Lying in bed desperately trying to get to sleep with that overwhelming buzzing in your ears and the room spinning a little too much. Then that dreaded thought pops into your head - 'Perhaps I should not have had that last glass of wine?!' (a.k.a. the wholly unnecessary but compulsory nightcap). Sound familiar? Me too. British people drink an average of 14 units per week and are amongst the worst countries in the world for binge drinking (according to a report by the World Health Organisation (2014). In addition to this - almost all our social events include alcohol in some form or another. Think about it - when was the last dinner party or barbecue you attended, where you were not offered a drink? Can't remember? Yup, me neither.
As an avid beer and wine enthusiast myself, I too have fallen into the trap of drinking a little too much. However, it's not all doom and gloom as there are simple things that you can do to help reduce how much you drink. Before we get into it, let's be clear about the message I am trying to get across (before I get called a party pooper!). I'm not saying completely cut alcohol out of your life. Finish that whole bloody bottle of vino and dance around the kitchen to Beyoncé, if that is what you feel like doing. But I am encouraging you to make an active effort to be more aware of the amount of alcohol you are consuming. So, how much is too much booze?
What are the daily guidelines for alcohol consumption?
According to the guidelines from the NHS: Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units per day. Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units per day Typically, for men this is equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer and for women it is equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine. In addition to this to keep health risks from alcohol at a low level if you drink most weeks: men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis and spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week. For more information on how to calculate what is in your drink, check out this website: http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/understand-your-drinking/unit-calorie-calculator/
What are the benefits of drinking less?
There are many benefits to reducing alcohol intake which I won't bore you to death with but here are some:
Improved mental health
Improved physical health
Increased quality of sleep
More functional relationships
So, let's get right to it - below are some easy and simple ways to drink less:
1. Drink AFTER you eat a meal
As tempting as it is to have a drink (or five) before your meal, alcohol fills you up with empty calories and prevents you from eating properly. Try to limit yourself to one drink before your meal, or better yet, wait until after you have eaten to have a drink. Trust me, this one makes all the difference!
2. Track your drink intake
Whether it be mentally reflecting on how much you drank the day/night before or physically writing this information down. This is not meant for drunk-shaming or making you feel guilty about the amount you drank - far from. See it as a more of a tool to help you decide how much to drink in the near future. I am a big fan of putting pen to paper - things appear more real when you have them written down. The science also proves that writing stuff down puts your subconscious on alert for ways to take action towards your goals. Thus, if you want to drink less, start tracking how much alcohol you consume weekly (or even daily).
3. Start reflecting on reasons why you drink
Gulp - this can be quite a revelation and is a more mindful approach to exploring your drinking habits. Notice when and where you feel like having a drink. Whether it be getting home from work and pouring yourself a glass of wine or going out for drinks with colleagues. Start becoming aware of situations where you feel like drinking and then reflect on the reasons why you feel that way. Perhaps alcohol helps you loosen up, helps you appear more confident. Or maybe you do not want to be the only one not drinking. Whatever the reason is, reflecting on your habits helps you gain more clarity on yourself. When you have a clearer picture of what is happening in your internal environment, you understand your choices better. The best piece of advice a friend once told me is: if you feel the need to have a drink to cope with a social event or situation - most of the time it is because you do not want to be there. And that is ok.
4. Explore other activities that you might enjoy
An activity that does NOT involve alcohol. I know, who knew such a thing ever existed. But they do and are quite fun! Going to the cinema, going for a walk, taking a class, cooking a meal, or spending some quality time with your loved ones, just to name a few. The more you fit these activities into your week, the less tempted you will be to have a drink.
5. Order low-alcohol drinks
Have a look at the ABV% on the back of labels and choose your drink accordingly. Yes, that means swapping that last gin and tonic for a lager or a wine spritzer. It may seen boring now but your future self will thank you for it. Generally speaking, steer away from spirits and shots and opt for low percentage beer, lager, cider and wine.
I am also aware of the irony that I am writing this as I recover from two prior alcohol-fuelled nights. But hey - nobody is perfect and we all could do with being less harsh on ourselves. If you have any questions or would like to discuss more tips on reducing alcohol consumption, please do get in touch. Hope you have an amazing week ahead with many sober-filled moments!