The 3 Important Lessons of Dry January

Not a drop of alcohol passed my lips from 30th December 2014 to 1st February 2015 and I feel proud. To be honest, I have to admit it all happened by accident-at least to start with.  I had a migraine on the 30th of December which lasted into New Year’s Eve and the last thing I felt like doing was partaking of my usual glass of wine let alone the Prosecco I’d kept back specifically to celebrate the New Year.  And then unfortunately, on the first Saturday of the month I didn’t feel 100 % either (I DO like a tipple on a Saturday night!!) and again didn’t fancy a drink.  At this point having come so far (6 days to be accurate!)  my stubborn streak kicked in- and I decided to test myself and see if I could survive the whole of January without a bevvy.

Here are the 3 very important things I learned from my abstinence-

  1. Testing myself was good for my confidence.

I was surprised at how much better I felt about myself as a result of this new found sense of control.  At the risk of sounding like an alcoholic (and truly I am not!!) abstaining from my beloved wine was the very last thing I imagined I could do.

‘Why should I give up everything I enjoy?’, ‘Life’s too short,’ and ‘It’s my main way of relaxing and de stressing’ was what I’d say to myself to justify my habit.  I guess partly these justifications were camouflaging the fact that I was scared that if I made a commitment not to drink for a month, I might not be able to do it, and I would therefore feel a failure.  Actually now I have achieved the improbable, I feel like I can achieve many other improbable things too…..so there you have it- the happy outcome is that I definitely feel more confident.

  1. Abstinence does not necessarily equal deprivation

I believe that in the past I may have been guilty of telling myself that feeling deprived is not good for me.  That somehow if I don’t have what I want on a regular basis-let’s stick with the alcohol theme here as an example-so if I don’t have a little tipple on a Friday and Saturday then I might feel so deprived, that at the next opportunity (maybe even on the Sunday) I’d go mad and totally overindulge.  When I tried to lose weight in my teens-that’s sort of what happened.  I’d decide that in order to lose weight I’d never eat chocolate again. I’d manage 5 days and then give up, have a whole bar of Galaxy, feel a failure and then have some Maltesers as well. (My parents both worked for Mars)

I now realise that there is a difference between telling yourself you can NEVER have something ever again, and deciding that you are going to abstain for a short period of time, like a month.  The difference with short term abstinence is that the end is always in sight-it’s not a forever thing and therefore isn’t as scary.  And anyway now, because I’m feeling smug that I’ve managed to do it, I realise that my cravings have lessened ( yes really!) and I even appreciate my glass of wine more. All positive don’t you agree?

  1. It was easier than I thought

Yes I know that having a horrible migraine gave me a head start and helped me on my way, but hey I still did it-and not only that, I am still in one piece and here to tell the tale! Who’d have thought it? The cravings were nowhere near as bad as I thought they would be and I learnt to substitute what wine was giving me i.e. relaxation and stress relief, with other things that gave me the same i.e. a cup of tea, a sit down and Headspace the meditation app (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!).  The other thing that made it easier was breaking up the challenge into smaller goals; by taking each Friday and Saturday night as it came and asking myself ‘What do you want to do tonight-have a vino or stick to your commitment?’, the decision I made was only for one night at a time.  Breaking the journey into smaller steps made the biggest difference to my success-it put less pressure on me.

So there we have it- who knew I could learn so much in a month simply (?!?) by abstaining from alcohol.  I might abstain from chocolate sometime soon just to test myself again……fancy joining me in a bit of abstinence?

Have you given something up for a while and learnt from it?  Or, if you were to test yourself for a month, what would you benefit from giving up? Please leave me a comment below.

One good reason NOT to make a New Year’s resolution

So it’s that time of year again (Happy New Year and all that…) and the pressure is on to make ‘resolutions’ and become all round better people.  At the time of me writing this, I wonder how many resolutions have already been broken?  And therein lies the fatal flaw of this whole concept-there is a very high chance that making a resolution to ‘do something’ will result in us eventually not doing it, and hey presto, there it is- a big sense of failure.

So that was it- the ONE very good reason NOT to make a resolution.

If we want to stay motivated to achieve better things in 2015, my proposal is as follows- get rid of the RE and just focus on the SOLUTION. (Get it?)

The  one very  useful thing about the New Year is that it makes it easy for us to focus on a fresh start, on drawing a line in the sand and (just one more cliché now…..bear with me) turning over a new leaf. This in turn encourages us to think of all the positives changes we want to have happen in the future.

So here is my solution- instead of focussing on all the things we need to be doing, or need not to be doing, we should be focussing on our goals and aims and using those as the starting point.

Let me use this example to explain what I mean.  Last year I said to myself: ‘I’m going to stop drinking wine and I’m going to start running; I’m fed up of being the size I am so I’m going to make these changes and that will sort me out.’  By day 2 I’d had a glass of wine which of course meant that I was ‘rubbish’ and ‘useless’, and all I gained was a sense of hopelessness. I sulked a bit and then put the concept of New Year resolutions to the back of my mind. (It’s now 2015 and the most action my trainers have seen, is a brisk walk!)

This year instead of resolving to do this, that and the other, I have decided to identify my aims for 2015. One of those aims is to lose 18lbs so that I can feel totally comfortable and confident in a size 14 pair of jeans (they’ll be pretty loose if I lose 18lbs-bliss!). I am trying to visualise how amazing I’ll feel when I jump out of bed one morning and slip on those jeans. (Oh yes…..I’m visualising it now….ooh love it………….can’t wait to feel that way!)  The important thing is to be really specific and clear about what your goals for 2015 are; it then becomes easier to identify the actions you need to take to get there.

Do you see the difference?  Identifying my aim will of course mean that I’ll have to make some behaviour changes, but I can think about those each week and adapt them, and of course  I’ll learn as I go along.  If I do accidentally have an unplanned glass of wine at the weekend it doesn’t mean that I have failed to achieve my overall aim. So I therefore won’t be demotivated like I was last year.

Research shows that if we have a clear idea of what we are aiming for then we are 3 times more likely to achieve it.  So come on……what is your AIM for 2015?

Please share in the comments so that I can encourage you, by following up on your goals later on in the year.