Is it time for a change? After the excess of Christmas and the parties of New Year, many Irish people are thinking about making a change and drinking less.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, yet with the right advice and support many people successfully cut back and feel the benefits.
Research shows that over 50pc of people in Ireland drink in a way that could be causing harm so it’s not surprising that lots of people have nagging doubts about their drinking habits and wonder if drinking less might be a good New Year’s resolution.
So, if you’re thinking about reducing your alcohol consumption in 2020, look no further. We’ve gathered together tips and advice from the Ask About Alcohol website, the HSE’s dedicated website that provides information and advice on alcohol.
Think about why you want to change
Take a moment to think about why you want to change your drinking habits. Is alcohol affecting your mood, weight or sleeping pattern? Is it damaging your relationships with your friends and family?
Weigh up the pros and cons and make an informed decision. The Self-Assessment Tool on the HSE’s Ask About Alcohol website is a good place to start. The tool is designed to help people understand more about the impact their drinking is having on their lives. The feedback can help determine what level of risk your relationship with alcohol is at and if you are overdoing it, the choices you have and how you might put a plan into action.
Have a goal in mind
Making a plan and having a clear goal is very important if you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption in 2020. While some people might want to reduce their intake, others might want to give up alcohol for a set period of time e.g. Dry January.
Once you have an aim in mind, tell people about it. Sharing your goal with friends and family will help you to be accountable. If you can partner up with a buddy that’s even better.
Learn from the past
You may have tried and failed to change before. If so, think about what worked and what you could do differently this time.
Everyone is unique so it is important that you reflect on what works for you. Be honest with yourself and implement changes that will help. Here are a few ideas.
Pace and Space out alcohol
Regularly drinking six or more standard drinks in one session is a high risk pattern which can lead to health damage over time. Remember that it takes your liver one hour to break down one standard drink.
One easy way to reduce your intake is to space out your alcoholic drinks. Try sipping on a soft drink in between your pints or have a glass of water after each gin. You’d be surprised at how much this can help your hangover (and your budget).
In order to space out your drinks, avoid getting involved in rounds and always wait until you’ve finished your drink before you buy another. These little steps can make a big difference in the long run. Set yourself a limit prior to a night out and stick to it.
Dinner only drinking
Instead of spending your whole evening drinking, why not allocate a certain time when you can enjoy a tipple? Lots of people find it helpful to only drink when they are eating their evening meal.
As this is usually a social time when people gather together, it can help you to stay within your limits and actually enjoy the experience.
Enjoy drink-free days
Try to have at least two alcohol-free days a week and space out your drinks over the week i.e. don’t drink them all in one sitting.
This will help you to avoid building a tolerance to alcohol and stop you from forming a habit. If you want to stay within the low-risk guidelines, it’s important to understand standard drinks and how much alcohol there is in different drinks. The Ask About Alcohol calculator can help you to do this.
Always use a measure
If you usually drink at home, you could be consuming more than you think. To avoid overdoing it, make sure that you always use a drinks measure to pour spirits such as vodka, whiskey and gin.
A standard drink contains 10g of alcohol which is equivalent to a small glass of wine, a pub measure of spirits or half a pint of beer. The weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines are less than 11 standard drinks for women and 17 standard drinks for men.
Remember when your Mum would tell you to eat a big meal before a night out? Well, she was right. Lining your stomach is actually a pretty good idea.
A healthy meal before you go out and even some snacks between drinks can help slow down the absorption of alcohol in your body. This will help you to enjoy your night out, without overdoing it.
At large social occasions such as weddings and birthday parties, there is often a lot of pressure to drink. Sometimes you might even feel like a bit of an outsider if you decide to abstain.
The best way to deal with these situations is to come prepared. Let your friends know in advance that you won’t be drinking as much as usual (or at all). Have a plan in place for how you’ll say no to a drink and bring people with you who will support your decision.
Take time to reflect on how and why you use alcohol.
Try to avoid drinking to meet an emotional need such as to ease a situation in which you feel powerless, to drown your sorrows or even to toast your successes.
Dealing with your emotions without the cushion of alcohol allows them to be dealt with rather than buried or expressed through a haze.
Celebrate your successes
Cutting down on alcohol can be difficult which is why you should always reward your successes, no matter how small.
Treat yourself to your favourite meal; enjoy an old hobby or book, a weekend city break with all the money that you have saved. It’s important to celebrate your achievements.
Ask for help
If you find that you are struggling to cut down on alcohol on your own, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. There are lots of great online resources out there or you can talk to your GP to find out about further supports.
Talking to a professional can help you to work out the steps you need to take to reduce your drinking or stop altogether. Having the right support can make all the difference.
If you need help with finding support, call the Drugs and Alcohol Helpline on 1800 459 459 Monday-Friday 9:30am – 5:30pm.
For more information on cutting down and the benefits of drinking less visit www.askaboutalcohol.ie.