Often we can have uncomfortable, or downright shitty, situations in our lives that, for whatever reason, we can’t change. Or at least not in the short term. When this happens though we don’t just have to put up with it and have a dreadful time.
Instead there can often be a fair amount of relief by changing our thoughts and perspective on the situation. It’s something I harp on about quite a lot and I notice that if clients /friends /whoever have never tried it, they don’t really believe what an incredible difference it can make. And yet it is such a powerful technique. I’ll use the example of my current abstinence from alcohol to demonstrate.
Today marks 5 weeks alcohol-free for me after setting myself a 3 month sober challenge on 1st Jan. (I’ll pop a link to that blog in the comments if you missed it on 1st Jan). Excluding my two pregnancies, this is also the longest I’ve not had alcohol for in 31 years since I started regularly drinking at the age of 17ish. Even that fact I find extraordinary: that I’ve never gone 5 weeks without alcohol, apart from when I had to. But what makes this 5 week stint remarkable (to me at least) is that it’s been totally EASY. Like really easy. No hassle at all easy. In fact I’d go so far as to say enjoyable, interesting, fascinating … THAT easy!
I’ve had only 2 urges to drink. Once when I sat down to a rather lovely Bean Chilli cooked by the Husband and I fancied a glass of red wine. Then remembered I wasn’t drinking and the urge immediately went away & I got an alcohol-free beer instead. It felt like an old pattern in my brain got fired up briefly but was easy to switch off. The other urge was when sat next to someone at a dinner who wasn’t my cup of tea and (if I was being rather judgemental), could do with some work on his conversational skills! My early thought was ‘I wish I was drinking’ but again that felt like an old habitual thought kicking in as alcohol wouldn’t have changed our lack of compatibility.
The reason this is truly remarkable to me is that all the other January detoxes or dry Jans I’ve done, for 3-4 weeks at a time, have been about willpower. I’ve got through them but I’ve had many urges that weren’t so easily overcome and they were a lot less enjoyable and felt more like deprivation. So why has it been so easy this year?
Simple – my thinking has been different. By doing my research about alcohol and reading a few books of the Quit Lit genre (I’m so down with the jargon now!) I changed how I felt about alcohol and my relationship with it. And by changing my perspective, my experience of not drinking also changed. I’ve got the same body, the same physical conditioning about alcohol as I’ve always had but my thinking and perspective has fundamentally shifted and hence it’s been easy & weirdly enjoyable.
Some highlights of the experience have included:
* An alcohol-free pub crawl with the Husband. We loved that we could drive ourselves home at the end of it & both opted for a Peppermint tea in the final bar! You make much wiser decisions at the end of the night when you’re sober.
* 17 friends came round for an alcohol-free drinks & healthy snacks evening. I got all the posh glasses out & it felt like a normal gathering as if we were drinking. I actually think more people came because there was no drinking – it meant even if people could only come late they popped in for an hour, knowing that everyone would still be sober & they could drive home, they didn’t have to worry about getting up the next morning on a school night or being tired / hungover etc.
* We have experimented with loads of different alcohol-free drinks and mostly they were perfectly pleasant. I found a website with 308 alcohol-free drinks (incuding those with 0.5% which we’ve been including). Although pubs are well behind the times and have very limited ranges.
* We’ve saved a lot of money, particularly on taxis.
* I’ve often felt like I’d been drinking if I’d had a particularly fun time with lots of laughing.
* I’ve lost weight. There are a lot less calories consumed on a sober night – both from the lack of alcohol but also from less unhealthy snacking that tends to go with drinking.
All in all it’s a fascinating experiment. And a great demonstration of how if you only change your thoughts, you can entirely change your experience.
However, even though it’s one of my pet subjects, and I help clients to do it all the time, I still often forget to do it myself. For example, I’m struggling a bit at the moment with having signed up for a half-marathon and not enjoying the enforced training. If it wasn’t a charity place I would probably pull out but will see it through (I’ll pop a link in the comments incase anyone would love to sponsor me …. pretty please!). And I notice that, having been a bit gloomy due to injuries, struggling on the long runs, having to go on the treadmill due to snow etc, I haven’t been practicing what I preach and tried changing my thinking around it. Hence I’m off to do some pondering on this one for a more helpful perspective.
In the meantime perhaps there is a situation where you could benefit from some different thinking? Please like / share / comment as it might be useful to someone else. Thanks for reading, Sue X