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Willpower Sucks . . . Here’s What to Do Instead

Ever heard of the radish and cookie test? It’s one of the groundbreaking studies devised on willpower, or the ability to do something that doesn’t give immediate gratification and restrain the impulse to do the thing that does give immediate gratification. Sounds like exactly what you need to stop drinking, right? And yet what this […]

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Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash
Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Ever heard of the radish and cookie test? It’s one of the groundbreaking studies devised on willpower, or the ability to do something that doesn’t give immediate gratification and restrain the impulse to do the thing that does give immediate gratification. Sounds like exactly what you need to stop drinking, right?

And yet what this study showed was how hard it really is to keep using willpower to do hard things. They gave two groups two bowls of food, one bowl of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and one bowl of radishes. They instructed one group to eat the radishes and the other group to eat the cookies. Next, they gave both groups a puzzle test that was basically impossible to figure out and measured how long before each group gave up. No wonder, the group that had to ignore the cookies and eat the radishes gave up long before the other group. From that study, scientists found that willpower is somewhat like a muscle—overuse it and it gets taxed and worn out.

You might go throughout your day using willpower to deny the donuts at work, and then go to the gym, and then cook a healthy meal. By 7 p.m., no wonder it’s hard to skip the temptation of wine.

What’s key to success to stop drinking is not relying on willpower but rather changing your mindset about alcohol so that you no longer want it anymore. And surrounding yourself with a support system and ALL the tools in your toolbox.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

USE A CALENDAR TRACKER

Before you commit to climbing Mount Everest, maybe you could start with an easier mountain? Meaning setting yourself up for smaller goals, like a 90-day challenge, or even 30-day challenge, can be a lot more motivating than forever. When you commit to a set number of days, keeping your run really drives your motivation. And it’s incredibly fulfilling to see your challenge laid out in front of you where you can check off all your progress. Studies show that checking something off releases dopamine and drives us to want to do the action again.

Try the Dry January app, where you get to mark down cute little teacups for each day you don’t drink. It’s super helpful to track your days in more than one place, so go old school and get a planner, a journal, and a calendar, and mark that you didn’t drink that day IN THE MORNING, before you’ve had any temptation. It will be so much less appealing to drink and then have to cross off your progress.  

MINDSET EXERCISES TO BELIEVE

Drinkers often have lower self-esteem than usual because drinking constantly sets us up to fail and let ourselves down. The cycle of having low self-esteem usually drives more drinking. But let’s stop it right there. In order to be successful, you have to believe that you can be successful and this means altering your own mindset about what is possible for you. Happy and alcohol-free? Why couldn’t that be you? Use things like affirmations, visualizations, and meditations to step into a new identity. Visualize yourself happy, doing things you never dreamed you could be doing because of your AF lifestyle. Repeat to yourself, “I can accomplish anything I set my mind to” or “I am confident and fulfilled without alcohol” and start changing your beliefs about your capability at a fundamental level.

A GRATITUDE PRACTICE

But guess what? Challenges will still arise! Some days will be hard. This is where your gratitude practice comes in. It’s hard to feel angry, sad, or stressed when you’re feeling grateful. Practice naming five things you are grateful for every single day. No matter who you are there is always something to be grateful for. Did you sleep well last night? Did you get to enjoy a nice cup of coffee because you aren’t hungover? Did you experience more peace and calm throughout the day? Did your dog love on you? Studies show that the most grateful people are the happiest people. Practice naming your blessings and you will start to look for them each day.

DEBUNK LIMITING BELIEFS

I talk about this a lot because it’s really important and is the key to changing your mindset! Drinkers all have fundamental subconscious beliefs about how alcohol serves them. Studies show that our beliefs govern our entire reality and are a critical factor in how we respond to medical treatment. Your beliefs can either empower you or disempower you. And here’s the thing. You get to choose what you believe. And the first step is just uncovering what it is that you fundamentally believe about alcohol.

Here’s some of my past beliefs: Drinking relaxes me, drinking makes things more fun, drinking makes socializing better, drinking makes me feel treated. You see, as long as I believe those things, drinking will be alluring. But I can also question the veracity of each and every statement and find the opposite to be true. Drinking doesn’t actually relax me, it always compounds my stress the next day. Alcohol induces my body to release stress hormones like cortisol and actually increases my stress levels. Studies show that drinkers get relaxed at the anticipation of a reward (like the moment they order a glass but before they drink it) meaning that it’s not really alcohol that does any relaxing.

LEARN AND EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE

Read books that will help you learn about your comfort zone behavior and show you the utter delight that comes from taking a risk and leaving your safe space. Ask yourself how well this drinking habit serves you, and learn way more about your reactions, tendencies and why humans like to mute their inner desires by drinking. Get yourself some books that will shift your entire mindset about drinking, so it’s no longer something you really want to do anymore; my recommendations include This Naked Mind, Alcohol Explained, and the Unexpected Joy of Being Sober.

FIND FRIENDS THAT SUPPORT YOU

I know how easy it is to feel so alone and ashamed. I never talked about my insecurities about drinking with anyone. Which was a huge mistake because silence and secrecy are the exact two things that make shame grow. But there are tons of people who are going on this same exact journey as you. Fifty-two percent of Americans are trying to drink less! Being sober curious is the ability to be introspective and there are some trailblazing people on the same path. Find them!

Join private Facebook groups, (like Club Soda UK and Euphoric Alcohol-Free) and be a part of the movement that lifts others up. Also, search sober or alcohol-free in Instagram and you will find a huge community—say hi! Try finding sober or alcohol-free meetups in your area. Lastly, when you feel ready to talk about this with your friends IRL, you may be astonished at how much they relate or at least support you. Veer towards the ones that do.

GET INSPIRED BY MENTORS

The sober curious movement is trending!! Meaning like no other time in the past has there been so much information and resources and LEADERS embracing this movement. We’re talking about it, and we’re making it the most positive and empowering lifestyle out there. Get that buzz going in your ear by listening to podcasts, like Take a Break and Euphoric the Podcast. (That one’s mine y’all—go listen!)  

I listen to an inspiring and empowering podcast every. single. day. I like to find someone who I admire and aspire to and learn about the clues they are leaving me to achieve the same kind of success.

FIND A GUIDE OR COACH

Last week I had a coaching call with my life coach after a bit of a hiatus from the holidays. OMG did I miss talking to her! Yes, I have my own coach you see because there is a very wise saying, “a jar cannot read it’s own label.” Working with a guide has transformed my life and made me go from point a to point b so much faster. Guides give you unwavering support, accountability, a judgement-free space to talk about anything, transformation-based coaching, mindset and perspective shifts, and solutions to break past unhealthy patterns. They are a godsend!

I know how hard it can be to change your drinking alone. But you don’t need to do it alone. Because I believe in you so hard. And with science-backed strategies and the best of the personal growth field, I would love to be your guide. I absolutely love self-development and while investing in myself doesn’t always feel natural, I know that I deserve to learn and grow and express my fullest potential and that means regularly working with a coach and doing online programs. I offer both 1-on-1 coaching and a course to stop drinking, if you want to take your journey to the next level.

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