Many people report drinking excessively this past year, but scientists say it’s no surprise women were hit particularly hard. A JAMA Network Open study in October revealed a 41% increase in the number of days when women drank heavily (four or more drinks in a couple of hours). Parents of both sexes with children between the ages of five and seven reported their rate of drinking more than doubled this past year, according to the American Psychological Association.
Many people looking for ways to cut back on excessive drinking have found success using a combination of new apps and old strategies. These are some approaches that may help.
Change the Habit
Some people find they drink out of habit. It may be that having a glass in your hand—not the desire for alcohol—is the habit. Are there certain times during the day when you are accustomed to drinking? For some, cocktail hour comes while watching the evening news. Others have a nightcap before bed. You may just need a beverage to sip. Change up your routine and try strategies that reduce your alcohol intake. Switch to a nonalcoholic beer after work or substitute a cup of tea before sleep.
Make a Plan – And Stick to It
Relying on willpower alone doesn’t work as well as committing to a goal you draw up at the beginning of each week. Plan to limit your drinking to a specific amount each day. Now, you’ve boxed yourself in from backing out on impulse. It’s a tactic that works just as effectively for targeting other behavior you’d like to change. Set up a workout schedule to encourage exercise. Draw up a list of junk food items you’ll remove from your weekly grocery shopping trip. Once you declare a plan, your chances of success go up.
Draw Up Rules
Adopting a framework of rules can set up obstacles that slow your pace of drinking. And slowing down will put a damper on drinking heavily. Time your drinks so that each must last at least one hour. Or stop after one drink, and consume a glass of water before having another.
Track With an App
Turn to an app to build healthier drinking habits. A popular one is Cutback Coach, which creates a custom plan based on your goals and current drinking habits. The app sends a text message daily to help you track drinking and stay on target with reminders. You will also receive notifications about progress made, calories avoided, and money saved by less drinking.
Enlist Support From Friends
Your nearest and dearest will be happy to assist when they know about your determination to curb drinking. Let them know that you’re committing to a weekly plan and enlist their support in helping you stick with it. Your family can suggest activities to substitute in place of a glass of wine. Ask your spouse to walk with you after work instead of going for a drink. See if a friend can meet for tennis on the weekend. It’s easier to avoid drinking when you’ve got someone on your side.
Find an Online Community
Those who want to moderate their drinking but not necessarily abstain will find an online community of like-minded people at Moderation Management. The nonprofit aims to reduce alcohol misuse and restore balance by changing the relationships people have with drinking. A private Facebook group is available to offer advice on cutting back, while Zoom calls bring together members who can offer tips.