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How to take a break from drinking alcohol

We can't promise it will be painless - but these tips will definitely make it easier.

Drinking wine

So you’ve taken on a challenge to take a break from drinking – well done! As well as saving you money and giving you back your Sunday mornings, drinking less comes with a bunch of health benefits.

Of course, it’s not realistic for most of us to quit drinking completely forever. As with most things, moderation is the key for long term healthy living. But for many people, cutting out alcohol completely for a set period such as a month (like FebFast or Dry July) can be a great way to pause, notice how much you’re drinking and how it’s impacting you, and reset your habits.

“If you feel you are drinking too much and it has become a habit, taking a break may just be the way to kick-start changes to that habit.”

Why drink less?

Alcohol is an accepted part of the social structure of Australia, but it is a substance that has the potential to cause a great deal of harm. The effects of alcohol on health are well described and unfortunately, most of it is on the negative side of the health ledger.

Alcohol is a major cause of road injury and a significant contributor to domestic violence while higher rates of heart disease, liver disease, cancer, mental health problems and excess weight are all consequences of long-term heavy drinking. And let’s not forget about the ‘next day’ ill effects from an evening of over-exuberance.

Fortunately, most Australians who drink alcohol do so at levels that have few adverse problems. Low levels of drinking may have some favourable benefits on cardiovascular disease risk (at least in middle-aged people), but other health activities like exercise and eating well can give even greater benefits for a whole range of health issues.

“In place of that after-work drink, use a juicer to come up with some speciality fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies.”

Tips for changing your habits

Instead of treating your break from alcohol as just an exercise in willpower, use it as a chance to give your attention to other healthy changes you can make in place of the alcohol you are giving up. If you feel you are drinking too much and it has become a habit, taking a break may just be the way to kick-start changes to that habit.

The key to changing a habit is not eliminating it, but replacing it with something else. And that something else should be a healthier habit. Using these swaps gives you a ‘go to’ when faced with triggers for the habit you’re try to break.

Focus on what you are gaining, not what you are losing. Here are some tips to help you with this:

  • Remove temptations. Make your home as free from alcohol as possible and put away any alcohol you have stored such as wine and spirits out of sight – you don’t want the reminder of what you’re giving up when you get home after a hard day.
  • Replace with healthier beverages. In place of that after-work drink, use a juicer to come up with some speciality fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies. Don’t have a quality juicer? The money you’ll save from not drinking will easily finance this.
  • Get outside and get moving. Take advantage of waking up not feeling seedy on a weekend as a chance to get out for some early morning activity. Checking out the weekend farmers’ markets would be the perfect way to stock up on healthy food for the week.
  • Think outside the box. Social situations involving alcohol may be hard to avoid, but if you have any control over the plans, suggest other places to meet up with friends that don’t normally involve alcohol, such as weekend brunch.
  • Team up. Don’t do it alone. Friendly support and a small dose of competition is a great motivational tonic, so team up with someone else.

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