There are 10 million reasons you might want to cut down on alcohol. Maybe you’re looking to improve your health. Maybe you’re trying to save money. Or maybe you’ve realized that alcohol is starting to call your shots and you’re not having it.
Whatever your reason, you may find drinking harder to limit than other habits. Obviously alcohol is an addictive substance, but it’s also ingrained into our culture. We use alcohol to kick back with friends, celebrate achievements, and wind down before bed.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! The truth is that alcohol is just one of many ways you could kick back, celebrate, or wind down. Let’s talk about how to cut down on alcohol and discover enjoyable alternatives to our favorite drinking habits.
Write down everything you have to gain.
Jot down a list of all the reasons you’d like to cut down on alcohol. This could include losing weight, improving your health, saving money, and more. (Check out Drink Less Alcohol | 11 Surprising Benefits You Won’t Believe for inspiration!).
This list will help to motivate and inspire you, especially if you display it somewhere you’ll see it often. Plus research has found that writing something down greatly increases your commitment to that thing!
Log your drinks.
Now that you know why you want to cut down on alcohol, start logging your current drinking habits. This will help you determine your starting point and set appropriate goals.
Write down what and how much you drink, being careful to use accurate measurements. For example, was your “one glass of wine” an actual serving of wine (5 ounces) or one of those huge glasses that makes 10 ounces look like a drop in the bucket? (Fun fact: wine glasses today are roughly 7 times larger than they were in the 1700s.)
Trying to recognize patterns and potential triggers to drinking? Consider noting where you were, who you were with, and how you were feeling when you had each drink. You might also include how much you spent on your drink to see how your purchases add up over time.
Set your goal and take it in phases.
The CDC recommends up to one serving of alcohol per day for women and up to two servings per day for men. Your goal should take those guidelines, as well as your personal preferences and lifestyle, into consideration.
If your goal will require a sizable shift from your current habits, try stepping your consumption down in phases. For example, cut down by one drink every week until you’ve reached your goal. Another option is to calculate how much you’re spending on alcohol, step down that amount week over week, then use the money you saved to buy yourself a reward!
Examine your habits.
“I finished cleaning the house, time to reward myself with a bottle of wine!”
“It’s Friday afternoon, time for chips, salsa, and margaritas with coworkers!”
“I’ll be going to bed in an hour, time to wind down with a drink!”
Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? Sometimes we drink simply because it’s time to drink. When you want to cut down on alcohol, you’ll need to identify those “time to drink” moments and then…
Consider alcohol alternatives.
What are you trying to accomplish with that glass of wine? And how could you fill those same needs without it? For example, you could reward yourself for cleaning the house with a long bath, a binge session of your favorite show, or a few squares of dark chocolate.
Trying to wind down for bed? While it initially helps you fall asleep, alcohol actually keeps you from staying asleep and lowers your overall sleep quality. Establish a new routine that will actually help you get a solid night’s sleep, like meditation, a skincare routine, or a good book.
Consider drink alternatives.
Feel you need to drink something when out with friends or at a special event? Then consider how you can cut down the overall alcohol content of your drink.
Seltzer water mixes well with almost every alcohol, including wine, vodka, whiskey, and cognac. Not only will it share your glass with alcohol, thus lowering alcohol content, but the bubbles in the seltzer will help to fill you up, lowering overall consumption.
Don’t want to dilute your favorite drink? Then make it a rule to alternate alcoholic drinks with sparkling water or other nonalcoholic beverages.
And don’t forget “mocktails”…non-alcoholic cocktails. Often these drinks can feel just as celebratory as their alcoholic alternatives.
Set some guidelines.
Set some rules for yourself that allow for drinking, but restrict it to certain circumstances. Some common self-imposed guidelines include:
I refrain from alcohol on Mondays and Fridays.
I only drink alcohol on the weekends.
I never drink alone.
I never drink when I’m feeling sad.
I only drink when I’m dressed up.
I only enjoy one drink per hour.
I only enjoy one drink per day.
I don’t keep alcohol in the house.
Setting guidelines can help you feel less like you’re being disciplined (which is sometimes a tougher pill to swallow) and more like you’re allowing yourself to enjoy alcohol within reason.
Explore new pastimes.
It will be more challenging to cut down on alcohol if your friends’ idea of a good time always revolves around a bar. Consider alternative locations for hangouts, like coffeeshops, bistros, or sushi bars.
And who says you have to sit at a bar to enjoy your friends’ company? Consider catching up over a walk around your neighborhood or local park.
My own city has a long strip referred to as “old town,” packed with antique stores, historical venues, and coffee shops boasting gorgeous outdoor seating. I love taking a few casual laps on my own and often invite friends to join me.
And stay busy when you’re not with friends, since lots of people report boredom as a common driver for alcohol consumption. So take up hiking, join a local sports league, or dive into a book you just can’t put down. And remember it’s never too late to learn something new, like how to refinish old furniture or play the guitar.
Draw strength from your support system.
Let your friends and family know you’re trying to cut down on alcohol. Their support (and accountability) will go a long way in motivating you to succeed.
If some friends refuse to support you in this endeavor, then you may have learned something important about their friendship. Don’t be afraid to limit time spent with those who aren’t interested in your health or wellbeing.
Keep. It. Up.
As with any goal or new habit, you likely won’t master it immediately. You’ll inevitably experience setbacks where you drink more than you intended or even fall off the wagon altogether. In fact, most people who successfully cut down on alcohol only do so after several failed attempts.
So don’t allow these setbacks to discourage you! Remind yourself this is par for the course and that any new habit takes time to establish.
Get professional help.
If you find your alcohol consumption is out of control, seek the professional help of a doctor or counselor. Because friend, alcoholism is a very real diagnosis that requires very real interventions. So don’t wait for some sort of tragedy to get the help you need.
By making a thoughtful plan, examining and replacing old habits and pastimes, and utilizing your support system, you can slowly cut down on alcohol until you reach your goal! Have you discovered other tips or tricks to cut down on alcohol? Be sure to share in the comments!
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