I love wine. These days I don’t often drink too much in one go. It’s usually one glass in the evening, or occasionally I’ll have a second glass if I’m really letting my hair down! But even with such a moderate intake, I feel like it sometimes builds up in my system and I find myself feeling dragged down and tired in the mornings. It also becomes a real habit for me; even though it’s only one glass, I’m having it nearly every day and often without even really thinking about it. I just get home, pour a glass, and get on with my evening routine.
I didn’t like how this habit was becoming so strong, so I decided to have a month without alcohol, just to give my body a break from it and see if I could break the habit. When I’ve done this before I’ve always felt heaps healthier and more energetic. I made it one of my #20for2020 goals so that I wouldn’t change my mind, and decided to do it in February so I could get it over and done with. Also, let’s be honest, February is a shorter month so that might have had some influence in my decision too.
I expected some health benefits, but was surprised to discover a few other things as well.
Breaking the habit
The first thing I noticed was just how ingrained this habit had become. Even though I mentally prepared myself for over a month before locking the cellar door, I still came home and went straight to the wine glasses before remembering that I wasn’t drinking. After a few days of this, the pull to the wine glasses was not as strong, and I found myself reaching for a cold glass of water instead.
Breaking that automatic pattern of behaviour was empowering. I do not like to be controlled by anyone else. Having habits that feel beyond our control is like having a little manipulative and controlling person inside you. My unconscious booze-hag was gaining a bit too much control of my evening behaviour, so it was time to reign her in.
Learning to sit with my feelings
Our unhelpful habits (eg. drinking, eating, Facebooking, bingeing on Netflix, gambling, etc) are like padding. We wear this padding so we don’t have to feel too much… or to do anything about our feelings. But when you drop those habits for a while, you find that the feelings aren’t actually that scary. Sure, at first they are. If you come home in a bad mood and can’t have your wine to ‘fix’ it, you’ll find yourself spinning a bit and wondering how on earth you will deal with this. But a bad mood is not going to kill you.
Without the wine, I found myself better able to think about why I was feeling certain things. Whether I was feeling sad, irritated, totally pissed off, or even joyful, it was helpful to think about what thoughts had led to that feeling. In some cases it meant I could do things differently from that point forward, rather than just having a cycle of negative feelings. But in other cases it was actually just helpful to realise that feeling bad was okay sometimes.
Having more confidence in myself
There were so many points in my non-drinking month where I thought about having ‘just one….’. Some of my triggers included: Going to a party where I didn’t know anyone, being invited to happy hour at my parents’ place, going out for a lovely meal with friends, and staying in a hotel by myself for a whole weekend. All of these occasions were incredibly tempting, but I resisted each time. And each time I resisted, I realised I have a pretty strong will.
By the end of the month, I felt confident. Confident in myself, and in my goals and my ability to achieve whatever I want. Resisting a habit can be the perfect stepping stone to achieving greatness. Every single time you succeed at something, you build confidence. So every time you resist a temptation, you feel more confident in your ability to do it again. And after a while, that confidence can transfer to other things. Sure, I can resist drinking for a whole month, so I can probably also commit to a new habit like getting up early to build my business. When you believe that you can commit to something, you’re more likely to do it.
Increasing my productivity
That glass of wine at the end of the day is like a signal in my brain that it’s time to wind down. By the time I get through the glass, dinner is done and the kid has (hopefully) gone to bed. Next it’s time for my cup of tea and I curl up on the couch to watch my latest Netflix addiction. But when I wasn’t having that glass, I found myself still thinking and pottering around getting stuff done. I had more energy and focus, and it was easier to keep going at the end of the day.
Look I’m going to be honest with you – I was glad to see the end of February! Even with all these positive outcomes, I wasn’t quite ready to give up alcohol completely.
But I’m now more comfortable with enjoying a glass on weekends, and having several booze-free days for the rest of the week. There are nights when I’ve put the toddler to bed and realised I ‘forgot’ to have that glass of wine I’d been looking forward to earlier in the day. When I have negative feelings, I’m better able to stop and think about that before reaching for the ‘padding’ that will help to soften the feelings. And when I doubt my ability to achieve something, I remember that I am the one in control of my behaviour and if I want to achieve it I bloody will.
How about you?
Do you have unhelpful or unproductive habits? Think about setting a short period of time where you will resist the habit and see what happens. See if you get that spark of self-confidence. You never know – it could be the first stepping stone to astounding success. Or it might just be proof that you have the power to control your own behaviour.
If you’re having trouble with some of your habits and want some coaching, get in touch. During this weird time of COVID-19 isolation, think about how you want to come out the other side of it. It’s easy to indulge in our bad habits even more than normal while things are so hard. But it’s also a great opportunity to start building your success story.