Giving up alcohol is tough. The psychological conditioning and societal pressure to continue to drink is immense. What we have discovered at OneYearNoBeer is that almost anyone can break a drinking habit if they take the right steps. Here are the seven best tips I've found to stick to a no-booze commitment.
1. Commit to a physical challenge.
This might seem like a strange place to start, but it’s actually key to any alcohol-free period. Book a physical challenge beyond your current abilities. If you can just manage a jog around the block, perhaps start with a 5k park run. If a 10k’s your limit, then maybe sign up for a marathon. A physical target such as this will provide focus, regular exercise, confidence, and an outlet for the time you used to spend drinking.
2. Remember that one slip-up doesn't mean you're back to square one.
Lasting habit change requires compassion. There is a common misconception that one mistake means failure, which opens the flood gates to indulgence. If you slip up, so what? Who cares? Dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes, and come back stronger.
3. Don't just get rid of bad habits; replace them with good ones.
Trying to change a habit after years of psychological conditioning is very difficult. The easiest way to do it is to dress them up as good ones. Take the following steps:
Find your trigger: What time, place, emotion, preceding action or person is your trigger?
Uncover what’s driving the habit: What is it you crave? Stress relief? Companionship?
Change your routine and hack the habit: Once you know what triggers the habit, along with the real driver, all you have to do is replace the routine with a healthy one the provides the same payoff.
If companionship drives you toward those after-work drinks, book a spin class with some mates instead.
You get the picture. Take the time to break down and replace your unhealthy routines.
4. Use your excuse: "I'm on a challenge."
Most of us feel like we need a reason not to drink. Alcohol is the only drug in the world that people get upset with you for quitting.
Unless you’re pregnant or sick, most excuses are destroyed by well-meaning friends, family and colleagues who want their drinking buddies back.
So use your excuse: Everyone loves a challenge, and going alcohol-free is just another one to add to your list (alongside mud races, triathlons, marathons…). So, when the time comes, say it loud and proud.
"Want a drink?"
"Yes I would love a [fill in blank with alcohol free alternative]."
"Yeah, I've decided to take a [30/90/365] day alcohol-free challenge, and I feel great!"
5. Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit.
Use paper, iPad or laptop whatever suits you best. For extra motivation, put your list where you can see it as a daily reminder of why you are on this adventure.
6. Keep planning, Then plan some more.
It sounds over the top, but we know when it comes to going alcohol-free, winging it simply doesn't work. You have to plan like an athlete and expect the unexpected.
There will always be a long-lost friend who arrives on your doorstep looking to catch up over a few drinks. Be ready for these moments when they arrive, give yourself a wry smile, and make the choice that fits your goals.
Planning ahead also means knowing what your options are before you get to a bar. Phone your chosen venue, if you must, and find out if they stock your alcohol-free alternative of choice. And always have a backup drink, in case you reach the bar and they are out of stock.
7. Focus on mindfulness.
From awareness comes the ability to change. Mindfulness is the first step in this process. Our brains love habits, because these processes run without conscious thought. This is great for healthy habits you already have, but a problem when you're trying to change bad ones.
Mindfulness shines a light on the habits that are holding us back. As these unconscious routines come into full view, we can begin to apply the steps above and make lasting change.
If you’re feeling inspired, start your 30,90, or 365-day-alcohol free challenge today.