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Drinking Habits

Motivational Tips for Changing Your Relationship With Alcohol

September 5, 2022
28 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
September 5, 2022
28 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
September 5, 2022
28 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
September 5, 2022
28 min read
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Reframe Content Team
September 5, 2022
28 min read

When we think about making a change in our lives, whether it's modifying our relationship with alcohol or picking up a new hobby, the driving force often boils down to one word: motivation. But what is it about motivation that makes us lace up our shoes for a morning jog or reach for a sparkling water instead of a glass of wine?

When it comes to changing our relationship with alcohol, finding the motivation to change is all about learning to see it differently. We often give booze way more credit than it deserves, and the more we question its supposed benefits as a social lubricant or a way to relax, the more we find that there are many healthier — and more effective! — options out there. Let’s boost our motivation to stop drinking and build a life that reflects our true desires and potential.

The Science of Motivation

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The brain drives all of our actions as it constantly evaluates rewards and consequences. When we decide to dosomething, it’s often a result of our brain calculating potential outcomes and benefits.

  • Dopamine, the reward molecule. This neurotransmitter plays a pivotal role in our motivation. When we anticipate a rewarding experience, dopamine is released, pushing us towards action. It's our brain's way of saying, "This feels good; let's keep going!"
  • The prefrontal cortex and goal setting. Just behind our forehead, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision-making and setting goals. It lets us envision a future reward and plan steps to achieve it.

External vs. Internal Motivation

There are two primary sources of motivation:

  • External motivation. This is driven by external rewards or threats. Think of getting a bonus for performing well or facing a deadline that sparks a flurry of activity.
  • Internal motivation. This springs from within, often linked to personal satisfaction or passion. For example, pursuing a hobby because it makes you happy, not because someone's rewarding you for it.

For lasting change — especially in personal journeys such as altering alcohol consumption — a mix of both kinds of motivation can be beneficial. If we’ve decided to quit drinking, motivation can help us keep going strong!

External motivations (like a health scare or societal pressure) might kickstart the journey. We know that excessive alcohol can damage the liver, heart, and pancreas. It can also weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to diseases. And while alcohol might seem like a social lubricant, dependence can strain relationships and hinder personal growth — an effect that might have become painfully clear to us. All of these external motivations can help us get started.

However, for sustained change, internal motivation (like feeling healthier, clearer, or more in tune with ourselves) often takes the lead.

Harnessing Motivation To Change

Wondering where to draw motivation from? It’s a blend of understanding the benefits of change and believing in one's ability to achieve it. Here’s what science says about getting motivated:

  • Immediate benefits. Cutting back on alcohol can lead to better sleep, more energy, clearer skin, and improved cognitive function in as little as just a few days or weeks.
  • Long-term rewards. Over time, we decrease our risk of certain cancers, liver diseases, and increase our mental well-being.
  • Personal growth. Without alcohol as a crutch, many of us find we can address underlying emotions and experiences head-on, leading to personal development and stronger relationships.
  • Awaken our true energy. Alcohol can sap our energy and disrupt the sleep cycle. Imagine the zest and vigor you'll have when you greet each day feeling truly refreshed!
  • The wallet wins. Every time we choose not to buy a drink, we are saving up for authentically rewarding experiences — and those savings can add up quickly!
Tips for Changing Your Relationship With Alcohol

Motivation To Stop Drinking: Tips for Your Journey

If you're ready to change your relationship with alcohol, here's a list of science-backed steps to guide you:

1. Set Clear Goals and Chart Your Changes.

Whether it’s cutting back or quitting altogether, define what success looks like for you. Setting goals isn’t just about writing a wish on paper — it's about giving direction to your actions and decisions.

According to Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than those who don't. The reason? Research shows that the act of writing triggers the brain's reticular activating system (RAS), attuning you to achieving your goal.

Goal Setting Steps

  1. Specificity is key. Instead of vaguely thinking, "I want to drink less," specify it. For instance, "I will only have two glasses of wine per week." This gives your intention weight and clarity.
  2. Break it down. Big goals can be daunting. If your ultimate goal is to be alcohol-free, break it into phases. Maybe you aim for alcohol-free weekdays first. Then, slowly expand that until you're alcohol-free for a whole month.
  3. Visualize the rewards. Take a moment to think about the positive changes and benefits you'll experience. Visualization is a science-backed way to amplify dopamine release and propel you forward.

Charting Tips

Once you’re on your way, start a journal documenting the positive changes you notice. This isn't merely for memories — it's about reinforcing the positive effects of your decision. From skin improvements to better digestion or sharper focus, seeing these benefits in writing can be a massive motivator! Here are some fun ways to chart your journey:

  1. Photo diary. Take a selfie every week. Over time, observe the changes — brighter eyes, clearer skin, and perhaps even a more genuine smile.

  2. Mood mapping. Dedicate a few minutes each evening to jot down your mood, noting any triggers or high points from the day. Over time, you'll likely see patterns, like improved moods and better stress management.
  3. Progress journal. This isn't just about logging alcohol-free days. Document sleep quality, energy levels, and even cognitive clarity. You'll be amazed to see how these elements improve over time.
  4. Achievement alerts. Set up alerts on your phone to celebrate milestones. Whether it's a week, a month, 90 days, or a year alcohol-free, every milestone deserves recognition.
  5. Visual aids. Create a colorful calendar dedicated to your alcohol journey. Mark alcohol-free days with a special sticker or symbol. Watching the pattern grow can be surprisingly motivating.
  6. Digital buddies. In today's tech-savvy age, apps can help monitor and reduce alcohol intake. Consider tools like Reframe to keep you on track!

Setting clear goals and tracking changes help structure your alcohol-free journey — and they enrich it. By witnessing firsthand your improvements and celebrating your little victories, you'll be more motivated and committed to this transformative path.

2. Discover New Tastes

Have you ever wondered why, after a period of drinking the same beverage, it starts to taste bland or not as exciting? That's our taste buds and brain in action! Alcohol, especially when consumed regularly, can dull our taste buds’ sensitivity. Additionally, the brain's reward system becomes accustomed to the pleasurable sensations alcohol provides, driving it to seek novelty — the same old thing inevitably gets boring.

When we decide to cut back or quit alcohol, we’re not just removing something from our life — instead, we’re adding a plethora of flavors, textures, and experiences we might have previously overlooked. Embracing the myriad of available beverages fills the void left by alcohol and enhances your sensory experiences, making every sip a delight.

Embarking on a Flavor Adventure

As you step back from alcohol, the world of flavors unfolds in front of you. Here are some tips for exploring the world of non-alcoholic beverages — you might just find your new favorite drink!

  1. Worldly beverages. Begin a world tour through beverages. Try Turkish tea, Japanese matcha, or African rooibos. These drinks come with rich histories, traditions, and unique preparation methods that make the experience about more than just sipping.
  2. Mocktail magic. Dive into the world of mocktails, non-alcoholic versions of popular cocktails that can be just as complex and refreshing. Plus, crafting them can become a fun, culinary hobby.
  3. DIY flavored water. Infuse your water with fresh fruits, herbs, and spices. Try combinations like cucumber-mint, strawberry-basil, or orange-rosemary. It's a hydrating and delightful way to treat your taste buds.
  4. Brew it up. Explore different brewing methods for coffee and teas. From the French press, cold brew, to the AeroPress for coffee, or the Chinese Gongfu style for tea, each method brings out unique flavors from the same bean or leaf.
  5. Taste-testing party. Host a tasting evening with friends where everyone brings a non-alcoholic drink from a different culture. It’s a fun way to discover new favorites and learn about the world.

3. Reignite Passion Projects

Alcohol can eat up free time (and that’s an understatement!). While it might feel like it sparks inspiration, scientific research indicates that consistent alcohol consumption hinders our cognitive processes, including creativity. Regular alcohol use tends to reduce our brain's ability to think divergently, which is crucial for imaginative activities and problem-solving.

By reducing or eliminating alcohol, we can harness a clearer mind, allowing latent or forgotten passions to resurface with renewed vigor. From book clubs to hiking groups or pottery classes, immersing ourselves in environments that foster genuine connections without the need for a drink can be a powerful motivator.

Steps To Awaken Your Inner Enthusiast

Rekindle old hobbies or start new ones with the time and energy you once dedicated to drinking:

  1. Rediscovery dive. Spend an afternoon going through old boxes, journals, or photo albums. Follow the trail of past hobbies or projects you were passionate about but left behind.
  2. Skill share. Join local workshops or online platforms like "Skillshare" to learn a new craft or skill. Whether it's pottery, digital art, or creative writing, there's a world waiting to be explored.
  3. Create a “project corner.” Dedicate a space in your home for your passion projects. This physical space acts as both motivation and a reminder to spend time doing what you love.
  4. Collaborate. Connect with like-minded individuals — join a community choir, a local theater group, or a knitting club. Working with others can reignite the flames of passion.
  5. Document the journey. Start a blog or Instagram page dedicated to your hobby. Documenting and sharing your progress not only keeps you accountable but also connects you with a community that appreciates your craft.
  6. Set mini milestones. If you’re painting, set a goal to complete a piece every month; if writing, aim for a chapter every week. Celebrate these milestones to maintain momentum.
  7. Rotate and reflect. Every few months, take a moment to reflect. If a hobby feels stale, it's okay to rotate it out for another. The goal is joy and fulfillment, not pressure.

Passion projects aren't just hobbies — they're an extension of ourselves. Alcohol, while once thought to be a muse, can often mute our creative spirit. By reigniting these projects, we don't just fill the void left by alcohol, but we also enrich our lives, adding layers of meaning, purpose, and joy.

4. Travel Triumphantly

Travel is often associated with new experiences, including culinary and beverage exploration. But here's an interesting fact: regular alcohol consumption can limit our brain's ability to form new memories — a phenomenon called "neurogenesis suppression." When we abstain or reduce alcohol while traveling, we not only have clearer memories of our adventures, but we also tend to engage more deeply with our surroundings.

Moreover, alcohol can disturb our sleep patterns. Jet lag, a common travel companion, is exacerbated by alcohol, making it harder for the body to adjust to new time zones.

Exploring the World With Clarity

Traveling triumphantly isn't about ticking off every landmark in your tour guide; it’s about immersing yourself deeply into new environments, forming vivid memories, and truly experiencing a place with all of your senses:

  1. Memory map. Carry a travel journal with you. Jot down your daily experiences, emotions, and observations to enhance your memories and create a precious keepsake.
  2. Local beverage exploration. Opt for non-alcoholic local beverages. Try a Moroccan mint tea, a Thai iced tea, or an Italian espresso! Dive into the authentic flavors of a region without the haze of alcohol.
  3. Active adventures. Instead of the usual touristy spots, find activities that get your body moving. Hike that mountain trail, rent a bicycle, or join a local dance class. These memorable experiences often don't revolve around alcohol!
  4. Cultural connect. Attend local workshops, craft sessions, or cooking classes. When your travel revolves around learning and connecting, alcohol naturally takes a backseat.
  5. Dawn patrol. Wake up early to catch the sunrise. Not only is this a magical experience, but early mornings also give you a few moments of beauty before the day's chaos begins.
  6. Photo challenge. Set a theme for each day of your trip, such as "shadows," "color," or "motion." Click pictures based on the theme, making you more observant and immersed in your surroundings.

When you return from a booze-free adventure, you carry back stories and experiences, not just souvenirs. So tie those laces and set out on a journey where every moment is treasured, every experience is lucid, and every memory is crystal clear. You don’t even have to go far — be a home-town tourist if you don’t have the time or funds to go away. Safe travels!

5. Fitness Flourish

Alcohol adds empty calories, depletes the body of essential nutrients, and can put a damper on our fitness goals by affecting protein synthesis and reducing endurance levels. As you reduce your intake, channel that energy into a fitness goal, like a 5k run, a new yoga pose, or hitting a personal best in the gym.

Breaking free or cutting back on alcohol propels your fitness journey, ensuring that every squat, sprint, or stretch delivers optimal results.

Steps To Energize Your Fitness Journey

Embracing fitness in the absence of alcohol gives your body better tools and materials to sculpt a masterpiece. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  1. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals can transform your fitness regime. For instance, instead of "I want to get fit," try "I want to run 5 kilometers in under 30 minutes by December."
  2. Make it fun. Who said fitness can't be fun? Join a dance class, try rock climbing, or even trampoline workouts. The aim is to enjoy the process.
  3. Group dynamics. Group workouts or joining fitness communities can be highly motivating. The camaraderie and collective energy often push you further than solo sessions.
  4. Track progress. Use fitness apps or a good old diary to track your workouts, improvements, and how you feel after each session. Over time, this record will serve as a massive motivational tool.
  5. Celebrate milestones. Reached your goal of 50 push-ups? Or jogged without a break for 20 minutes? Celebrate these milestones! Find a new workout outfit, gadget, or a massage.
  6. Stay informed. Dedicate some time each week to read or watch something related to fitness. Knowledge keeps the motivation flame burning!

6. Stay Connected

It's a widely held belief that alcohol acts as a social lubricant, breaking the ice at gatherings. While it might momentarily ease social anxiety, chronic alcohol consumption can have a counterproductive effect on our interpersonal relationships. Scientifically speaking, alcohol can numb our emotional processing, creating barriers in understanding and empathizing with others. Over time, social interactions might become superficial or strained due to impaired judgment or actions under the influence.

However, being connected isn't just about being present at social events or being the life of the party. It's about the quality of interactions, the depth of conversations, and the warmth of emotions exchanged — all of which are much easier without booze.

Ways To Cultivate Authentic Connections

Here are some ways to build connections that last and enrich your life:

  1. Mindful meet-ups. Organize get-togethers where the focus is on conversation or an activity rather than on drinking. This could be a game night, a book club discussion, or even a cooking evening.
  2. Digital detox. Dedicate a day or a few hours every week to disconnect from electronic devices. Use this time to engage in face-to-face conversations, ensuring quality time with loved ones.
  3. Skill swap. Pair up with a friend and teach each other a skill or hobby. This could be painting, a musical instrument, or even a new sport. Learning together strengthens bonds!
  4. Reach out regularly. Make it a point to call or message someone you haven't spoken to in a while. Reignite old friendships and keep in touch once you do.
  5. Join community groups. Engage with your local community by joining interesting clubs or organizations to make new connections while grounding yourself within a supportive community.
  6. Active listening. When in conversation, practice active listening — fully concentrating, understanding, and responding to the other person. It’s a simple yet powerful way to deepen connections.

7. Educate Yourself

Our brain, remarkable and ever-evolving, thrives on learning. Neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to reorganize itself — is at its peak when we engage in new learning experiences. On the contrary, chronic alcohol consumption has been linked to diminished cognitive functions and can impede our brain's capability to form new neural pathways.

When we step back from alcohol, our brain flourishes, grows, and grasps new knowledge efficiently. Every nugget of information, every new skill, every fresh perspective adds an enriching, enlightening, fun layer to our personality.

How To Empower Yourself Through Learning

Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Book-a-week challenge. Set a goal to read a new book every week or month, depending on your pace. Dive into genres or topics you've never explored to broaden your horizons.
  2. Online courses. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer a plethora of courses. From learning a new language to understanding the intricacies of quantum physics, there's a world to discover.
  3. Podcast power. Incorporate educational podcasts into your routine. Listen during commutes, workouts, or even chores. It’s a seamless way to gain knowledge while multitasking.
  4. DIY projects. Engage in hands-on learning. Build a garden bed, knit a sweater, or even try your hand at pottery. The satisfaction of creating something boosts the learning curve.
  5. Trivia nights. Organize or attend trivia nights. It's a fun way to test your knowledge and learn from others.
  6. Document the learning journey. Create a learning diary or blog. Share your experiences, the challenges you face, and your successes. It not only serves as motivation but also helps in revising and reflecting.

Building a New Life

Motivation drives our actions. By understanding the science behind it and being mindful of what motivates us, we can harness its power to make meaningful, lasting changes in our lives.

Revamping your relationship with alcohol is a journey that takes effort, dedication, and a touch of creativity. But, with science as your guide and the right tools in hand, you can shape a healthier, brighter, and more fulfilling life for yourself. Here's to a vibrant new chapter!

Summary FAQs

1. Why is motivation important in the alcohol-reduction journey?

Motivation acts as the driving force, propelling individuals to make healthier choices and sustain positive changes related to alcohol consumption over time.

2. Can I regain motivation if I experience setbacks in my journey?

Absolutely. Setbacks are a natural part of any journey. The key is to learn from them, reset your goals, and seek support when needed to reignite your motivation.

3. How can I stay motivated when social situations involve alcohol?

It's essential to have a clear understanding of your “why” — the reasons for your journey. Also, seeking out alcohol-free alternatives and surrounding yourself with supportive peers can bolster your motivation in social scenarios.

4. How does understanding the science behind alcohol impact motivation?

Awareness of the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol can act as a reality check, reinforcing reasons to reduce or quit and thereby bolstering motivation.

5. Can joining support groups help in staying motivated?

Definitely. Support groups provide a platform to share experiences, learn from others, and gain encouragement, all of which can significantly boost motivation.

6. Does alcohol really impact learning?

Yes, chronic alcohol consumption can impede our brain's capability to form new neural pathways and diminish cognitive functions. Reducing alcohol intake provides an optimal environment for the brain to learn and grow.

7. How can I replace the social aspect of drinking with other engaging activities?

Mindful meet-ups, community groups, and skill-swap sessions are excellent ways to socially engage without alcohol. These activities emphasize quality interactions and provide opportunities to connect deeply with others.

Join Reframe To Find Daily Motivation for Your Journey!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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