Struggling with Dry January? Try this cognitive hack
It’s that time of year again where many of us have grand designs to give up booze.
Yet putting the breaks on our alcohol habits is hard to do in a culture where we’re culturally conditioned to see drinking as fun.
Even the word “abstaining” suggests an element of missing out by not having a drink.
And that “FOMA” (fear of missing alcohol) is often what people struggle with most, when looking to control their inner booze-hound.
In her new book Sober Curious, journalist Ruby Warrington suggests a clever mental tool for overcoming this fear, to help see not drinking in a positive light (rather than something joyous we “have” to give up).
Warrington points out that the one situation in life where people get to experience the benefits of being alcohol-free, often without even questioning it, is “ladies with babies”.
“I’ve always been amazed how even the most dedicated drinkers seem to get Sober Curious overnight as soon as they become pregnant… whether to keep pumping it with lady petrol becomes a no-brainer,” she writes.
Why do women do this? Because of the dangers associated with heavy drinking in pregnancy mean they put their bodies first (and anecdotally, Warrington notes the number of women who say, “I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying this” in the process of doing so).
They give up the sauce, temporarily, in pursuit of a greater goal.
Now the trick, says Warrington, is to imagine you too are working towards a greater project in not drinking.
“What if you - men, women, and readers of every gender expression in between - were to adopt the mindset that your body, too, is a vessel for birthing new life?” she writes.
“Be it actual new humans or new creative projects, or positive new experiences and memories, or new ways to feel pleasure and transcend the day-to-day.”
By thinking of being sober in this way - whether you’re giving up for the month, or looking to moderate longer-term - you can move from immediate “FOMA” to looking at the bigger-picture benefits of being sober.
Instead of dwelling on what you’re giving up as a result of not drinking, you start focusing on how that effort is fuelling a positive new project: from finding a job that you really love, to that book you’ve always wanted to write.
Whatever your “baby” might be, the greater sense of clarity, calm and energy you get from not boozing can help you to get there.
And we’d say that is one giant incentive to keep the dry times rolling - for as long as you may wish.