First of all, recognise your cravings
Cravings are not inherently bad – they are a motivating drive towards something that feels good. From time to time, we all experience cravings for something – whether it be a food, a drink, or an activity. These are just a normal part of being human.
Often people simply give into cravings without thinking too much about them. But you can learn how to respond differently to cravings – for alcohol, smoking and even emotional eating – by following some simple steps.
Acknowledge and understand your cravings
Reflect on why you are craving a drink. Is it just a pattern (it’s a specific time of day), or are you bored, rewarding yourself or are you trying to manage your stress or emotions?
Instead of shutting down your craving, name and validate it. Say to yourself, “I notice I’m having a craving for a drink right now. That makes sense when I am feeling this way or when it is this time of day.”
Remember cravings are time-limited – they do not last forever. It might help to say to yourself, “this craving will pass.”
Delay your cravings
Cravings rise and fall like waves, so commit to delaying your first drink by ten minutes. During this time direct your attention on another activity – you might watch some TV, do a bit of housework or have a shower. Brief physical exercise and even taking some deep breaths can also help.
After the ten minutes, reflect on how you feel now. You may choose to delay again or have a drink. Regardless, by following this process (even once) you have already started to change the way you respond to cravings. Over time and through practice you’ll have greater control over what you do when a craving comes.
Change your routine
Do something different around the time you’d normally drink. For example, if you usually have a drink as soon as you finish work, take a shower instead or go for a short walk. Even make yourself a tasty (and healthy) snack, or call a friend! If you’ve got nowhere to go, drink a glass of water or make yourself a cuppa first. This may quench your thirst, and reduce your cravings.
Swap alcohol for an activity you enjoy. Involve the entire family, so they can be an extra distraction! Read a book together, start a scrap-book of your favourite memories, go for a family bike ride, have a karaoke night, learn the guitar or have a movie night with popcorn and iced tea … there are so many activities at your fingertips, the time will fly by before you’ve even noticed you haven’t taken a sip of the hard stuff.
Make a list of the benefits
Make a list of all the positives that will come out of drinking less, or not at all. Stick this list up on the fridge, so if you do go for that cheeky drink (and are tempted to pour another), you can remind yourself why you started. Here are some obvious benefits:
- You’ll save money
- You’ll wake up fresh as a daisy every day (goodbye, hangovers!)
- You’ll be healthier
- You challenged yourself, and you conquered that challenge
Remove alcohol from your home
This one’s pretty simple. You can’t drink if there’s nothing in the house to drink! Don’t add wine or beer to your shopping list and cancel your alcohol deliveries. If you want to go completely sober, bin any bottles you might have lying around. If you just want to cut back, don’t buy as much (or as often).
If you drink every day or every second day, it’s really important to speak to your GP before you try to ‘sober up’ alone. Your GP will help you reduce your drinking levels safely. They’ll also let you know what kind of symptoms you may experience when you do cut back, or cut off, from alcohol entirely.
When you’re struggling to resist your cravings, try one of the following:
- accept cravings come and go, and they do not last forever
- drink a non-alcoholic drink – check out our blog on healthy drinks and how to make them to help you get started
- delay the decision to drink or not drink for ten minutes (the craving will pass)
- do something you find relaxing, like reading, singing, yoga or watching a comedy on Netflix or YouTube
- review your list of benefits
- reach out to your friends and family for support and motivation.