proud of but we all need a bit of a push sometimes. Deciding to give up alcohol or cut down can seem like a big step, but the benefits are worth it.
Set your goal
Even if you’ve already cut down or stopped drinking, it’s worth taking some time to refine your goal. Having a clear goal in mind and a strategy to get there will help you to achieve your aim.
Aim to take a certain number of drink-free days every week. This is the most popular strategy people use when cutting down.1 And, don’t forget to keep the number of days realistic and achievable – you can always increase this as time goes by.
Set yourself a limit for how much to drink, and make sure that it’s within the UK low risk drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units a week. To help you calculate your units, you can use a unit and calorie calculator to work out how much you’re drinking, and what staying below 14 units looks like.
If you’re looking to stop drinking alcohol completely, giving up for a set period or in stages can sometimes make it easier to achieve your goal. You may wish to stop drinking for one month or 90 days at first. This can be a great goal to start with if you like the idea of having an end point to focus on.
After you reach your goal, you may find you want to continue being sober after noticing all the benefits. Or you might prefer to switch back to a reducing strategy that includes several drink-free days once you’ve reached your initial goal.
Focus on the benefits
Whatever your reason for reducing or giving up drinking, write it down. It might be for a very personal reason, your health or to improve your relationship with your partner. Whatever it is, it’s a good idea to keep reminding yourself of what you’re aiming for and why. You might like to put pen to paper, or prefer to set regular notifications on your phone or computer.
Some benefits include:
- Improving your long-term health
- Brighter mood
- Losing weight
- Getting better sleep
- Better skin
- More energy
- Improved concentration
- No hangovers
- Saving money
Avoid your triggers
A trigger is something you’d normally associate with drinking – like going out for dinner, socialising with certain friends or even just finishing work for the evening. Even with the best will in the world, when you’re faced with one of your triggers, it can be hard to stick to your plan. Be prepared to make a change to your environment or normal routine to help yourself stay on track.
If you tend to drink at home, stop buying alcohol with your usual grocery shopping, or restrict how much you buy. If you don’t have alcohol readily available, it removes the temptation. You might also want to log how much money you saved on your shop as an incentive. Or treat yourself to something else, like a magazine or an alcohol-free beer.
If you usually meet your mates in the same pub at the same time every week, you could suggest meeting elsewhere, like a park. You might even want to do a fun activity instead or try out an alcohol-free bar. If there isn’t an alcohol-free bar nearby, many traditional pubs or bars now offer alcohol-free options, so you don’t have to feel you’re missing out. It’s always a good idea to check the drinks menu before you head out, so you’re confident about your choice and what to order.
If you automatically reach for a drink after work, think of something else you enjoy doing instead. This might be doing some exercise, a class or cooking a nice meal.
There are lots of ways to help you stay motivated. Remember, what works for one person may not necessarily be right for you. You might be someone who thrives on social contact and find that a community or updating others on your progress helps to keep you going. Or you may be more private and know that helps you stay focused.
Here are a just a few ways to help you stay on track.
- Track your progress using an app. Apps can be an effective way to reduce your drinking.2 The MyDrinkaware App can track your alcohol consumption, calculate units and calories, and set goals to help you moderate your drinking. You can set reminders too.
- If you prefer to have things in writing, start a journal to document your journey to cutting down or giving up. This could include how you feel so far, your achievements as well as any challenges you faced.
- Listen to podcasts, guides or blogs about others who have gone sober or cut down. It can be really inspiring to hear from others on a similar journey.
- Sign up to an online workshop, forum, or course. You may find this gives you the extra support and motivation you need.
- Follow @MyDrinkaware and other social media accounts to inspire you to stay on track.
- Make the most of being alcohol and hangover-free. You'll find you have more time and energy to devote to different activities – be it a morning jog, a creative project or meeting friends for Sunday brunch. Planning activities can be a great incentive to stay off the drink.
- Celebrate your achievements. Cutting down or stopping drinking is something to be proud of. You’re doing something great for you. Schedule a way to celebrate your success every time you reach a certain milestone.
Nobody is perfect, and we all have days where we slip-up. The key is to accept it and move on. A slip-up doesn’t have to mean giving up your goal. Think about how far you’ve already come. Perhaps you went longer than you have done previously without a drink, or you stuck to it at a time that you found really difficult.
Remember not to be too hard on yourself. Learn from the experience and carry on, keeping your original goal in mind. You can always get back on track, start again and reap the rewards.
Find out more
 Pearson A., & Slater, E. (2021, October). Drinking through the pandemic. Drinkaware Monitor 2021. PS Research and Drinkaware.
 Personalised digital interventions for reducing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in community-dwelling populations. September 2017. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6483779/.