If you had been planning to embark on Dry January this year, your good intentions might have flown out of the window some time between hearing the phrase ‘Tier 4’ and frantically trying to find out if your kids’ school will be reopening this month.
I wouldn’t blame you: alcohol is a common coping mechanism for dealing with everything from stress and anxiety to loneliness and boredom, so it’s no surprise to learn that the stats show many of us drank more than ever in 2020. The trouble is that, although drinking numbs those negative feelings in the moment, alcohol is actually a depressant that depletes dopamine levels to the extent that the drinker needs more and more to get the same effect. Dopamine depletion is also associated with tiredness, anxiety, insomnia, low motivation and depression. NOT what you need right now.
So, if you feel that the first part of 2021 is going to be enough of a challenge without also trying to wean yourself off your G&T, then there is another way. Mindful Drinking is a more achievable goal than Dry January, because it takes the pressure off. Follow these tips and, you never know, you might actually prefer the less-alcohol you.
SET SOME RULES
Alcohol-free days are an important part of cutting back, so decide how many days a week you are going to allow yourself to drink. I generally go by the Rule of Three, so I have three drinking days each week, with no more than three drinks on those days. Keep track of your progress in an app like Dry Days or Drinkaware’s Track & Calculate Units.
DEFINE YOUR INCENTIVE
What are your reasons for wanting to drink less? Perhaps you want to improve your mood and have less anxiety. Maybe 2020 made you more aware of your physical health, and you want to improve your digestion and immunity. It could be that you want to lose weight and have clearer, firmer, glowier skin. Or maybe you simply want to save money. Whatever is your most powerful incentive, remind yourself of it every day.
While many of us are drinking more than ever, interestingly, there has also been a rise in people stopping drinking altogether. This doesn’t mean that some people have adapted ‘better’ to a difficult year, or that they have more will power. It simply means that their triggers are different. Many people’s drinking danger zones are social situations, so they find it easy to drink less in a year of almost no IRL socialising (and they’ll struggle to control themselves once we’re all allowed out again). Maybe your danger zone is having a drink to unwind from work stress, perhaps it’s distracting yourself from loneliness or boredom, or it could simply be that you’ve got into the habit of opening a bottle of wine as a demarcation of the end of another day in lockdown. Whatever the reason, identify it and name it, then you can think of other ways to address it.
MAKE A LIST OF DRINK-FREE DISTRACTIONS
Feeling stressed? Turn some music up loud and have a kitchen disco to burn it off. Anxious? Call your mum or best friend to talk it through. Feeling overwhelmed with uncertainty? You can’t control the pandemic, but you can control what you do this evening, so make a healthy choice: have a bath, go for a run, read a book, watch a film – whatever makes you feel good without giving you a hangover.
MAKE IT INCONVENIENT TO DRINK
This sounds too simple to make any real difference but, honestly, human beings are lazy. Don’t keep alcohol in the house so that you have to go to the shop if you want it. Hide your corkscrew. Even something as silly as keeping your wine glasses in an annoying-to-reach cupboard can make the difference between having a drink and not bothering.
My Christmas rule was: ‘only if it’s Champagne’, which made it easier to drink less, not least because it would have been bloody expensive to be mainlining Champagne every day of the festive break. I did break this rule occasionally, with the odd glass of good red wine with dinner, but I didn’t feel bad about it because I enjoyed it, and I didn’t overdo it. But even if I did overdo it, I wouldn’t feel bad about it because…
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This is arguably the hardest, but most important, step of the process. There will absolutely be times that you drink more than you intended to, and it’s tempting to feel like you’ve ‘failed’, that alcohol has ‘won’, and you are powerless to control it. It’s human nature to be hard on ourselves but, instead, try and see it as an opportunity to learn about yourself: what were the triggers that led you to overdrink? How will you deal with them next time?
So take the pressure off. Don’t aim for sobriety and punish yourself for failing. Drink less – not because you think you should – but because it will make you feel better right now.
Mindful Drinking: How Cutting Down Can Change Your Life by Rosamund Dean is out now. For January only, it's available on Kindle for 99p
Best Self-Help Books For 2022
Why are we obsessed with happiness? And what are the powers of a melancholic outlook? Bittersweet claims it's only when we embrace our darker emotions that we can discover our deepest meaning and connection: love and joy. Time to get angsty.
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Bestselling psychotherapist Julia Samuel dives into eight family case studies and analyses a range of common issues including separation, step-relationships, leaving home, trauma and loss, to reveal how deeply we are influenced by our relatives and how we can face challenges together.
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Rebuild your self-esteem in 2022, with this simple, practical guide to beating anxiety and being brave, from the host of The Calmer You Podcast.
A reassuringly relatable read from Annie Ridout, for any of us who have ever felt lacking in confidence, and a practical and galvanising guide to helping you harness the power of shyness, particularly in an increasingly digital world.
The Kindness Method author Shahroo brings her professional experience of working in addiction, and her personal experience of struggling with her own weight and body image, together in this groundbreaking book, now out in paperback.
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This bravely personal book may tell Fearne's own story of finding her voice, but it will be relatable to anyone who has ever kept quiet in order to please others – and will encourage you to speak out in your own unique, authentic way.
TV presenter, radio broadcaster, actress, filmmaker and now author – is there anything Laura Whitmore can't do? This inspiring book is part-memoir and part-manifesto for finding success through optimism and self-belief.
With a foreword by Gillian Anderson, this empowering read from the co-founder of Women For Women International is all about finding your meaning, owning your power and transforming your world.
Work situation changed in 2020? Whether you're struggling with wfh, coping with the fallout from redundancy or simply reassessing your values and looking for a career change, this is the book for you.
Be happier, healthier and more productive with Rosamund Dean's simple strategy to drink less and enjoy life more.
Amika George was just a teenager when she launched a global campaign against period poverty from her bedroom. In this inspiring read, she talks to Caroline Criado-Perez, Deborah Frances-White, Adwoa Aboah and Scarlett Curtis about activism in 2021.
A new edition of the classic confidence builder from legendary feminist activist Gloria Steinem.
Gabrielle Bernstein makes miracles happen, but don't just take our word for it. 'A brilliant book that helped me out during lockdown,' says Fearne Cotton. 'Oh my god, it's game-changing!'
Anya is a mother of five, stepmother and successful businesswoman. Through her words she shares everything she has learnt in her colourful life. From practical tips and quick fixes, to profound observations about confidence and creativity. This handbook will show you how to live a little better - and yes sometimes simply washing your hair is the answer.
The former Love Island Star and A&E doctor reflects on his experiences - from working on the wards during the pandemic to living in the spotlight to inform readers on mental health. This self help book empowers readers though advice on how people can power though tough moments and remain mentally strong.
This journal allows you to have the power and create your own self- help guide. With plenty of lined pages and thoughtful writing prompts this journal will enable you to become more clear in your thinking, reduce stress and anxiety. This is ideal for anyone who wants to make personal growth a simple & successful daily habit.
No Worries is a 12- week anxiety and self care journal that will help you structure everything that is on your mind. This will help you thoughtfully manage your worries before they spiral out of control.
How To Declutter Your Mind teaches readers specific mindfulness techniques and habits, to create more "space" in your mind to enjoy peace and happiness. You will take away excercises that will have an immediate and lasting effect on your mental health and mindset.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Nicole LePera offers an essential guide to self healing and creating a more joyful life. Drawing from both scientific research and healing modalities, Dr LePera helps readers overcome trauma and destructive behaviours to reclaim their lives.
In a fast moving world, The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down provides a relief. In this timely guide to mindfulness, Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist monk dives into dealing with rest and relations and handling setbacks. A mixture of his teachings and calming illustrations remind us of the strength that comes from slowing down.
The instant No.1 best seller is a collection of consolations learned in hard times, and suggestions for making the bad days better. This is a book for when we need a friend, a listening ear or just a reminder of hope.
How To Heal A Broken Heart gives a refreshingly honest take on heartbreak. When Rosie Green's husband leaves her after 26 years together she never thought she would get over it. But she did- and so can you. This bold, witty and insightful handbook dives into how you can heal faster, understand yourself better and move on.
Yoke is about finding acceptance within yourself both on and off the Yoga mat. Jessamyn Stanley calls on a larger idea on the yoga of everyday life. In a series of deeply honest, funny autobiographical essays, Jessamyn explores everything from imposter syndrome to loving yourself, all through the lens of yoke.
A guide to help readers build new habits that improve their lives for the better and allow them to thrive. Time to Thrive suggests exercises based on Microsteps - tiny, science-backed changes. By making them too-small-to fail, we can incorporate them into our daily lives right away, and begin building healthier ways of living and working.
Luvvie is a Nigerian author, speaker and digital strategist. This New-York Times best seller is about how to live boldly in spite of all the reasons we have to cower. Prepare for humour, perpetual truth telling and warmth as Luvvie walks us through what we must get right within ourselves before we can do the things that scare us.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace presents simple-yet-powerful ways to establish healthy boundaries in all aspects of life. Drawing on the latest research in Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques - this guide helps us to search for the root of problems within codependency, power struggles, anxiety, depression and burnout.
This past year especially, there has been a particular emphasis on working 24/7 while simultaneously being told we should relax and take care of ourselves. In today's complex working wold this can be hard to differentiate. Working Hard, Hardly Working, entrepreneur and self-proclaimed 'lazy workaholic' Grace Beverley challenges this unrealistic and unnecessary split, and offers a fresh take on how to create your own balance, be more productive and feel fulfilled.
Psychiatrist Dr Ellen Vora challenges the conventional view of anxiety as a mental disorder, suggesting instead that much of what we call anxiety begins in the body. Rather than our troubled thoughts creating physical symptoms, she argues that many types of anxiety are the result of states of imbalance in our bodies, whether blood sugar crashes, caffeine highs or sleep deprivation.
A popular concept in Japan, nagomi exemplifies a state of being where good and bad things live in balance with each other. Neuroscientist and bestselling writer Ken Mogi examines the philosophy of nagomi and how seeking to balance both happiness and sadness – instead of simply seeking the former – will help us achieve a sense of harmony, productivity and satisfaction in our lives both in the short and long-term.