Winning at Dry January – how to survive a night out and stay sober

Behaviour Change Adviser at Bupa UK
03 January 2018

Short of never going out again, how do you enjoy a night out in a pub, bar or restaurant if you’re resisting the urge to have a pint or a glass of wine? Lots of us take on the Dry January challenge to cut back on the merriment that often ramps up over the Christmas season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still go out and enjoy yourself.

Image of a roller skating disco

Whether it’s a drink after work, dinner with your friends or a date night with your partner, you might find yourself in places that inevitably serve alcohol. So it can be all too tempting to throw out the rule book and have a drink or two. To combat this, here are my top tips if you want to go out, have fun, and don’t want to drink alcohol.

Get ahead of the game

The key thing to remember here is the work you need to do before you step foot inside the pub or bar. It’s important to start putting in place new behaviours and ways of thinking so that when you find yourself in your local on a Friday night with your work buddies, you’re already in control. This is how you do it...

Make one major lifestyle change at a time

It takes a huge amount of effort to change a behaviour that’s automatic to you and interrupt it with a new one. So trying to make lots of changes at the same time is really hard to stick to. With this in mind, if you’re giving up alcohol, just focus on that – don’t try and take anything else on. Then, once you’ve got used to the changes you’ve made, you can start to look at other goals and areas of your life that you want to change.

Interrupt your automatic brain

It’s inevitable to pick up bad habits throughout life. You might get into the routine of having an alcoholic drink every night or at every social occasion. So the trick to changing that is to interrupt the automatic part of your brain, and you do this by doing things differently.

For example, something as small as opening doors with your non-dominant hand for a couple of weeks could improve your willpower by making you use the reflective part of your brain more.

Deal with urges head on

We call this one urge surfing. Instead of avoiding the cause of cravings, face them head on. Urges will pass, whether you give into them or not. So instead of trying to suppress one when it appears, explore it. If you’re able to confront it head on and deal with it, you’re much less likely to give into temptation next time.

Be consistent in what you say and do

Consistency is so important. Declaring what you’re going to do has a big influence on your behaviour, because it’s embarrassing to go back on your word. So, if you decide not to drink alcohol during the week or on a night out, tell people your plan. By putting it out there – and your reputation on the line – you’re more likely to be consistent and stick to your guns.

Pre-pick your drink

One of my favourite tips is to plan what non-alcoholic drink you’ll have so that you don’t just order ‘the usual’ when you get to the bar. Knowing what you’re going to order takes the pressure off having to make a snap decision. And it doesn’t have to be a boring choice either, try out some new combinations such as: fresh lime and soda; ginger ale and bitters; cranberry, lime and soda; or ask for a lemonade with a salt rim and a wedge of fresh lime.

Fun things to do that don’t involve drinking

In the UK, alcohol is a big part of our social culture. But, with a bit of inventive thinking, there are lots of other activities you can do instead. Here are five of my favourites.

  1. Take a trip to the cinema. We love this one so much we investigated all the health benefits of a trip to the flicks.
  2. Go bowling or roller skating. It can be easier to resist getting an alcoholic drink when you’re busy being competitive or trying not to fall over!
  3. Host a spa party (at home). Just like when you had a sleepover as a teenager and painted your nails and did each other’s hair. Get in some herbal tea, scented candles, comfy clothes and a face mask, and have a giggle with your friends.
  4. Put on a movie marathon or get out your video game console. Just substitute the alcohol for a mocktail and the crisps for popcorn.
  5. Go out for dinner. Pick somewhere that’s a new cuisine for you and make that the focus. You’ll be too busy exploring a new taste sensation to think about the wine list. Or you might find that the restaurant has an alcohol-free range of drinks so go for that instead.



Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. . You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Juliet Hodges
Behaviour Change Adviser at Bupa UK

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