Having a drink might seem like a quick and easy solution for when you’re feeling stressed, socially anxious, or sleepy; but it usually does more harm than good.
Alcohol is a depressant, and drinking regularly or excessively can wreak havoc on your mental health. It can increase your risk of developing depression or make your symptoms of depression worse. If you mix your medication with alcohol (which is never recommended), it can make medication less effective. It can also have damaging effects on your liver and other organs.
Other effects of excessive alcohol use include:
There are plenty of good reasons to drink less or quit altogether. The benefits of quitting alcohol include:
However, we live in a society that often revolves around social drinking. Whether you’re going to happy hour or watching a basketball game, alcohol is often everywhere. It’s hard to drink less or quit drinking if you don’t have a game plan.
If you’d like to drink less or quit drinking altogether, here are 12 tips to help you:
When you decide that you’d like to drink less, it’s a good idea to set a goal instead of attempting to quit cold turkey. Set yourself up for success by creating easily achievable goals to limit your drinking and drink less overall.
Some questions you should ask yourself when setting your goals:
Once you’ve answered those questions for yourself, you can create realistic goals to curb your drinking.
Do you know how often you drink? Is it every day, or is it every few weeks? If you have a nightly glass of wine on top of drinking regularly on the weekends, you might not realize exactly how much alcohol you’re consuming. You might surprise yourself with the answer once you start tracking how often you consume alcohol every week.
Tracking your drinking habits allows you to pinpoint when and where you can drink less.
Do you have a handle on how much you drink in one sitting? Set a limit on the amount of drinks you can have and make yourself accountable by keeping count. By counting drinks, you can consciously choose to drink less in order to limit your intake.
You don’t have to use a physical journal to keep track. There are apps available to help you, or you could even just use your Notes app on your phone.
Once you decide to reduce or stop drinking, do a sweep of your home and get rid of any alcohol you may have. Also, try to avoid people or places that you know will trigger your desire for alcohol.
If you know your resolve weakens when you feel peer pressure to drink alcohol, then it’s probably not a good idea to go to events like a social happy hour. Instead of bar-hopping with your friends on Friday, stay in and have an alcohol-free night. Spend time with people doing activities that don’t involve alcohol, like hiking or visiting a museum.
The CDC recommends limiting alcohol intake to one drink or less per day for women, and two drinks or less per day for men. The CDC defines one drink as:
If you don’t measure out your drinks before you drink them, you may not realize that you’re drinking much more than recommended. Measuring them out can help you decrease the amount that you drink in one sitting.
If you inform your friends and family that you’re no longer drinking (or drinking less), then you are more likely to feel motivated to stick to your plans.
You don’t need to go into detail if you don’t want to. If you’re having a hard time explaining why you’re changing your drinking habits, try using one of these phrases:
Of course, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. If someone pressures you anyway and disrespects your boundaries, then it might be time to re-evaluate their place in your life.
It’s easy to slide into drinking way too much when you’re trying to keep up with the rest of your group. Instead of gulping the drink you have in your head, slow down and take some time to come back into the moment. Practice mindfulness, and be conscious of every sip of your drink that you take. Drinking slowly can help you pace yourself and drink less throughout the night.
There are a ton of alcohol-free activities that you can do with your friends! Instead of meeting up with people for a drink, try meeting for coffee, hanging out outside, or even just going on a walk instead.
Depending on where you live, you can find a spot that doesn’t serve alcohol. You could also try a new hobby with your friends, like outdoor activities, volunteering, or playing games. Doing activities that don’t require drinking will help alleviate the peer pressure you would feel at a bar or party.
In order to drink less, you could choose one or two days to have a small amount to drink, and then designate most of the week as “alcohol-free.” This would help you limit your drinking to only a handful of days, instead of drinking casually every single day.
You don’t need to undertake this journey alone. If you’ve decided to quit alcohol altogether, the most important thing to remember is that there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you are. It’s helpful to feel supported, and sometimes your family and friends can’t provide the type of support you need.
Sometimes we drink simply because it has become a habit. Maybe you’ve accidentally conditioned your body to crave alcohol when you get home from work. Or you’ve grown accustomed to cracking open a beer every time you’re at your friend’s place.
Try replacing your drinking habits with healthier habits. Instead of drinking to relax, try exercise or yoga. The next time you visit a friend, drink water or bring your own (alcohol-free) beverages so that you have something to sip on besides alcohol. Do an audit of your life and see where you can replace drinking with something healthier.
If you use alcohol to cope with anxiety or stress, try building healthier coping mechanisms. Some great ways to alleviate stress include:
There are plenty of other healthy coping mechanisms that you can try out in order to replace drinking.
Even though social drinking is so normalized in society, you don’t need to follow the crowd!
Your mental health is directly affected by alcohol, and drinking less alcohol – or quitting altogether – could really improve your symptoms. Of course, it’s easier said than done, which is why it’s helpful to have a mental health care team by your side when you quit.
If you need extra support and think you may have more serious symptoms that could point to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), Cerebral can help you through our alcohol addiction treatment program. Get connected with a care team today.
As much as alcohol can affect your mental health, the state of your mental health can also have a big effect on your desire to drink. Getting both under control is key to living well. How is your mental health? Take our free assessment to find out!
Medically reviewed by: Jon Snopes, MD