Whether for health reasons, a lifestyle choice or just to detox, going alcohol-free can be a challenge a lot of us try at some point. So who better to advise on managing our urges for that evening glass of wine than the co-author of The 28 Day Alcohol-Free Challenge?
The legendary psychiatrist behind Britain’s Olympic cycling success, Dr Steve Peters, suggests we envisage our brain as having two distinct parts: the chimp and the human. The chimp’s agenda is survival – it runs on emotions and is much more powerful than the human. The human is logical and wants to achieve self-fulfilment. Therefore, we have discovered that the key to hacking any habit is encouraging your powerful inner chimp to support this positive change.
When it comes to going alcohol-free, the six tips below will help you manage your inner chimp to habit-hack victory.
The chimp (and more primitive) part of our brain runs on emotions. Therefore, creating powerful, emotionally charged reasons “why” you want to take this challenge will rally your inner chimp to fully support this positive change.
So, ask yourself “why” are you taking on this alcohol-free adventure? Dig deep to unearth as many reasons as possible to add extra power.
Use paper, an iPad or laptop, whatever suits you best, but note down all your reasons. For a motivational boost, put them where you can see them as a daily reminder.
Your inner chimp wants an easy life, so wherever possible don’t make it easy to reach for an alcoholic drink. If there are no alcoholic options in the house then the chances of you making the extra effort to go to the shops is greatly reduced. Plus, this buys you time to make the choice that suits your healthy goals.
The most effective way to do this is by restocking your fridge with healthy alcohol-free alternatives. The selection is now so good, that using taste as an excuse to drink is redundant.
Our primitive chimp brain loves habits because they save precious energy, and survival is all about energy conservation. So the best way to break bad habits is to trick the chimp and dress them up as healthy ones.
Follow these three steps:
- Find your trigger – what time, place, emotion, preceding action or person is your trigger?
- Uncover the reward – what’s driving the habit? Is it stress relief, companionship, escapism?
- Change your routine and hack the habit – you keep the same trigger and reward, you just swap the routine. For example, replace the alcohol with an alcohol-free alternative or a spin class. It’s that simple.
Don’t give your inner chimp the chance to make any decisions because it will often make the wrong ones based on emotion and old habits.
It’s key to know exactly what you’re going to drink. Phone the venue to find out if they stock alcohol-free alternatives. If no lookalikes are available, create your own. Perhaps order a soda water with lime, then add a mixing straw. It’s a dead ringer for a vodka, lime and soda. Get creative and always make sure you have a drink and a backup-drink planned, just in case.
Awareness allows our human brain to take control. Mindfulness shines a bright light on the habits that hold us back. Suddenly you notice what’s really going on. For example, how much and why you are drinking. As these subconscious routines come into view, you create a tiny gap between stimulus and response. Within this space lies room to make the choice that’s in keeping with your goals and dreams. It’s for this reason that mindfulness is such a powerful habit-breaking tool. Check out headspace.com and calm.com to get you started on your mindfulness adventure.
Your primitive brain loves rewards. So celebrate every alcohol-free achievement. Many of the greatest alcohol-free victories that we’ve witnessed from thousands of our members at OneYearNoBeer.com happen after a big social challenge such as a wedding, office party or hen do. You create a deep belief that actually life is so much better without the booze. So at the end of the night, celebrate – treat yourself to something nice, you deserve it. The best treat of all, however, is waking up the following morning full of life, ready to take on the world!
Andy Ramage is the co-author of ‘The 28 Day Alcohol-Free Challenge’ (Bluebird, £12.99/£9.99 eBook). Find out more about the challenge at OneYearNoBeer.com.