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Making resolutions for the new year is a 4,000-year old tradition, so if you're hoping to make 2014 the year you get healthier, fitter, or happier, you have about four millennia worth of company. To help you on your way, we'll be posting 10 science-backed action steps for a popular resolution every day through January 12. Be sure to check back for hints and tips to kick off your best year yet!
Imbibing makes us pay - in dollars and in calories - and for whatever not-so-great decisions we might make while intoxicatedAlcohol effects on performance monitoring and adjustment: Affect modulation and impairment of evaluative cognitive control. Bartholow BD, Henry EA, Lust SA, et al. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2012 Feb;121(1):173-86.. So it's no wonder that resolving to drink less in the new year ranks as a top priority for many people. Especially after a sodden holiday season, cutting out alcohol (or at least cutting back on it) makes perfect sense. The tips below will help you dry out in the new year - without sacrificing fun.
1. Skip the pub crawl.
For some people who are attempting sobriety (or just trying to imbibe less) it's helpful to avoid certain social situations, especially the ones that tend to focus on drinking, like happy hours, pub crawls, wine tastings, etc. Choose other activities such as hanging out outdoors or going on an unconventional date. Don't let FOMO get you down; if you're worried about missing out, be sure to plan less drinking-centric group activities and ask friends to hang out before they hit the bar.
2. Keep a record.
Use an app to track what you've drunk in real time and also create a simple calendar that logs the details of your drinking - what you drank, how much, when and where, plus any consequences or other details. This can teach you more about your behaviors around drinking and help you change them.
3. Focus on the benefits.
For many people, cutting down on booze means a clearer head, more energy, and weight loss, all of which can beget healthier choices. Keeping all the positives in mind will motivate you to stick with it.
4. Enjoy alcohol in moderation.
As long as you're not someone battling alcohol dependence, learn to party sensibly. Avoid the trap of depriving yourself so completely that you eventually break and end up overdoing it, by occasionally enjoying a drink or two.
5. Get enough sleep.
A study found that people who sleep less are prone to drink moreShort sleep duration is associated with greater alcohol consumption in adults. Chaput JP, McNeil J, Després JP, et al. Appetite. 2012 Dec;59(3):650-5.. It's not clear whether drinking affects the quality of sleep or lack of sleep drives people to drink, but it's still worth getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye.
6. Get educated about alcohol.
Alcohol may be widely used, but many myths about alcohol, drinking, and hangovers persist. (“Beer before liquor, never been sicker, anyone?”) Knowing the facts about what you're drinking (and not drinking) could empower you to make better choices.
7. Bounce back from slip-ups.
(And help yourself recover.) Try not to let a lapse in judgment or willpower torpedo your efforts. Studies show that when people slip up (by eating or drinking more than they'd planned), they fall into a kind of low self-esteem spiral - they dwell on their “failures,” their self-esteem takes a hit, and they end up making further poor choicesSelf-esteem, restraint, and eating behavior. Polivy J, Heatherton TF, Herman CP. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1988 Aug;97(3):354-6.Getting a bigger slice of the pie. Effects on eating and emotion in restrained and unrestrained eaters. Polivy J, Herman CP, Deo R. Appetite. 2010 Dec;55(3):426-30. If you find yourself leaving the bar a few rounds after you said you would or partying harder than you intended, try to reflect on exactly how and where you went wrong and what you can change next time. Remember, a slip-up leads to an opportunity to get it right the time!
8. Discover the wonderful world of booze-free beverages.
Learn to love coffee and tea, assorted non-nonalcoholic beverages, and mocktails. Get creative with juices, soda water, and garnishes, and you could find yourself becoming a sober barfly.
9. Make a plan and stick to it.
Scrap the ol' “wing it and hope for the best” tactic. On lazy afternoons watching the game or wild nights at the club, one beer/pickleback/sake bomb can turn into many before you know it. Before going out, decide how much you'll drink and stick to your limit.
10. If you're going to booze, make the healthiest choices available. Cocktails with less salt and sugar mean fewer calories, and the fancier the booze, the fewer the hangover-inducing additives.
What's your strategy for drinking less in the new year? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us on Twitter.