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Diana Olafsdottir
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In September I looked at my to-do list and shuddered. I had set myself a deadline to get some work done by the end of October, and it didn’t feel realistic. With two jobs and an active social life, there wasn’t enough time! – sound familiar?

Time is a precious commodity. But time is always measured in the same way; there are still 24 hours in a day and 1440 minutes. It’s how we use it and the relativity of ‘time flying’ or ‘time standing still’ that makes it so valuable.

I looked at how I was spending my time and where I could make better use of it to meet my deadlines. I hate to say it but cutting out alcohol was the obvious one. Nope, I’m not a daily drinker, nor a particularly heavy one. But I get caught up in Friday night antics and falling face first into a bottle or two of white wine to celebrate the personal time up the weekend brings. Ironically it was the weekends where my hours disappeared into hangovers and uselessness!

So for the first time in my adult life, I decided to take a break, reset my body and find out what the fuss was about. And 30 days later, I am surprised and happy to say it was really easy. But why? Why do so many of us go on diets, detox missions, set New Years resolutions and fail? I know that I’m not especially gifted with resilience in the face of temptation. So here’s what I learnt.

I was SMART about it

I honestly thought that the Friday night ‘demon’ would appear and get the better of me at some point, and if not my own demon, one of my friends would take that place and whisper sweet nothings into my ear. I’ll be honest; the ‘demon’ did appear, and a friend or two jokingly pushed a glass of wine under my nose. So why didn’t I cave in?

First of all, I had a goal. Not just any goal, but a SMART goal:

Specific – I will take a break from drinking alcohol for a month to reset my body and to meet my deadlines for coaching work

Measurable – Having completed my course work and not actually having a drink were the measures I used

Achievable – It was a stretch given that my longest ‘detox’ to date had been 10 days, but it was focused on an action – producing the course work, and I could visualise myself achieving it and being proud!

Realistic and Relevant – I chose a month where I had the least amount of social drinking situations booked in. And I didn’t miss out on them, I just didn’t drink

Time-bound – It’s a month. I wasn’t obsessed about whether that was 28, 30 or 31 days

I stayed curious

Instead of feeling like I was missing out, I decided to walk through that month with curiosity. Ever day I asked myself ‘what positive difference have I noticed today?’, ‘what have I achieved?’ and ‘what can I do more of/better tomorrow?’, ‘how is this experience different without alcohol?’. By focussing on that I reaffirmed my goal each day and as a result I enjoyed the journey. I went to the pub on a Friday because I like catching up with my friends and I left when I noticed that the conversations went from engaging to fairly one sided.

I had fun!

I associate drinking with fun, and therefore I associated not drinking with no fun. But in the last month I have gone to art exhibitions, immersive theatre, a morning rave, out for dinner, and found joy in exercise again. It’s been great! And more importantly, none of those were to avoid drinking. Under normal circumstances I would have squeezed in a glass or two at most of those occasions. It just didn’t need to be there for it to be fun.

It was really rewarding!

I stretched my capabilities beyond what I had done before, so every day after 10 days felt rewarding because it was longer than I’d ever abstained before. I have to admit, the first 10 days didn’t have much reward. I was tired, didn’t see any difference in my health and it was all a bit vanilla. But it was still pretty easy. As the days went on I started noticing a marked difference, which was the reward and encouragement in itself.

I feel less anxious and balanced emotionally

I get better quality sleep

I am more alert and engaged

I feel empowered

Exercise is easier

I have loads of time on my hands to complete what I’ve set out to do

I acknowledged my own strength, diligence in getting the work done, and for finding it easy.

I didn’t react

The one thing about cravings (we’re not talking about physical addictions here, let’s be clear) is that they are really all in our heads. I see my craving demon as a spoilt little brat that can’t have what it wants. And too many times I give into the kicking and screaming, but this time I just noticed it and like a patient mother in the supermarket casually ignored it. Surprisingly easy when you separate that aspect of yourself! For me giving it a visual image was useful because it meant it wasn’t me. The real me is actually pretty dedicated and determined.

All those factors made the last month EASY and really quite wonderful. I have to admit that my love affair with alcohol is far weaker and the reset has caused me to question the need for what I call ‘mindless’ drinking. Just reaching for it… well because that’s what I always do. I like having to be creative about how I spend my time and enrich my life. And now I know how being smart, being curious, having fun and acknowledging my positive moves all make me a stronger person on whatever journey I take!

If you want someone to bounce ideas off, to work with you to achieving your goals and affecting change in any area of your life, I’d love to do that with you and make sure we bring all those components along for the ride.

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