With New Year’s resolutions incoming, thousands of us will be wanting to change habits to live a better life. But there is a reason that most resolutions fail by week 2 - which is that people tend to focus on the wrong things when trying to make a permanent change. Here are some ways that you can make better habits stick:
Do you know how long it takes for your body to reset when you stop drinking? For most people it's only about a week. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable and the ‘withdrawal’ from drinking isn’t as long as you might think. However, sticking to this is not about your body, it’s about your thinking. To make a new habit stick (especially if you have been drinking heavily for a sustained period of time) you need to retrain your thinking. This means focusing on the outcome of better habits, not the problem.
The way to really embed new better behaviours is to focus on the future. Spend some time really thinking about what a new ’drink-free’ life has in store for you. Visualise better health and how that will feel, imagine better wealth and what you will do with that money. Think about how your relationships will flourish and how life will feel more peaceful and positive. Get really clear on what gets better when you drink less.
Many of us drink in response to triggers. These can be emotional, situational or other people. For example, some people use drink as a reward for a hard day at work. Others use it to manage anxiety or stress, whilst others find that a person or group of people trigger excessive drinking. Try and work out when you drink too much and why and then think carefully about how you could avoid some of these situations as you progress.
Your brain loves reward so find ways to encourage yourself. Tell other (non-judgy) people about your success so they can support you. Look for ways to give yourself a pat on the back - a little present, or a positive affirmation. Take opportunities to embrace the new moments a drink free life brings you - people talk emotionally about seeing their first sober sunrise, better sleep patterns, brighter eyes, greater intimacy and trust. There are so many small moments on the path that you should celebrate and recognise.
There is no doubt that your life will be better if you drink less. But the path is not always easy and if you have a setback, the worst thing you can do is punish yourself. IF you act like it is the end of the world, it makes it much harder for your thinking to get back on track. Instead, take the opportunity to learn - why did it happen and how can you avoid it happening again? Don’t let one mistake knock your progress. Be kind to yourself.
Whilst it's possible to reset your drinking and transform your life by yourself, there are thousands of people following the same path and sometimes, being part of something bigger (on your own terms) can give you extra motivation. Consider using a book or a programme to support your transformation. Online programmes enable you to make the change in your own time and in privacy, but with the support of people who have been there and know how it feels.
If support on your journey sounds appealing, take a look at our Facebook group The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober to.