5 tips to cut down on drinking

5 May 2020

If you feel that reducing your alcohol intake might be beneficial, BSc Economics student Hannah Buttle shares her top pieces of advice on how to do so. This advice doesn’t only have to apply during lockdown, and could be useful at any time in your life.

Selection of bottled alcohol spirits lined up on a shelf

Like one in five of us in the UK, I initially thought I could get through this pandemic with a bottle of whiskey and a stiff upper lip. One too many quarantine hangovers later, I decided to stop drinking for the whole of May. Sadly, there’s no catchy name for what I’m doing – Dry May, Dray, Stopay. Eventually, I settled on “No Goon Til June”. Goon is Australian for ‘wine from a box’. If you don’t know what wine from a box is, I suggest keeping it that way.

With no Goon on the horizon, I’ve shared my top pieces of advice on how to cut down your drinking. A disclaimer: the advice here is aimed at people who want to cut down and/or pause drinking, rather than for those who think they may have a problem with alcohol abuse. If you are worried about the amount you are drinking, speak to your doctor or click here for an international list of Alcoholics Anonymous services. Back to the advice:

1. Find something more than willpower to motivate you

When trying to break a habit, a lot of people think that simply telling themselves to behave differently will be enough. Overwhelmingly, it is not – only 3 per cent of smokers who decide to quit through willpower alone will do so successfully. So, create some incentives –a ‘swear jar’ for if you drink, doing a sober month with a friend, or a treat for sticking to your planned amount of drinks per week.

2. Don’t ignore cravings

Cravings tend to only last 15 minutes or less, but ignoring them won’t make them go away. Mindfulness techniques or even a good distraction can be really helpful in getting through those 15 minutes. Find one that works for you.

3. Invest in some alcohol-free alternatives

Alcohol –free beer has been my crutch of choice- I’ve found most corner shops tend to stock at least one brand. For the discerning drinker, BrewDog has two alcohol free beers. A note of caution: alcohol free substitutes can make cravings worse for some people. If that applies to you, I’d recommend ginger beer or another soft drink. If it’s chilly where you are, I’ve found a hot tea can actually hit the spot better than a lemonade. 

4. Remind yourself of the benefits

SoberUp,  a free app, gives you a day by day update on how your body is changing in the absence of alcohol. I have not drilled down on its scientific accuracy, but it doesn’t really matter as long as it helps motivate you. Some highlights:

Day 3: Better sleep

Day 8: Better skin

Day 14: Clearer thinking

5. Be kind to yourself

Habits are hard to break. They are even harder in the middle of a public health crisis, without your traditional support network, and with four deadlines in a week. Don’t beat yourself up for finding cutting down on drinking difficult. Remember that even a small change is better than no change at all.

Hannah Buttle, BSc Economics student with a year abroad