Drinking alcohol can be a fun way to enjoy socializing: popping a bottle of champagne for a celebration, ordering a beer with co-workers at the end of a long day, or mixing up fancy cocktails to enjoy before a dinner party. Drinking too much alcohol, however, can have long-term effects on your mental and physical health, and there are many benefits to drinking less, including better quality sleep and decreased signs of aging.
For those who want to cut back on their drinking, here are some simple tips for keeping off the booze without cutting out the fun!
1. Cultivate hobbies
Drinking is often the product of boredom. When you don’t have other plans, having a glass of wine or a beer in hand feels automatically productive; drinking makes doing nothing feel like doing something!
This is a scientifically recognized phenomenon: a study at Columbia University found that people who were feeling bored were 50% more likely to drink alcohol. Stopping that disengaged feeling at the source by taking up new hobbies is a great way to cut back on boredom-drinking. If you’re a social creature, stop by your local community center, see what activities are open to anyone, and sign yourself up for something fun! If you’re not so into socializing with others, try taking up a simple solo hobby like gardening, beading, or wood carving.
2. Keep other drinks in the house
One of the simplest ways to avoid drinking too much is to stop keeping alcohol in the house. It’s much easier to crack open a bottle of something boozy when it’s already there in the fridge. Make a habit of buying other drinks instead, like sparkling water or juice. Even better, try buying something out of the usual, like an artisanal iced tea (brands like coopertea.com offer great ones) or a fancy mocktail mix, to make it feel as though you’re still enjoying a treat!
3. Get outside!
Should you start to feel that itching craving for a drink while you’re sitting in front of the TV of an evening, turn off the tube and step outside instead! Talking a quick walk around the block can divert your mental patterns enough to cancel that neurological craving: this is called a behavior change technique, and psychologists use it to work on bad habits and addictions. So, when you want to reach for a cold one, reach for your walking shoes instead. Pop on a good playlist or a podcast and head out your front door to check out what’s going on in the neighborhood. By the time you get back to your couch, that craving will be long gone.
4. Pick a non-drinking buddy
The best way to cut down on your drinking? Find a friend who wants to do the same! Together you can plan booze-free activities, text or call each other for support when you’re close to caving, and build new alcohol-free habits to enjoy together. This can also keep you motivated to keep at it.
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