Drinking too much alcohol is bad for health, and taking steps to cut back if you are overindulging is a great goal. Since there is some research highlighting the beneficial effects of alcohol (wine in particular), science seems to be sending us mixed messages. But, for the record, the recommended guidelines are no more than two drinks per day for men under 65 and no more than one drink per day for women under 65. If you tend to drink more than this, there are many strategies for getting your alcohol intake below the guidelines. Here are some steps to get you started.
Take stock of your current habits. First, figure out how much, when and where you drink. You can either use pen and paper, an app, or even your phone. The simple act of recording when and where you drink will make you more aware of your behavior.
Put a goal in writing. Set a firm goal for what you’d like to accomplish, keeping in mind where you are now and the support system you have in place. The best goals are simple, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For example: My goal is to limit my drinking to two glasses of wine this week. Put this goal in writing to hold yourself accountable.
Don’t keep alcohol in your house. Sometimes it’s easiest to avoid temptation by not having alcohol readily accessible.
Pace yourself when drinking. Enjoy your wine or beer at a leisurely pace instead of downing it quickly. To make this easier, keep a glass of water next to your drink and alternate sips. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach.
Ramp up your social support. Friends and family can either help or hinder your attempts to cut back on drinking. Find social settings that don’t revolve around alcohol, and people who don’t rely on alcohol to have a good time. If you’re comfortable, let people know about your goals so they can help you. You may be surprised how many people want to join your efforts!
Find healthy hobbies. If drinking is a primary part of your social life, look for new ways to spend your free time. Redirecting the time you spend drinking is a great way to meet new people, get involved in new activities and find out new things about yourself. If drinking is a coping mechanism for you, seek out alternative ways to manage your stress, such as exercise, reading or spending time with friends.
As with any changes, cutting back on alcohol is a process that takes time. Taking some of the steps above should help position you for success, but staying committed is the key. If you notice that things haven’t changed in two or three months and you are concerned about your alcohol intake, it’s advisable to seek professional help. Your doctor can provide guidance on where to go next.