Reduce your drinking

Reduce drinking

Benefits of reducing or stopping drinking

In the short-term, reducing or stopping drinking can help you:

  • Save money
  • Boost your mood
  • Sleep better
  • Find more time to do other things you enjoy
  • Feel more productive
  • Get in shape or improve fitness
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Avoid hangovers
  • Support your mental health and wellbeing 

At the same time, you'll reduce your risk of long-term harm from alcohol including cancer, heart attack, stroke and liver disease. 

Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol to reduce risk of harm to their unborn child. 

Tips to reduce your drinking

Counting your drinks is a simple yet effective strategy to reduce your drinking. 

Set yourself a drink limit, and every time you get a drink make sure you're taking note of what number drink it is.

The Australian Alcohol Guidelines can help you to make informed decisions about how much alcohol you drink.

Choose some days each week where you don't drink alcohol. This will help you reduce your overall intake and give your body a break. 

Planning things in advance can help distract you when you’d normally drink. You might want to avoid places you usually drink for a while when you’re starting out.

Check the standard drinks label and go for low-alcohol options. Decide not to exceed a certain number of drinks and count the drinks you have. 

There’s an increasing range of no alcohol products available at many retailers.

Reach for water or a non-alcoholic alternative to quench thirst before your first drink. Then for every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink.

Understanding how much alcohol counts as a standard drink may also help – it can vary depending on the type of alcohol and size of the container. For packaged alcohol, the number of standard drinks is required to be listed on the label. 

Try our online Standard Drinks Tool to see how many drinks are in your typical pour.  

Avoid stocking up at your next trip to the shops. Research shows that the more alcohol we buy, the more likely we are to drink it sooner than we intended. 

Giving yourself a break between drinks can give you a chance to be mindful about how alcohol is making you feel. 

Set your own drinking pace - the more you practice saying 'no', the easier it becomes. 

Drinking alcohol to deal with these issues can make them worse. There are a range of other strategies that are proven to work to help manage stress and anxiety, aid better sleep and support your overall wellbeing.

For more information and strategies to support mental health visit Think Mental Health

Sometimes we do things out of habit and don't really stop to think about it. 
It might take a conscious effort to change up your routines at first, but small actions can help build consistency and new habits.

Here's some ideas to break up your routine:

  • Take a few moments to yourself
  • Switch to non-alcoholic drinks
  • Cook a nourishing meal
  • Go for a walk outside
  • Find a new way to relax
  • Do something on your to-do list
  • Try a new activity or hobby

Small changes can make a big difference.

Here’s some things to think about to help you get started:

  1. Reflect on ‘why’ and ‘when’ you usually drink.

    Identifying your triggers can help you find ways to handle them. 

    For example, do you usually drink:
    • At home after work?
    • On the weekend?
    • While cooking dinner?
    • With friends?
    • To switch off or forget about the day?
    • When bored or lonely?
    • Because others are drinking?

  2. Consider ways your life could improve by drinking less.

    Keep these reasons in your mind as you start to make changes.

How to deal with setbacks

Reducing alcohol use is an ongoing process. Sometimes it takes a couple of attempts to figure out what works best for you. This figuring out period is sometimes called a setback and can be a useful time to:

  1. Revisit why you wanted to reduce in the first place.
  2. Think about the reasons you experienced the setback. What places, people, feelings or social situations can make it harder or easier to focus on reducing?
  3. Work out if a new plan or strategy could be helpful.
  4. Identify who else you can reach out to for support. 
  5. Message, chat or call someone for support. 

Need advice or support?

Some people can find it difficult to reduce their drinking, but there is support available. 

The Alcohol and Drug Support Line is a confidential, non-judgemental telephone counselling, information and referral service. 

The phone service is free of charge and available 24/7 by calling (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 (toll-free for country callers).

Page last updated16 February 2024