06 Jan 2015

Is changing your drinking one of your New Year’s resolutions? Then make at least 5 more

By Jessica

The New Year is often a time for reflecting and attempting to bring about changes in your life. You might want to make a major career change (check out our top tips for starting a social tech venture), you might want to get out and get fit (get involved with GoodGym and keep an eye out for BGV W15 teams Run an Empire and imin), or you might be trying to cut back on things like smoking or drinking (join Club Soda).

This guest blog from Club Soda’s CEO suggests some behavioural change techniques for sticking to your goals – and while it’s about cutting down on drinking we think there’s some neat tricks in here for helping you to achieve any of your New Year’s resolutions.

[subtitle]Is changing your drinking one of your New Year’s resolutions? Then make at least 5 more – by Laura Willoughby[/subtitle]

I am reading a lot of advice designed to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions, the general view is that you  should have just one to make it manageable. I have been trying to work out why, in my many years of trying to cut down, this did not work for me. Surely if I focused on just cutting down (and in the end quitting) I would be more successful?

But it was not until I started to look at how behaviour change works that I realised the central problem – that when you take something away, you need to replace it with something new, and the best possible replacements are already on your resolution list. You just need to look at them in a different way.

Setting your own goal

Nearly everyone who signs up to Club Soda sets a goal and identifies a reason for changing their drinking. So far these have ranged from wanting to wake up without a headache to losing weight.  You don’t need to be sober to know that alcohol seeps into every part of our life, from drunken shopping expenditure through to how well you sleep. It is therefore no surprise that we want to see a wide range of outcomes.

It is clear that our alcohol consumption is not isolated from our other habits or changes we make. Setting resolutions/goals/challenges, monitoring progress, replacing alcohol with something else, broadcasting your aspirations; these are all behaviour change techniques (BCTs) – we just don’t usually call them that.

At Club Soda we also know that if you want to succeed, you are more likely to do so if you use several behaviour change techniques at the same time (read more in Jussi’s article here)

Your other resolutions are your tools to help you succeed

So rather than declaring ‘cut down my drinking’ as your sole resolution, add in some others based on the changes you would like to see, or the things you would like to do instead. Don’t than seeing them as resolutions, see them as your tools or techniques to achieve your main goal – changing your drinking.

  • Going to the gym more or doing some online yoga at 6pm every evening is a great distraction – an alternative focus for your attention helps you avoid unwanted triggers (BCT 12.4 – Distraction).
  • Spending 10 minutes a day doing a meditation or guided mindfulness session is like a personal prompt to reflect on how you feel about the change you made as a result of drinking less (BCT Monitoring Emotional Consequences))
  • Joining others with similar goals allows you to try out your new way of ‘behaving’ socially, without a drink! You can find out how you are doing in comparison, get the approval of others who support and know what you are doing (Bingo – this covers lots of Behaviour Change Techniques – you get the picture)
  • Get your finances in order and start by putting your drink money into a jar and spend it on something nice – rewarding yourself.

And here is the cool bit. Because alcohol is what it is – an expensive, energy sucking, calorific headache of a substance, by cutting it down or out you are more likely to have the time, energy and money to do the other things on your list. And therefore by doing the other things on your list you are also more likely to change your drinking. Ta da!

See, there is no point having just one resolution when you need a whole set to be able to see progress and encourage you along the way.

Don’t forget to set your goal on Club Soda and we will resume the weekly check-in email so you can monitor your progress.


* Club Soda uses a Behaviour Change Taxonomy developed at University College London to underpin our development. If you are interested you can read more here.