Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that Santa brought you what you wished for – in my case, having my sons home for Christmas and sharing food, fun, laughter, games and music with friends and family.
Today’s a good day to give thanks for the experiences of last year, and to think about the gifts in store for 2013 – whether planned or unexpected, I hope they bring you joy.
Now, although I’ve written here before about the advantages of making new resolutions when spring starts to blossom, nevertheless I’ve decided to take up the challenge of having a Dry January – 31 days with no alcohol! Why, I hear myself cry? After all, I don’t have a drink problem, I do enjoy a nice glass of wine or pint of real ale, and this is a month where a combination of the post-Christmas slump, long cold dark nights, tax return deadlines – and the fact that I have a January birthday – surely beg for the cup that cheers . . . oops, better not talk myself out of it already. . .
So here’s the reasons: I spotted the challenge on the CADAS Facebook page – CADAS is a wonderful local organisation that supports people to deal with drug and alcohol problems and make positive changes to their lives. As they pointed out, most of us say that when it comes to alcohol we can take it or leave it, so why don’t we leave it more often? That got me thinking about how embedded some of our habits can be, and I started to wonder what it would be like to shake them up for a few weeks and do something different.
Politicians and health experts are involved in the debate around the cost and easy availability of alcohol, and it’s a thorny subject – all I can say is that there has undoubtedly been a huge culture shift towards drinking more within the home in my lifetime. I guess when I was growing up you didn’t stock up your wine carrier in the supermarket and pop it in the trolley with the rest of your shopping – a bottle of Blue Nun was an exotic treat from the off-licence! For ordinary families like my in-laws, meals were accompanied by a pot of strong tea while the drinks cabinet was opened at Christmas and special occasions only (when you’d be offered such retro delights as a Snowball or a port-and-lemonade).
Now of course we’ve all picked up continental habits, and the glug-glug of the wine being poured accompanies the evening dinner in many households. One glass can swiftly be followed by another, and the robust reds favoured by our more sophisticated palates are much stronger than the weedy German whites of my teenage years – so without being fully aware of it we can be packing away a fair few units of alcohol per week.
I’m conscious that when we take a pleasure for granted we miss out on really focusing on the enjoyment of it – something the practitioners of mindfulness highlight. So I’m not going to think in terms of giving up (my inner rebel doesn’t like being told what to do) but simply of experimenting with a new pattern of behaviour for a few weeks – so that hopefully, come February, I might taste my glass of wine with a sharpened sense of appreciation.
With mindfulness in mind, I’ll also try to notice if I do feel any different without any alcohol – I’m curious to know if a few small tweaks could make a difference health-wise, and of course I’m interested in the effects on mood and happiness levels. So I’ll report back at the end of the month, and would be most interested to hear from anyone else who’s taking up the challenge. If you have any great tips for delicious alcohol-free drinks or ways of keeping up motivation please share them – cheers!
Verse of the week
You can rely on poet Wendy Cope for a cheeky take on our wobbling New Year resolutions . . .
No more thinking about a second bottle
And saying ‘What the hell?’ and giving in.
Tomorrow I’ll be jogging at full throttle
To make myself successful, rich, and thin.
A healthy life’s a great rejuvenator
But, God, it’s going to be an uphill climb.
We all have to be sensible sooner or later
But don’t let’s be sensible all the time.
from ‘The New Regime’