How to cut back on your drinking

We all know the risks of drinking too much alcohol. From increasing your risk of serious illness to raising the chances of serious embarrassment after one too many wines, there are many good reasons to cut back.

One study from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation found that drinking just six glasses of wine per week, or six pints of beer, could increase your risk of early death.

The researchers found that anything above 12.5 units of alcohol each week is dangerous to health and should be avoided.

The study, published in journal The Lancet, warned that having 10 or more drinks per week could knock up to two years off your life expectancy, stressing that the safe upper limit to drinking should be no more than five pints of 4 per cent beer each week, or five 175ml glasses of 13 per cent wine. The study also found that ‘on balance’ there are no health benefits from drinking.

Read: What happens when alcohol and anxiety mix

If these findings make you want to cut back or go completely sober, here are a few handy hints on how to stick to it.

Find your reason

There’s a reason you’ve decided to cut back or quit, but sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint. Is it to improve your relationships? Better your health generally? Lose weight? Or just to see if you can do it? Once you’ve identified your reason, write it down somewhere you can see it easily and often. Keeping the reason in mind can help boost your motivation to stick to the challenge.

Make a plan

Don’t just decide you’re going to stop drinking and start right away. Come up with the steps you’ll take to ensure you’ll be able to stick to it. If you want to take a break from alcohol, set a day when the break will start and end. If you want to cut down, decide how many drinks are acceptable and think about how and when you will consume them and how you will stick to the schedule.

Having a just-in-case plan for if you slip up can be very helpful too. Having a plan to get back on track after a slip up will help you recover quicker and not be tempted give up and go back to your old drinking habits.

Keep track of the positives

With less alcohol in your life, you’re likely to have clearer skin, better sleep, and your mood may improve overall. Some people also lose weight as their drinking tapers off. Celebrate the wins along the way, no matter how small.

Read: Four non-alcoholic drinks to try this summer

Find other hobbies

If you tend to sip a drink in front of the TV at night, think of a replacement. Maybe a healthy snack, or a hobby such as knitting or crafting to keep your hands busy.

Tell the important people in your life

Unfortunately, people tend to question it when you turn down alcohol, so let people know in advance if you’re going to an event where there it will be served. Experiencing pressure to drink in social situations can derail your mindset, so letting people know beforehand can ease that pressure.

If you’re not sure whether you want to cut out alcohol for good, tell people you’re trying a challenge for a month to see how you feel. In that time, they’ll likely get used to you not drinking and won’t force the issue if you keep it up.

Set a savings goal

One of the best things about being sober for a prolonged period is the cash you’ll save. Set a savings goal and then splash the cash on something just for yourself. You’ve earnt it.

Understand detox

If you’re a heavy drinker, your body may go through detox when you quit. It’s normal to feel anxious, restless, grumpy, or to have a headache and sweat a lot. These symptoms usually pass within five to seven days. Ensure you talk with your doctor before quitting cold turkey and contact them if you have serious symptoms such as vision impairment, confusion, or high blood pressure.

Start small

If you’re used to drinking regularly, going cold turkey can seem like a daunting task. Start with some small rules that are easier to stick to, such as not drinking at home or having three full days before each drinking session. Removing one or two drinks here and there can make a huge difference to your weekly intake.

Know your triggers

Typically, people tend to drink when they’re in certain situations. There are often places, people and events that are intertwined with drinking and putting yourself in those positions could make it harder to stick to your plan. There are certain situations you can’t avoid, such as weddings, but if you go in with a plan, you’re more likely to succeed. Inquire about the non-alcoholic drinks on offer before the event so you know what to order.

Read: Ways to relax without alcohol

Space out your drinks

If you just want to cut back, an effective way to do it without missing out on social occasions is to spread out your drinks throughout the event. Sip drinks slowly and drink a glass of water in between to avoid getting drunk and losing track of your intake. Another tip is to set your drink on a table rather than keeping in your hand, so you’re not subconsciously drinking for something to do.

Set yourself a fitness challenge

A great way to stack another healthy habit on top of cutting back on alcohol is to incorporate it into a fitness challenge for one month. Try to walk 10,000 steps every day for a month, go to the gym or a fitness class three times every week, anything that gets you moving and away from alcohol. At the end of the month, you’ll look and feel a lot better.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Ellie Baxter

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