Disclaimer before we start
This article could potentially be triggering for anyone with an alcohol addiction or those who have loved ones facing similar challenges.
It is aimed at those seeking a more mindful approach to alcohol and looking to modify their habits and relationships. Grace, while not specifically trained in addiction, provides a holistic perspective by incorporating hypnotherapy and meditation to educate, empower, and motivate you.
If you or someone you know is worried about excessive alcohol or substance consumption and its impact on well-being, it is crucial to promptly seek professional guidance. To find a support service near you in the UK, we suggest utilising the helpful resources of Turning Point or Mind's Urgent Help Tool.
Alcohol is deeply integrated into our society. After receiving a job promotion, it's customary to celebrate with colleagues at the pub. On occasions like birthdays, it's common to gather at your favourite restaurant for drinks. Additionally, during the summer season, it's considered impolite not to share a drink with a friend to celebrate the good weather.
This is all well and good, when done in moderation, from a positive place, and with the right intentions. However, if you are someone who finds themselves negatively impacted by alcohol and struggles with consuming moderate amounts, it may be something you could look into.
When alcohol is consumed excessively, there are many harmful physical impacts, both in the short term (you only need to wake up on a Wednesday morning to a pounding headache and 3 full days of the week left, to realise this) and the long term; increased risk of heart and liver diseases, reduced brain functionality, and links to cancer (to name just a few).
Yet, we can still easily consume to excess despite knowing these risks.
What we often overlook is that alcohol gives our brain a dopamine spike. The brain craves dopamine, so once you've had that first drink and felt the surge, the brain will want you to keep drinking to maintain it. This explains why it might be difficult to stop drinking after you've begun, and "I'll just go for one drink" is rarely a viable plan. It's not just a lack of willpower or self-control. Alcohol's addictive nature contributes to this loop, which is why it's so popular and why we keep returning to it, even after suffering negative effects.
So, how can you approach your alcohol consumption in a more mindful way?
Have you ever stopped to think about your relationship with alcohol?
The nature of it?
Your thoughts and beliefs around it
How does it make you feel?
How does it make you behave?
Just like you have a relationship with the people in your life, money, work, exercise, food, etc, you have a relationship with alcohol. And, as with every relationship, it’s important for us to work on it so it’s a positive one rather than a negative one.
It’s important to understand the reasons why you might drink. Research suggests there are 4 categories of drinking behaviours;
Which one do you resonate with the most today?
Your thoughts & beliefs, feelings and behaviours around alcohol
Now that you know why you drink (this might change depending on the circumstance), let’s dig a little deeper.
Please finish the following sentences:
I think my drinking is…
I believe my drinking is…
Some positive thoughts I have around my drinking are…
Some negative thoughts I have around my drinking are…
My drinking makes me feel…
My drinking makes me behave….and that makes me feel…
Repeat this exercise as many times as you need to.
Just like other relationships, they go through phases and fluctuations. It’s like one week you may agree with everything your partner says and the next absolutely nothing! You might love your job for a period of time and then feel like you just want to quit and start something completely new. And, with alcohol, sometimes we feel in complete control over it, and on other occasions, it can evoke negative emotions, provoke self-doubt, and even lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.
There are many other influences that may lead to these fluctuations, including increased stress levels, changes in hormones, a lack of sleep, boredom, and more.
These influences can leave us feeling like we need to fill an empty void within, so we turn to things outside of ourselves to fill that void. Our “void fillers” make us feel good, or enough, or worthy and deserving, but of course only in the short term; in the long term, they only make the void bigger.
So, by understanding why we drink, we start to notice if we are using it negatively to fill an internal void, cope with stress, or find comfort. And knowing this helps us gain a little more control over it. It is this self awareness that helps us to address this negative pattern, so we can go on the journey of adopting healthier habits around alcohol.
Imagine the ideal version of yourself
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine an ideal version of yourself.
What does that person look like?
What energy do they give off?
How do they feel?
How do they think and behave?
What are their relationships like?
What is their relationship with alcohol?
Hopefully, now that you have a clearer vision of that person, write down a list of all of their daily habits, that support them in being this version of themselves. And, as you do this, can you think about how alcohol might be getting in the way of these healthy habits?
Here are some healthy habit ideas for inspiration:
The above examples may seem completely unrelated to alcohol consumption, but it is these very things that help towards a healthy relationship with alcohol because they, just like alcohol, make us feel good.
For example, if you did morning mindful breathing exercises daily, it is more likely you would become more intentional with your actions and, therefore, when it comes to consuming alcohol. So, practising mindfulness on a daily basis, not just around alcohol, will help you become more mindful in every aspect of your life.
So, as you build your own list, are there any habits on there that you could easily start implementing now that would help you towards a healthy relationship with alcohol?
When it comes to creating new habits, you may have heard of the saying ‘it takes 21 days to create a new habit,’ and this might be true for some people but not everyone. It’s certainly not easy to build new habits and routines. It takes practice, repetition, patience, and a mindset change.
If you do commit to 21 days of something that will help you cultivate a healthy relationship with alcohol, though, you will likely reap the benefits.
For example, a new habit could be;
Committing to something other than socialising with alcohol will likely leave you feeling a lot stronger, more in control, and more empowered by your decisions.
And turning to things like therapy or your own network to support you when things get tough can be hugely helpful and absolutely does not mean you are a failure. Remind yourself that you are worthy of all the support you can get.
If we want to create healthy new habits, we must remember this:
Every habit of action is run by a habit of thought
So in order to change the unhealthy habits we engage in, we must change the unhealthy thoughts that are causing them.
This is where you could refer back to the self reflective questions above, and look at what unhealthy thoughts or beliefs you may have around alcohol that could be leading to unhealthy behaviours.
What constitutes a habit as healthy or unhealthy depends on your perspective, your goals, and what you are trying to achieve. This is why it is so important to have a vision of the ideal version of yourself, so you can be clear on how they think, feel, and behave. Any habit that takes you away from that vision could be unhealthy, and any habit that takes you towards that vision could be healthy.
Knowing this, you could write your own list of healthy thoughts and beliefs around alcohol that would help you cultivate a healthier, more mindful relationship with alcohol and, therefore, behaviours around it.
My new healthy habits of thoughts and beliefs related to alcohol are…
The importance of kindness and compassion to yourself
When on this journey of creating new healthy habits, it’s so important to practise kindness and compassion rather than criticise ourselves if we make mistakes. Once you are clear on exactly what the new healthy habits are, try to treat every ‘relapse’ as information on how to improve for next time. Starting small, taking one day at a time, and knowing that it is not possible or realistic to live up to that ideal version of yourself every single day, it’s just helpful to have the vision there as guidance for you.
Everything you need is within you
Now that you know the power of your thoughts and the effect they have on your feelings and your behaviour, I hope you are starting to realise that everything you need is within you. So, trust yourself when challenges arise and know that you have the answers to all the questions you need. You don’t need to turn to things outside of yourself, like alcohol; you can go inward and connect to the deepest part of you, which is your intuition.
Preparing for upcoming celebrations
And, when it comes to approaching all of those upcoming celebrations or special occasions like a wedding or birthday, you can use the above self reflection exercises and visualisation exercises as tools and techniques to help you through them.
Some final suggestions to further help you build and maintain these new healthy habits could be:
And I will leave you with this:
What’s one thing that you can start doing today to embody that ideal version of yourself?
I hope this has helped you and got you thinking about your relationship with alcohol and perhaps some changes you could make when it comes to creating new healthy habits around it.
Just a little reminder, that if you do slip up, try not to beat yourself up. It’s normal and perhaps an inevitable part of the process. You really have got this.
If you would like to work with me to understand what beliefs drive your unhealthy habits and receive support in setting new ones, please book a session with me (Grace) on the MYNDUP platform.