How to reduce alcohol consumption, drink in the New Year

Are you interested in swapping a glass of wine for a non-alcoholic alternative this New Year?

Dry January, the annual no-alcohol challenge, offers respite, a reset, a chance to reflect on the influence alcohol has on our lives. People swear to trade the haze of a hangover for 31 days of mental clarity.

The popular trend may have a range of health benefits, doctors told USA TODAY. This includes feeling more alert and well rested, along with other benefits.

“That’s a big part of why people go on Dry January and this journey to begin with, because there are little things that bother them about the way alcohol makes them feel,” said Dr. Dawn Sugarman, research psychologist at McLean Hospital. in Massachusetts and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “It’s really about looking at your relationship with alcohol.”

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And experts say there are a few steps you can take to maintain healthy habits, not just for January but for the whole year. Here are some tactics you can use if you want to eliminate alcohol altogether or cut back on your alcohol intake.

Make a list of pros and cons

Sugarman said people who want to avoid or limit alcohol can make a list of pros and cons. Think about why you want to cut down on your alcohol intake and what you don’t like about drinking alcohol.

“But on the other hand, what are the things you like about drinking?” Because once you understand them, you can develop a more realistic and smarter plan,” Sugarman said.

“If you enjoy drinking because you feel less stressed, you can find other ways to reduce the stress in your life,” she added. “Some people exercise to relieve stress. Other people find that meditation or mindfulness can be helpful when they are stressed.

Dr. Jamile Wakim-Fleming, liver specialist at the Cleveland Clinic and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University and Lerner College of Medicine, agreed that replacing alcohol with other activities can be an effective way to reduce expenses.

“Instead of going out every night with friends to have happy hour and drink, maybe we should have happy hour and go to a restaurant and not drink, or have a social gathering around an activity” , she said.

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Have a plan for your drinking

Sugarman also recommended people who want to limit their alcohol consumption have a plan for social situations where ordering a cocktail or a beer might be the norm.

“You don’t want to be caught off guard,” she said. “Think about what you are going to do. Will you grab a soft drink and hold it so you hold a drink and feel better?

“If you’re expecting people to ask you why you’re not drinking or do you want a drink, the best thing you can really do is to practice refusal skills beforehand, how you’re going to say no.”

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Wakim-Fleming said talking to your social group or family members about your cutback plan is key.

“If you decide you want to quit, but you keep seeing the same people drinking around you, you’re not going to quit,” she said.

Don’t expect results right away

Wakim-Fleming said it usually takes about a month to see a significant effect after changing the amount or frequency of consumption.

“They realize that ‘I’m a different person. I feel better. I think better. My reflexes are better. My sleep is better. My memory is better,” she said.

But she said that even if you don’t completely cut out the alcohol, you can still see some of these changes.

“If they could minimize the amount they drink, it would give them an advantage,” she said. “If they used to drink three drinks a night, maybe (they) should do two. If they drank every day, maybe they could do it every other day. Any amount lower than before is a significant amount.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also recommends choosing a limit on how much you want to drink, sipping a drink slowly, and other steps.

USA Today

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