How To Win At Dry January

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Deciding to give up alcohol is one thing – actually achieving it can be another. We all fall into habits with drinking: get home from work and pour a beer, a glass of wine, a G&T or whatever and sit down – the working day is done. Or you walk into a pub and order your usual. We’re also prompted by cravings. When we have a drink, the brain is positively stimulated in areas associated with happiness and reward, and after a while we start to connect the two – and for many of us seeing, smelling or even thinking about alcohol (or a place that sells it) causes the urge for a drink.

If you’re doing Dry January this year – or even thinking about giving up booze for longer – you’ll need to overcome these habits and triggers. Here are 19 simple ways to do it from Helen Foster’s book Quit Alcohol (For A Month).

1. Fool yourself and others by asking for your soft drink to be served in a pint glass if you’re normally a beer drinker. This can stop people asking why you’re not drinking (they just see the glass and assume that you are) – plus there’s something about holding that glass that’s reassuring.

2. Ask yourself why you’re out. If you had the choice to (a) go out and drink alcohol but not actually speak to anyone else while you have your drink or (b) go to the pub and see your friends but not drink, which would you choose? Most of us choose (b) – in which case, you’re actually getting the reward you want.

3. Check out the hashtag #HelloSundayMorning on Instagram. It’s full of people who have given up booze (for a variety of reasons) sharing what they’re doing now they’re not hungover. It gives you that extra bit of motivation – and you can post while you join in.

4. Brunch and breakfast are your friends – they’re the perfect time to see friends, but don’t come loaded with the expectation to drink.

5. Avoid rounds. One benefit of quitting is that you get to save money, so don’t blow that cash buying other people booze! But that’s not the only reason for avoiding rounds – there’s always that one friend who decides you really did want a beer despite asking for lime and soda and next thing you know, you’re off the wagon.

6. Pick pubs with activities – if your mind is distracted by answering quiz questions or playing pool or darts, you’re less likely to feel the call of the bar.

7. Breathe. If you’re wavering, take two deep breaths and tell yourself to make the right choice for you. It’s tempting to think, “I’ve done ten days now, one drink won’t hurt”. Taking the deep breaths gives you time to remember that if your aim is to totally quit alcohol for a whole month, one drink would stop that happening.

8. Keep telling yourself that you don’t drink. If you’re trying to cut back on anything, saying “No thanks, I don’t want it” makes it twice as likely that you’ll successfully resist than saying “No thanks, I can’t have that”, according to a US study. Saying “I can’t” signals that you’re giving up something desirable but saying “I don’t want it” gives you a sense of empowerment.

9. Book early morning fitness classes or splash some of the cash you’re saving on a personal trainer and schedule your sessions for 7am. The idea of trying to exercise early in the morning with a hangover should put you off giving in.

10. Offer to drive – everyone loves you so no-one nags.

11. Create a cash jar. Get a jar, mark it “My Sober Fund” and every night you might have drunk but didn’t, put the cash you estimate you saved in the jar. You can even make lists of what to spend it on when the month is over.

12. Change your password. If every time you sign into your email you type “nodrinks2day”, it’s reinforcing the choice you’ve made. There’s an entire movement in the USA called “positive passwording” based on how this tiny tweak can change people’s lives.

13. Put your goals on social media – and take note of the likes. It helps you achieve your goal, says a study from New York University, which found that people who told others that they were going to achieve something were spurred on when other people took notice.

14. Repeat the following mantra: “It will all still be there in 31 days” or however many days you have left. Pubs, clubs, bars and the booze aisle at the supermarket are not going anywhere during your month off.

15. Shake your head. Shaking your head “no” as you make the decision to turn something down helps reinforce the decision, research from Ohio University found.

16. Wait 15 minutes. Cravings hit you quickly and hard, but if you can distract your mind and stop thinking about them they pass – normally within quarter of an hour.

17. Tense a muscle. If you’re starting to waver, simply clench your biceps, tighten your calves or clench your buttocks – research published in the Journal Of Consumer Research found that tightening muscles actually increases resilience and willpower.

18. Go to brightly lit places or sit by the window. You make healthier choices in brightly lit environments, say researchers from Cornell University in the US.

19. Just aim to get through today. If a month without alcohol seems insurmountable, don’t think about it that way. Goals are often more achievable if we break them down into small and more immediate targets. Setting the goal when you wake up in the morning just not to drink that day might work better for you than telling yourself you’re not going to drink for a month.

Quit Alcohol (For A Month) by Helen Foster is out now, RRP £7.99 (Vermilion). Buy on

Coach Staff

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