Ah, holidays. Winter brews, mulled wine, spiked punch, and egg nog –there are countless ways to get into the holiday spirit. And there’s nothing wrong with the odd boozy beverage — indeed, studies have shown that alcoholic drinks, in moderation, can be beneficial to your health. But at this time of year, the line between moderation and excess can start to blur, and that’s when health problems can rear their ugly heads.

How ugly? A recent study showed that over-consumption of alcohol was one of four factors that cost the national economy $36.7 billion a year in medical services.

No one’s suggesting that you need to completely give up beer, wine, or your favourite cocktail in order to reduce the risks of poor health. Moderation is what’s called for here — we’re talking 10 drinks a week, and no more than 3 a day — and you might be surprised how easy it is to curb your alcohol intake. For the most part it’s a question of changing how and why you drink, and the five tips that follow can help with both issues:

1. Use different glasses
Studies have shown that people pour less wine into narrow glasses than wide ones, which in turn reduces the rate of consumption, and that leaving a glass on the table instead of holding it yields a smaller pour. Likewise, straight-sided beer glasses with measurement markings slow down the rate at which we drink. It’s tricky, but it works.

2. Steer clear of boozy situations
No matter how strong our desire to curb our alcohol intake, parties or nights on the town lead to drinking and, in turn, to over-imbibing. Controlling the environment — say, by inviting friends to your home for dinner — usually leads to less alcohol consumption.

3. Glasses half full

Again, studies have shown that filling glasses only halfway up results in significant reductions in booze intake. Is it laziness? If so, it’s still better than a nasty hangover and the aforementioned longer-term risks.

4. Learn from setbacks

Hey, nobody’s perfect. Despite your best efforts you may still wake up with a hangover; establishing new patterns of behaviour is no easy feat, after all. Don’t beat yourself up over it, as long as you learn from these missteps and make more of an effort to moderate your behaviour next time.

5. Stop equating fun with alcohol

Make a list of activities you enjoy that don’t have to involve booze — playing sports, gardening, photography, getting it on, the list goes on — and slot them in at those times when you’re likely to be tempted to drink. Snap some photos of the sunset when you’re on the dock, for instance, or curtail your deck time with a trip to the bedroom.

Do you know of any other effective booze-moderation tips? Share them in the comments below, and share this list to help your buddies cut down on their drinking.