31 Practical Ways to Embrace Health with Less Alcohol

Are you concerned you’ve gone from a social drinker to a solo drinker? Does drinking ever affect your performance at work or impact your ability to be fully present with your kids, friends or partner? Do you sometimes feel low, headachy, sleepy, dehydrated, or just plain terrible after a night with alcohol? Are you concerned that drinking is leading to weight gain or not reaching your health and wellness goals? If you have more questions than answers about your drinking, you might be dry-curious.  

Being dry-curious isn’t about a rigid or judgmental approach to reduction. It’s about exploring what it feels like to drink less and normalizing that lifestyle. January has 31 days, and in order to follow your dry curiosity, explore the benefits of self-care practices, and evidence-based approaches to wellbeing, we have 31 tips that might help you: 

1. Consider trying your hand at painting, pottery, dance, or climbing: Your social environment impacts your cravings and your habits more than you think. Sometimes drinking can become an unconscious habit. The desire to drink can be based on people, places, stressors, or feelings of celebration. Changing your routine and exploring new ways to connect and unwind can help rejig your habit loop. You might find a new way to unwind or decide that you like balancing new activities with old ones.


2. Even a weekly scheduled movie/documentary night at-home can be considered an extracurricular: Some cultures are structured to accommodate and celebrate extroverts but studies show that nearly 60% of people prefer introversion and 9 out of 10 people feel pressured to act in an extraverted way. Susan Cain is an author and expert in introversion and she says that the nervous system of an introvert is easily affected by stimulus. Introverts feel most themselves in quiet environments. In the past, we’ve thought about introversion and extroversion in black and white terms; you were thought of as one of the other. But there is room for complexity and dynamic interaction between traits; many people have a combination of introverted and extraverted characteristics. Spend some time reflecting on how stimulus affects you. If you’re an introvert, part of achieving balance will be to take evenings in the shade and if you’re more of an extrovert, take some time out to nurture your introvert traits.


3. Set up a quiet area, adorning it with blankets, cushions, and lights. Take five minutes or more daily to come to this space and mindfully focus on your breath: Science shows that meditation can change your brain:
– One month of regular meditation can increase your attention span by 14%
– One meditation session cuts mind wandering by 22%
– Meditation can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
– Meditation produced significant improvements in life satisfaction and resilience
– It reduces inflammation which can cause heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetesMeditation can:
– Increase immunity
– Improve sleep
– Lower blood pressure
– Increase energy
– In one month, regular meditation can reduce stress by ⅓


4. Find Flow state: According to researchers, the best predictor of well-being is flow. What exactly is flow? It’s being in the zone, losing track of the hours in an afternoon and reading a book cover to cover. It’s tuning into your breath and your body and forgetting about your worries while participating in a sport. It can be achieved in meditation, dog walking, cooking, or a meaningful project at work. It’s a state of complete absorption in an activity. There’s an important condition for flow; it hinges on active participation in the real world. Flow tasks give us a sense of mastery, even if it comes down to small wins, mindfulness, and a feeling of mattering.


5. Order in and treat yourself to a nice meal: Reducing stressors can make it easier to adjust to change. Ordering take out is a great way to give yourself a break, change your routine, and celebrate.


6. Take a class or workshop that you’ve been wanting to go to for a long time: Triggers from familiar environments, relationships, or routines can make you want to drink. This challenge is a chance to change up your schedule and explore activities that can break the loops of habit and association. It’s the perfect opportunity to strengthen your neurons in a healthy way by learning a new skill. Maybe you’ve always had it in the back of your mind to try a comedy class, or you’ve been hesitant to fulfill your dream of trying a gourmet cooking class. Whatever it is you’ve been holding back on, it’s your chance to try something meaningful and different.


7. Take a small break – try a meditation or take a short walk in the neighbourhood: Stress builds up over time. When you stay in tune with your body’s needs, take the time to re-set, regain focus, and care for your mood and anxiety system, you can stay ahead of your triggers. Planned breaks can make a difference in your day and help you manage some of the stress which can build up and make you feel the urge to drink. Try setting a timer at several points in the day for a meditation break, a walk, a nourishing snack, or a stretch.


8. Turn off your phone and TV for a few hours and spend time doing something you like and that requires your full attention: Technology is a double-edged sword. It gives us the opportunity to connect and in times when social interaction is more restricted or anxiety-provoking, it reduces feelings of loneliness. Smartphones can have a big downside. Studies show that technological reliance reduces attention span, can lead to severe depression and can cause cancer. As well, too much screen time can cause sleep problems and reduce physical activity which can lead to chronic disease patterns. Try a tech break today and grab a book instead!


9. Put on your favourite music and have a dance party: It feels good to cut loose. It helps you remember that not everything needs to be serious, including changing your alcohol intake. You can find many ways to relax, unwind, and have fun without alcohol. Get your groove on and stay mindful of opportunities to be playful and cultivate lighthearted moments in your day.


10. Set aside 5 minutes in the morning to plan the day: Planning is a stress management tool. When you plan, you visualize your goal and outcome, think through how to manage barriers, organize your priorities, and lean into supports. It optimizes your ability to make intentional and lasting change. Planning also improves productivity and saves you time. Writing your plan down allows you to go back and track your performance so that you can problem-solve and tweak your approach.Start by creating a plan for what you will do instead of drinking today. Use your plan to mitigate triggers. You might want to plan a walk with a friend, a gym session, or an at-home self-care routine. Planning for the time of day when you are most triggered to drink will arm you with strategies to stay dry this month!


11. Set an alarm every 25 minutes for a 5-minute break and plan a form of physical movement, or read a few pages of a book: The Pomodoro technique is an effective time management strategy. You follow the Pomodoro method by alternating between focused work sessions and short breaks, which protect against fatigue and help you maintain concentration. The method can be useful if you find yourself easily distracted, pushed beyond your window of productivity, or have big stretches of open-ended work. Good focus and productivity, can give you a sense of accomplishment and contribute to your wellbeing which helps you stay on track with your change goal.


12. Use activities that engage the senses, rely on repetitive motion, and have a productive outcome like cooking or knitting: Engaging with your five senses can reduce stress levels. Did you know that getting in touch with your senses can be soothing? Here are some ways to find relief: – Water can help reduce stress and cold water showers (starting at 15 seconds) can boost immunity and increase alertness.
– Sit in the sun.
– Stretch your muscles.
– Sip herbal tea.
– Sniff an essential oil or the garden to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and challenges with sleep.Look out the window or find a view that changes your thoughts and relaxes your mind
Turn on music, or sing along to your favourite song.


13. Take a walk with a friend: Walking may seem like a simple activity but here are some research findings which support the impact of getting your steps in:– Psychologists found that a ten-minute walk had an equal impact to a 45-minute workout for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
– Walking improves memory and prevents deterioration of brain tissue as we age.
– 12 minutes of walking can improve your focus, energy, and self-confidence.
– Walking reduces rumination which can lead to depression.
– Walking lets our minds wander and can increase creativity by 60%—and these are just some of the mental benefits!


14. Put pen to paper. Dedicate the next 15 minutes to writing down whatever is on your mind: When you sit down with your journal, you’re accomplishing a lot more than recording your thoughts, experiences, moods, or memories. The act of journaling helps you to organize an event in your mind. The effect is that you label strong emotions and acknowledge painful or traumatic events. This takes the pressure off of the brain because space is freed up from processing difficult experiences. The result is improved working memory and better sleep. The impact of this release affects other systems in the body, improving immune function, energy, and enhancing mood. It even makes it easier to socialize. You don’t have to open your journal with any agenda or expectation. The idea of the morning pages is that you write anything and everything that’s on your mind. You can set a goal of a few pages or a timer for 15 minutes. And remember, you don’t have to do it every day! Try for 3-4 days a week.


15. Bake a loaf of banana bread. No skimping on the chocolate chips: Sure, baking chocolate chip cookies and serving them up steaming with that nostalgic aroma makes you feel good. But is there more behind the feeling? There are some big pros to baking when other things aren’t going your way. You follow a recipe step by step and everything is in your control! Baking is creative and it calms the nervous system by engaging the senses. You can tap into some of your powerful memories with family and friends when you start mixing ingredients and putting together a beloved recipe. If you’re looking for a different way to enjoy the evening or share company, try a fresh batch today!


16. Create a restful sleep environment. You might remove technological devices from the bedroom, tidy up for five minutes while listening to relaxing music, or read a few pages of a great book: If you struggle with getting a good night’s rest it can impact your mood, energy, productivity, and even your self-esteem. When sleep doesn’t come easily, it can seem like you’re caught in an unstoppable cycle. But like building strong muscles through regular exercise or a healthy body from strong nutrients, sleep takes practice, technique, and ongoing commitment. Here are some tips for getting your best Z’s:– Incorporate exercise into your day.
– The National Sleep Foundation suggests you turn off your electronics half an hour before bed.
– Maintain a cool temperature in your bedroom.
– Avoid big meals, alcohol, and caffeine before bed.
– Stay regular. Commit to the same sleep and wake time—yes, even on weekends.


17. Having something to look forward to is a great way to keep motivated, optimistic about the future and happy just thinking about it. Plan a dinner at a new restaurant, buy yourself a winter sweater, or save for a vacation. Thinking about the reward at the end of the month can help you stay motivated. If alcohol is a part of your routine purchases, you likely don’t question it. Similar to buying milk or bread, it’s on your list of essentials. But the cost savings on alcohol are remarkable and this January, you can take your savings and put them toward something that brings you joy. Here’s the breakdown of an example of alcohol purchases: 3 drinks a day, five days a week, $10 per drink, about $150 a week, $650 a month, and $7800 per year on alcohol.


18. Call a friend and spend some time catching up: The science of social connection is gaining momentum. Once we thought of broccoli and sit-ups as the key to unlocking longevity but the science suggests that social networks are an essential part of our approach to wellbeing. Here are some bonus effects of connecting with friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers:
– 50% increase in longevity.
– Reduces inflammation.
– Improves immune function.
– Reduces anxiety and depression.
– Enhances empathy and self-esteem.


19. Introduce a new evening “ritual” such as finding an enjoyable non-caffeinated tea before bedtime: We talked about sleep hygiene and although having structure and an established routine can keep you on track, maintaining good sleep is also about treating yourself with kindness and gentleness. Take the time to slow down in the evening. Give yourself space to unwind, reflect on the day, and decompress before you hit the hay. That might mean having a cut-off time for exercise, phone calls, social media, and household chores.


20. Breathe slow and deep with some lavender oil: You’ve likely heard of deep breathing. Sometimes it’s also called diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing. Dr. Herbert Benson was a Harvard cardiologist who discovered the relaxation response, which can be induced by diaphragmatic breathing. Lavender oil can help you settle into a diaphragmatic breathing pattern. Research shows that lavender oil is effective in treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, and restlessness, which makes it a great antidote to cravings. Step 1: Find a comfortable place and start by taking a normal breath.
Step 2: Now try a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose. Feel your lower belly and chest rise and your abdomen expand.
Step 3: Breathe out slowly through your mouth (or nose if it feels better).
Step 4: Build a regular practice of 10-20 minutes of deep breathing into your daily routine.


21. Time to visit the library or get reacquainted with an oldie but a goodie: Reading not only gives you calm and pleasure, there are a lot of added benefits to this simple habit. Reading can build empathy, a positive outlook, and strengthen your memory. It can reduce stress, depression, and chances of getting Alzheimer’s later in life. Reading is a great way to disconnect from electronics, reduce stimuli, and enter into a different world. It increases your experience and knowledge and you can do it from anywhere—even the bathtub!


22. Purchase groceries for the entire week and fill your fridge with healthy food: Substance use can lead to nutritional deficiencies in vitamin A, C, D, E, K, and B vitamins. Drinking can impact your food choices and the regularity of your meals. It can also lead to dehydration. Think of this month as a beta-test for your nutrition. The foods (and water) that you put into your body affect your mental and physical well-being. Pay attention to how healthy eating affects your mood, energy, focus, and outlook.


23. Change up your weekly dinner routine. Try a new recipe: Let’s talk some more about triggers. Certain times of day or parts of our routine can be a trigger that makes us want to drink. For many, the end of the day or dinner hour is one of those times. Put your energy into the creative and nourishing act of cooking for yourself. A new recipe can use your focus and take your mind away from thoughts of a drink. You might find a new recipe for your meal rotation and if you make extra, it can feel rewarding to share with family or friends. It might be a good idea to cook extra and freeze some so that you have a go-to on a busy day!


24. Embrace your Canadian winter…SNOWBALL FIGHT! Gretchen Rubin, happiness researcher and expert, has an antidote for a bad day: do something silly and lighthearted. Here are some other tips from Gretchen:
– Exercise.
– Do a kind act for another person.
– Interrupt your rumination.
– Connect with someone you care about.
– Tackle a task that has been clinging to your list.
– Act how you want to feel.
– Ask for help.
– Get to bed early.


25. Take the guesswork out of snacks, prepare them for the next day the night before: Did you know that good nutrition can boost the function of your body? Healthy eating can:
– Increase your longevity.
– Maintain health of skin, teeth, and eyes.
– Support muscles.
– Contribute to bone health.
– Strengthen immunity.
– Lower risk of heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
– Improve digestive function.
– Reduce inflammation.


26. Create a new bedtime habit, such as reducing screen time before bed: Adults follow a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. This means that when the sun rises, your body produces cortisol, a chemical that makes you awake and alert. As the daylight fades, your body produces melatonin, which makes you tired. Your devices emit blue light which disrupts the body’s production of melatonin. Fiddling with your devices close to bedtime makes it hard to fall asleep but it also reduces your quality of sleep, limiting your slow-wave and REM sleep, which are essential for your cognitive function.


27. Relax to a warm bubble bath listening to your favourite songs: You know that feeling of total relaxation and calm that you get from basking in the sun? When the sun warms your skin, endorphins are released and the same goes for a warm bath. Not only can a warm bath increase the blood flow to the skin but it can improve your breathing, boost your immunity, support the body’s blood sugar control, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of a heart attack. If you aren’t sold yet, it will make it easier to move to the other side of a craving. Light a candle, turn on an audiobook, bring down the lights, and just relax!


28. Take some “me-time” to do things that make you feel good, mentally, and physically: Self-care isn’t frivolous. It means staying in tune with your brain and body and caring for your basic needs. Here are six simple tips for keeping your self-care regular:
– Eat well: (more fruits, veggies, and water and less unhealthy foods)
– Move your body (stand up and get your heart rate up every 30 minutes, walk, try a home workout)
– Stay in tune with yourself (focus on the things that give you energy and support mental and physical health)
– Sleep well (try for a relaxing bedtime routine and 7 to 9 hours of rest)
– Slow down (set time aside to relax, write in a journal, or try a new skill)
– Connect with people (share what’s on your mind)


29. Time for a snow angel. Have you mastered the technique of how to get up without ruining it?: As we age, we get caught up in worries and responsibilities and it takes a more concerted effort to be in the moment. Sometimes, we turn to alcohol to help us unwind and get into more of a flow state. But there are alternatives and all it takes is looking to the way that kids engage with the world around them. You probably can’t pass through a park after a fresh snowfall without seeing a sea of children pressing their imprint into the ground in their best version of a snow angel. Why not join them? Redefine your relationship to fun and relaxation and get involved in seasonal activities!


30. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to disconnect, even if for a short period of time. Schedule 10 mins per day to turn off your devices: Pay attention to your triggers. Some come from the inside and others from the outside. An internal trigger might be feelings of guilt, while an external trigger might be a dinner party. Make a map of your internal and external triggers. When you become activated, sometimes the best thing to do is unplug. Practice disconnecting from social media, your phone, your computer, and try turning down the lights. Give your brain a chance to reset.


31. Take a moment to reflect on your success of the last month: It’s not unusual that we play the role of our harshest critic. It’s easy to fixate on our failures than to stay mindful about our successes. Sometimes we define success as meeting a big goal as if it comes down to a pass or fail. But success is made up of small milestones, changes, interactions, and emotions. Think back on your experiences this past month and check back on the tips if it helps to trigger your memory for some of the changes you’ve made to your drinking habits and wellbeing. Write a list and if you like, share it with a loved one. Return to this list when you need the motivation to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol and the lifestyle factors that keep you feeling your best.

Investing in your well-being is a journey marked by small, deliberate steps. As you explore these 31 practical tips for a healthier, more balanced celebration without alcohol, remember that change is a gradual process. Embrace the opportunity to rediscover joy in alternative activities and self-care practices. Reflect on your progress and successes, no matter how small, as they pave the way for a healthier relationship with alcohol and a more fulfilling lifestyle. Cheers to this journey toward wellness, where each mindful choice brings you closer to a happier, healthier, and more present version of yourself during the holidays and beyond. 

While change is never easy, any step in the right direction is a positive step. Digital resources with support from a caring non-judgmental person can significantly increase your chances of success. At ALAViDA, we provide a wide range of support options to help you change your relationship with alcohol and other substances – be that during the holiday season, or any time you feel ready to make change.   

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