Instants/iStock(NEW YORK) — You may already be a week into Dry January, or you may be deciding to start now. Either way, the challenges of giving up alcohol for the entire month are real.
Annie Grace, the author of The Alcohol Experiment, knows firsthand. In her mid-30s she was a high-level executive who drank two bottles of wine a night.
She gave up alcohol for 30 days in order to regain control of her life. Grace, a mom of two, no longer drinks and has gone on to write two books sharing research-driven tips for giving up booze.
My experience in taking a break from alcohol for 30 days was that it wasn’t always easy because I went into it with a mindset of “missing out” or “giving something up” for 30 days, which created the forbidden fruit syndrome in my mind.
Often, when I would take a break from drinking, I would think about drinking constantly and crave it even more during the time that I wasn’t drinking, which is ironic. These experiences are exactly what led me to create the Alcohol Experiment, because when you go into a break from alcohol without the right level of curiosity and the right mindset, it can almost be counterproductive, making alcohol more important, mentally, while you are abstaining than it ever was while you were drinking.
So, if you are considering taking a break from alcohol, here are my three best tips for making sure that it serves you, rather than creating the forbidden fruit syndrome:
1. Focus on the positive
The way you approach this month will be vital to your success. If you feel like it’s going to be awful, it probably will.
Your inner reality creates your outer reality.
Approach Dry January knowing you will get through it and be successful. There might be hard times, but you’ll be okay.
Make sure your perspective is on all of the positives you can gain from the experience. I suggest you make a list of everything you stand to gain and the positives you notice along the way.
If you’re sleeping better, write it down. Lost weight? Write it down. When you start to question your resolve, consult your list.
2. Stay firm
The firmer your decision, the easier this will be. That means that realizing while it may be hard, you’re committed to staying the course.
Alcohol is addictive and on top of that, we tend to have an emotional attachment to it as well. We associate it with everything from celebrations and relaxation to socialization.
That means almost every day is full of triggers that may cause us to question our decision. Rather than leaving the possibility of drinking on the table, commit to a full 31 days alcohol free and see what changes can take place in your life due to that resolve.
3. Don't rely on willpower
Willpower is not the answer.
You can white-knuckle it through January and manage to force your way through to the end. The problem is that once Feb. 1 rolls around, nothing has changed.
It’s the forbidden fruit syndrome. We want the exact thing we can’t have. You feel deprived and upset that you can’t have it, so as soon as you lift the ban, you’re right back where you started.
Instead of giving alcohol this pedestal of importance in your life, get out of the willpower game.
What you need to do is change your thinking around drinking.
Examine the reasons that you drink. Make a list of all the reasons that you drink: To relax, network, to deal with anxiety, to socialize, etc. Now take those reasons, one at a time and examine them.
Take them apart, see where the belief originated and if it actually holds water. Does alcohol relax you? Why do you think that? Does drinking eliminate the issue that was causing your stress? Take those issues one by one and see if alcohol really does anything to alleviate them.
This — reshaping your beliefs based upon your experiences — will be more effective than willpower ever could be.
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