Hello Sunday Morning chief executive Chris Raine writes about the reasons for going alcohol-free.
More than 2000 Kiwis have signed up to the alcohol behavioural change programme Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) since it launched in New Zealand in May last year.
Globally, more than 19,000 people have signed up since it started in Australia in 2009, in an effort to change the ingrained binge drinking culture.
Named in reference to the experience of waking up on Sunday morning without a hangover, Hello Sunday Morning is a free online community that aims to help people change their relationship with alcohol for the better by giving it up for three months.
The programme, which is in six other countries including the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland and Australia, is helping people change an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Our research has found that participants who were drinking at risky or hazardous levels before their HSM commitment were drinking at low risk levels after it, with some respondents being followed up a year after they had undertaken HSM.
Other benefits that Kiwis have gained by staying alcohol-free for up to three months include an average saving of $1200 and weight loss of between 5kg and 15kg.
Now that the festive season is upon us, we really urge people to have a good long think about why they drink and how they drink, and we challenge them to sign up to HSM and change their drinking behaviour so that they can experience the amazing benefits of the free online programme and have their best summer yet.
Last year actor Will Hall got behind HSM by pledging to give up drinking for three months during summer - a huge feat for him during the festive season of parties and drinking. With all his friends, family and cast members supporting him, Will had an extremely successful three months taking a break from alcohol, inspiring those around him and the HSM online community.
Taking a break from drinking - which is what HSM is all about - really gives you an interesting perspective on booze culture in New Zealand. A lot of people think they can give up for 3 months but then don't actually back it up. Everyone would be both surprised and better off if they actually tried it for themselves.
After signing up to HSM, members stay in touch through the website, HSM Facebook "hubs" and other social media, supporting each other and sharing their experiences.
Social media enables our members to share their experiences with a huge community and receive instant support and encouragement.
Usually the festive season would be the hardest time to abstain from drinking for a social drinker, but when you can see that you have a whole community behind you - literally 24/7 - suddenly you realise you are not alone.
The feeling of isolation is one of the biggest challenges for anyone who is abstaining from alcohol because it is so entrenched in our culture.
One of the most valuable aspects of the programme is that it gives people the opportunity to discover why they are actually drinking, and although sometimes the reasons are scary, they also learn how to cope in every situation without the need to drink.
The main reasons people choose to drink are to cope with emotions, boost confidence and for a sense of identity.
When you remove alcohol from the situation, you see you don't need alcohol for all the reasons you think you do - and seeing how other people behave when they are drunk is certainly an eye opener when you are sober.
For more information, go to hellosundaymorning.org
- The Marlborough Express