Alcohol: Taking time to consider our drinking behaviours

When a new year comes around it gives us a chance to focus on ourselves, our drinking habits and the importance of a healthy balanced lifestyle.

Speaking with a group of blokes about this, I asked them to have a think about their attitudes towards drinking which one bloke replied, “I just love the taste”. This is a fair enough response, and it’s also the same problem I have with my kids, who love ice cream and chocolate, but trying to teach them that you don’t have it every day takes effort.

The fact that going alcohol-free for a month is seen as a challenge for many, highlights just how prevalent alcohol use is in Australia. Alcohol is our most widely used and most accepted drug, and over time it has formed part of our Aussie culture and identity. Its use and associations are many, including advertising, sport, social occasions, celebrations and within the workplace culture.

Peer pressure does not only happen to teenagers!

Think of the last time you were encouraged to have a drink when you were not planning to. As Joe E. Lewis once quoted, “I distrust camels, and anyone else who can go a week without a drink”.

There seems to be an underlying normalisation, glamorisation and justification for drinking, which is also present in pop-culture, movies (The Hangover) and social media (my friend who posts ‘its beer o’clock’).

Now, I am not saying I’m a shining light leading by example when it comes to abstaining from having a drink, when my arm is often twisted a bit too easily. But, we should all take the chance to have a think about our own individual drinking habits, behaviours and attitudes.

• What example do I set when I drink?
• How often and how much am I drinking?
• Am I drinking to relax?
• Am I drinking to cope, or deal with stress?
• Is it habitual, or has it become a dependency?

For those who do enjoy a night out, here are a few points to help reduce unhealthy drinking behaviours.

Take a moment to consider:

  • What mood/state of mind am I in before I drink? Alcohol is a depressant, but can also enhance negative behaviours i.e. anger, aggression and reckless risk taking.
  • What sort of situation/crowd am I drinking with? Personal safety is up to us! Am I with people I know and trust in a safe environment, or am I out with random individuals in a public space?
  • Self-regulate by knowing your limits and plan ahead. Organise a designated driver, take a swag, don’t risk it!
  • Harm minimisation could involve having a decent meal before going out, serving finger food at parties and remembering that alcohol dehydrates, so drink water before, during and after drinking alcohol.
  • Having alcohol-free days is important. At least 2-3 days per week will show two benefits. Firstly, I can go without a drink, and secondly, it has regenerative effects on the liver (along with many other health benefits).

I recently saw a creative post showing a picture of our political leaders with the caption ‘No matter who wins they will not fix your life, better plan on doing it yourself.’

Like a lot of things in life and especially alcohol, we can’t expect governments and multi-million dollar ad campaigns to reduce the risk, control our use and fix alcohol related problems. Moderation, awareness, responsibility, and balance is the key to our alcohol use.

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