Assuming you have already thought about what you want to change regarding your addiction and usage, the next step is to figure out HOW you can make that happen. The HOW is perhaps the most important step in making change effective and easier. The importance of thinking about these measures can best be illustrated by giving proper examples.
If you want to start exercising more: Do you plan to go running? Make sure you have all your stuff ready in preparation the night before you want to go on a run. If you can put on your workout gear without obstacles, you will make it easier on yourself to start your run if you plan to go after a long day of work.
If you want to drink more water: Ensure that you always have a bottle of water nearby (in the car, in your bag) and put a couple of reminders in your calendar. By doing this, you will be regularly reminded to drink water in all kinds of ways, instead of trying your best not to forget, which will help you develop your new habit faster.
What can help you?
Quitting or reducing your usage is not only a matter of persevering or trying harder (although it can sometimes come down to that), but instead often comes down to carefully considering what will work best for you and what tools you are going to need to make the change.
Of course, in the beginning, you will have to consciously approach things differently to prevent yourself from going on ‘autopilot’ (and all the associated consequences). The longer you try doing so, the more you’ll notice that it becomes increasingly easy to do things differently instead of relying on the same patterns every day.
Because your addiction and usage have become a pattern, it is usually quite easy to think about when it’s going to be difficult and set up a plan in advance for this.
The abbreviation HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) can help you to think about difficult moments in advance. You can read more about HALT here.
Below, we differentiate between 3 different types of self-control measures. They are listed with a brief explanation and some examples to give you some food for thought.
Why are you going to make it difficult for yourself when you can also make it easier? Think about the things you can avoid that contribute to the habit you want to quit. You can do this in several ways:
- Not having any alcohol in the house takes away a lot of the temptation.
- If you want to drink a maximum of 2 units per evening, make sure you only have a maximum of 2 units at home.
- Buy (or order!) groceries for the whole week so that you are not tempted to go to the supermarket.
- Start cooking earlier or later.
- Be very cautious of parties, birthdays, etc., especially in the first few weeks. If you think they are going to be too difficult, postpone them until you are more used to your new pattern.
Thinking about what you don’t want is easy. But what do you want? If you’ve decided to tackle your usage, that is important to think about. Alternatives can also be interpreted broadly in this case.
- What are you going to drink if you’re not drinking alcohol? Make sure you have enough different alternatives at home, since having options makes it easier.
- What are you going to do with the time that you have left over? Make sure you think in advance about what you DO want to do instead (e.g., take a walk, take a shower and go to bed early, visit (safe!) friends or family).
Tip: use the NiceDay app to create reminders that can give you motivation at the right time and a message of support during the most difficult moments. After all, you know exactly what you need during these moments. For example:
- Daily at 7:30 PM: “Go for a short walk; whether you feel like it or not, it helps!”
- A birthday you want/need to go to at 8:00 PM: ”Start with a 0%, then take a fizzy water followed by a Coca-Cola”
- Weekly shopping every Saturday at 11:00 am: “Buy tasty alternatives instead of alcoholic drinks”
- Daily at 5:30 pm: “Go cook so you don’t feel like having a drink”
3. Reward and Reward Alternative
Many people find rewarding themselves difficult, but it’s important to think about what you can do to reward yourself after, for example, sticking to your plan for a week. Maybe buy yourself a bunch of flowers, sleep in or buy yourself something you’ve wanted for a while? Anything that can help to reinforce the feeling that you’re doing a good job can be a reward. Read more about rewarding yourself here and get some inspiration about how you can reward yourself here.
Tip! Set reminders via the NiceDay app to reward yourself after a certain period or event.
What are you going to do if you unexpectedly don’t quite manage to stick to your plan? Often, this is accompanied by a feeling of shame or perhaps failure. This feeling only increases the risk of further slipping. Something that can help in these situations is an ‘alternative reward’. These are small tasks that you can do in these moments, which help you to feel good about yourself again (¨at least I did that well¨), which reduces the risk of relapse.
Make sure you don’t list tasks that are too strenuous (go for ‘clean the coffee machine’ rather than ‘scrub the whole kitchen’) so that it doesn’t feel like a punishment (which will make you feel worse, which is not the objective). Therefore, go for small tasks which provide relief and make you feel good.
Write a diary entry about your alternative reward and, afterwards, reflect on your feelings and how the reward affected you.
Merkx, Maarten J.M. (2014). Individuele cognitieve gedragstherapie bij middelengebruik en gokken. Utrecht, Nederland: Perspectief Uitgevers.