As the new year approaches, it can only mean one thing - new resolutions. Making new year's resolutions is one of our favorite past times. Since the promise of a fresh start is so appealing, it makes sense to want to make big changes to improve your life.
Unfortunately, many people don't stick with their resolutions past January, particularly if they're not 100-percent committed from the get-go. However, even with all the motivation in the world, it's tricky to make these changes permanent unless you identify the cause of the problem and figure out how to fix it fundamentally.
When it comes to new year's resolutions, the top five most popular choices are often:
- Exercise More
- Lose Weight
- Get Organized
- Learn a New Skill or Hobby
- Live Life to the Fullest
While these are all excellent resolutions, for many people, cutting back on alcohol consumption is also a big challenge. It doesn't help that alcohol is so widely available and socially acceptable, either. Fortunately, alcohol-free spirits and non-alcoholic alternatives are getting better and tastier than ever, so now's the perfect time to see if this resolution is doable this year (spoiler alert: it is!).
If you're ready to take charge of your life, we're going to run through the various steps to take to reduce your alcohol intake and ensure long-term success with your resolution. Better yet, these tips can also work for other resolutions, so no matter your goals, we can help you achieve them. Let's get started.
Benefits of Cutting Back on Alcohol
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to limit their alcohol intake. However, some common advantages of cutting back include:
Improved Sleep Pattern
If you've ever gotten drunk, you know that too much alcohol can make you tired and sleepy. However, you'll also notice that you wind up waking up in the middle of the night or you wake up early in the morning. The reason for this switch is how your body processes alcohol.
Basically, as your body absorbs and digests alcohol, it takes a lot of energy to metabolize it and turn it from a poisonous substance into something that can pass through your system. The more you drink, the more energy it takes, so you wind up falling asleep or passing out.
Then, once your body is done processing the alcohol, it starts to feel more energized because it's not getting drained so much anymore. While you still might be tired physically, you'll be awake mentally.
Overall, alcohol disrupts your sleep pattern, so cutting back or eliminating drinks from your diet can help you get longer, more restorative sleep at night.
Improved Memory and Clarity
You may have heard that alcohol kills brain cells. While there is some truth to this statement, a more accurate one is that alcohol can numb these cells so they don't work as efficiently. The more often you numb them, the harder it is for the "fog" to lift. Even worse, this issue is cumulative, so drinking more often can make the problem worse over the long term.
Fortunately, cutting back on alcohol can help alleviate this symptom, and most people report feeling sharper and remembering more details within six weeks of reducing their intake.
As you may have noticed, alcohol slows down every part of your body. So, by drinking habitually, you're causing long-term and cumulative damage to your various internal systems. One system that takes a huge hit is your immunity. Basically, your white blood cells can't function properly, so diseases can run rampant.
If you've noticed yourself getting sick more often or coming down with more intense illnesses, cutting back on alcohol could boost your immunity and help you fight back against these invaders.
Less Stress on Your Body
No matter how much you drink, ingesting alcohol puts a lot of stress on your body's internal mechanisms. Even getting drunk a handful of times can lead to damage, sometimes permanently. As with the other problems on this list, the stress caused by alcohol consumption is cumulative, so the longer it continues, the more likely you could harm your body significantly.
Tips on How to Reduce Alcohol Consumption
For most people, cutting back on alcohol use simply requires more conscious decisions, and some willpower. However, if you're looking to make this shift permanent, it can help to follow these tips.
Recognize Your Habits
If you don't know the extent of your problematic behavior, how can you hope to change it? This is true of any bad habits, but when it comes to alcohol, you can start by keeping track of how many drinks you have on a daily or weekly basis.
You should also pay attention to the circumstances that lead you to drink. Are you enjoying a glass or two with friends, or do you tend to drink by yourself? For example, perhaps you have a beer or a cocktail with dinner on most nights, whether you're with other people or not.
You don't need to track your behavior for too long, but you should do it for long enough to spot any potential patterns. So, it may be a couple of weeks or might take a couple of months to identify when and how you drink.
Find Suitable Alcohol Alternatives
One quick and efficient way to cut alcohol consumption is to find non-alcoholic or low-alcohol alternatives. This way, you can still have the experience of drinking but without the side effects of consuming real alcohol.
Fortunately, Seir Hill has some of the best alcohol-free spirits, including:
- Biscane - This is our award-winning dark rum, which is perfect for Dark n' Stormys and mojitos.
- Mashville - If your drink of choice is whiskey, Mashville can satisfy those tastebuds while removing the harsh side effects. Enjoy a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned!
- Durangold - Tequila adds some zest and spice to your cocktail, so any substitute has to match this boldness. Fortunately, Durangold is here to satisfy your cravings of a Ranch Water!
Focus on More Productive Hobbies and Activities
If you're regularly drinking, you'll notice that your productivity will drop significantly. Since you'll be more tired and mentally foggy, it's hard to stay focused on anything for too long.
So, swapping your drinking habits with something more constructive is an ideal way to solve two problems at once. For example, whenever you feel like having a drink, take a walk, start working on a project, or clean something. If the desire to drink persists, you can have a non-alcoholic recipe to tide you over.
Be Open About Your Goals and Decisions
No one exists in a vacuum, and trying to stick to your new year’s resolutions is much easier when you have support. So, telling your friends and family about your process can help since they can keep you accountable. Make sure to start by telling those closest to you who want you to succeed. From there, you can expand your support circle once you have a few weeks or months under your belt.
Take it Slow
A big reason why so many resolutions fail is that people get frustrated when they experience setbacks or stalled progress. For example, perhaps you've been able to stay sober for several months, but then you started celebrating over the holidays and returned to old habits.
While it's natural to get discouraged, don't take it personally. Everyone backslides every now again, but what matters most is how you react to it. If you let it derail your progress, you could wind up back where you started. Alternatively, you can recognize it for what it is, pick yourself back up, and continue moving forward.
When Drinking, Don't Forget to Hydrate
Many of the health problems associated with drinking stem from your body trying to metabolize and shed the alcohol as quickly as possible. One way to aid in this process is to hydrate as much as possible. Not only can water dilute the alcohol in your system, but it can also make you pee more often, thus shedding more alcohol as you use the bathroom.
So, if or when you are drinking the real deal, try to have at least one full serving of water to match your alcoholic intake. You will be much happier and more satisfied with yourself the next day.
What is Sober Curious?
Many people tend to think of alcohol consumption as a binary situation. Either you drink, or you don't. However, that kind of thinking is a big reason why many individuals struggle with staying sober for the long term.
Being sober curious means that you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption but don't want to cut it out of your life completely. So, you're interested with the idea of total sobriety, but you want to leave room for a cocktail here and there for certain situations.
The best way to stay sober curious is to focus on when drinking is most important for you. For example, maybe you love the social aspect of drinking and want to continue doing it with friends or during events. Then, any other time, you either abstain or drink non-alcoholic spirits instead.
How to Stick With Your New Year's Resolution of Consuming Less Alcohol
Now let's get into the nitty-gritty of making your new resolution stick for this year and beyond. Also, keep in mind that while we're focused on alcohol consumption, these steps can also work for anything you want to change about your habits.
Step One: Create a Plan
If you're planning to just "wing it," you're setting yourself up for failure. While planning for success may seem like too much work at first, it's necessary to get yourself into the right mindset. Otherwise, it's too easy to slip back into old habits and behaviors because it's what your mind is used to.
When creating a plan, try to incorporate these elements:
- Goal - What specific goal are you trying to achieve? Do you want to stop drinking altogether or just limit your intake to special events? Be as detailed with your goal as possible so it's easier to tell when you've reached it.
- Timeline - Realistically, the best path to success isn't to look at your resolution as a single achievement. For example, what's the point of staying sober for a year if you're going to return to your old habits next year? So, timelines should be open-ended and focus on the process of change rather than an "end" date.
- Resources - What resources do you have at your disposal to complete your goal? Which elements are you lacking, and what do you need to do to get them? For example, if you want to switch to non-alcoholic spirits, you need to have them on hand.
Step Two: Start Slow and Build
As we mentioned, no one expects you to make sweeping changes immediately that will last forever. Sticking to your new year's resolution isn't the same as flicking a switch or checking a box.
So, it's best if you start small with bite-size goals that can build into something more meaningful. For example, let's say you find yourself drinking a cocktail every night. Your primary goal may be to be sober for two nights per week. If that's easy to do, you can build it to four nights, then five, and so on.
The benefit of this approach is that it's easier to get back on track. Let's say you were able to cut out cocktails twice a week, but it's much harder to do it four times per week. Even if you experience a setback, you can stick to two nights a week and figure out how to move forward from there. Overall, some progress is better than no progress.
Step Three: Make Preparations When Necessary
Is there a big celebration coming up? If so, are you hoping to stay sober during the festivities? In this situation, you should come up with a specific plan of action to make it through the event so you stick to your resolution and don't go down a slippery slope.
For example, maybe you can tell other people about your resolution so they don't offer drinks during the event. Similarly, perhaps you can bring your own alcohol-free spirits so you're in control over what you drink. Bring Mulled Apple Cider to your next holiday gathering. Having this plan in place allows you to stick to it instead of trying to wing it.
Step Four: Identify Triggers and Learn to Avoid or Overcome Them
This step is huge in ensuring long-term success with your resolution. When identifying your habits, you should also focus on what triggers you to drink. For example, maybe you find yourself having extra cocktails when you're hanging out with specific friends. Or, perhaps job stress can lead you to have a drink or two at night after a long day.
Identifying these triggers is the first part, but the harder challenge is learning how to overcome them. Maybe you avoid hanging out with those friends, or you make sure to see them in a setting without alcohol around. Another possibility is telling them about your trigger and asking them to avoid offering you a drink.
Some triggers are stronger than others, and they may be internal instead of external. Really strong triggers can feel impossible to break, but they just take time to wear off. As long as you keep at it, you should be able to overcome them eventually.
Step Five: Learn From Your Setbacks and Let Them Guide Your Success
Once again, backsliding is natural and normal - everyone experiences it. However, you can learn from these setbacks and use them as instructional guides on how to avoid them in the future. Maybe you just need to plan better next time, or perhaps you need to train yourself to react differently to specific situations.
When you can recognize what caused the setback, you can figure out a way to get past it. As Edison famously said, "I haven't failed 10,000 times. I've successfully found 10,000 ways that don't work." Sometimes, a simple change of perspective is all it takes to stay focused.
Bottom Line: New Resolutions Take Time
Choosing to go alcohol-free won't happen overnight, nor should it. Realistically, once you get into the right mindset, you won't have to wait until New Years to fulfill your resolution. Keep these steps in mind and trust in the process. Even incremental steps forward are better than nothing, and you can always press on, no matter what setbacks you may face along the way. You've only failed when you decide to give up.