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How to reduce social drinking

Summer is just around the corner and with the warmer weather comes BBQs, garden parties and other social events where drinking alcohol is often the norm. While social drinking can be fun, it can quickly turn into a habit and lead to drinking more than the recommended amount of units per week on a regular basis. Breaking the routine of social drinking may seem daunting, but it's achievable with the right strategies and support. In this article, we'll provide tips and strategies to help you reduce social drinking and take back control of your life, no matter how many social events you attend!

What does social drinking mean?

Social drinking refers to the consumption of alcoholic beverages in a social setting, such as a party or a gathering of friends. It is often used to enhance interactions with friends, colleagues or family, or as a way to help people relax and unwind with others after a busy day at work.
How to avoid drinking alcohol in social situations

1.      Set a goal

One of the first steps when cutting back on social drinking is to set a goal for yourself. Determine the reasons why you want to reduce your alcoholic intake in social situations and what you hope to achieve by doing so. Do you want to improve your health, save money or improve your relationships? Is this part of a wider goal to quit drinking altogether? Whatever your reason may be, decide what you would like to achieve and make it a concrete goal to work towards.

2.      Let friends and family members know what you’re trying to do

It can be challenging to open up about your decision to cut down on your alcohol intake, especially with those you would normally drink with socially. However, sharing your intentions with those in your social circle can often lead to them being more supportive and understanding. In fact, others may even take inspiration from your example and choose to follow in your footsteps!

Additionally, having a strong support network around you can help you feel more accountable and motivated to stick to your goals – especially with friends and family willing you to succeed.

3.      Identify your triggers

Identify the situations or emotions that typically lead you to drink socially. For some, it may be a sense of social pressure, while for others, it may be a way to let off steam after a busy day at work. Understanding your triggers will enable you to create an action plan to avoid or manage them effectively. For instance, if you are going to a party where there will be alcohol, offer to be the designated driver so you are not temped to drink. Alternatively, consider taking some alcohol free beverages or some delicious homemade mocktails along with you.

4.      Change your environment

Making changes and adjustments to your environment can play a significant role in your efforts to reduce social drinking. If your typical social activities involve meeting friends in a bar or pub, it's important to recognise that the environment itself can be a trigger for drinking. Swapping your usual location for a more sober alternative, such as a café or juice bar, can help you avoid alcohol by simply changing the social context. Additionally, proposing to meet up for a walk in a local beauty spot can be a great way to spend quality time with friends while also getting some exercise and fresh air. 

5.      Practise saying no

Saying no to social events that involve alcohol can be challenging, especially if you're worried about offending friends or feeling left out. However, it's crucial to prioritise your wellbeing and feel comfortable setting boundaries. You can practice saying no in a polite and assertive way by preparing a response in advance. For instance, you could say "thanks for the invitation, but I'm taking a break from drinking for a while" or "I'm trying to cut down on my alcohol intake, but I'd still love to meet up." By being honest and clear about your intentions, you’ll find that most people will be supportive and respectful of your decision.

6.      Don’t lose heart if you suffer a setback

If social drinking has been part of your life for a while, it can be a tough habit to break. Setbacks are common, such as giving in to peer pressure at a party or indulging in a few glasses of wine  with friends after a stressful day. Remember not to be too hard on yourself and to acknowledge the effort that you have made so far. Pause to reflect on what triggered the setback and identify strategies to avoid it happening in the future. View this as an opportunity to renew your commitment and determination to quit social drinking.

7.      Contact LiveWell Dorset

If you’re planning to give up social drinking, LiveWell Dorset is here to help. Our specialist team of wellness advisors are on hand to offer one to one coaching to help you address your drinking habits while our website has a wealth of resources and information to help you achieve your goals. Why not visit the Drink Less section of our website, or take the Rethink Your Drink quiz to see if you need to reconsider your relationship with alcohol.

We’ve helped thousands of people across Dorset lead healthier, happier lives and we’d love to help you too! Drop us a line or register with us today to speak to one of our fantastic coaches.


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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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