I’ve been thinking a lot about the word discipline. What it means for my day-to-day life, what it means as far as how I want to live a better life, and how I discipline myself. Of course, when I say that word, I’m not thinking of punishment, but I’m thinking about small changes in my life that will eventually lead to a healthier me, being in a better place to deal with the ups and downs of life.

This all began when, at the end of October, I decided to cut way back on the amount of alcohol I consume. I read some articles about healthy consumption levels and then I thought about how much I, on average, drink in a given week. The levels were different. And not in a good way.

I’m not here to say what you should or shouldn’t do. This was my decision; a decision based on several different things going on in my life that I felt needed to change. Alcoholism runs in my family, and I realized I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism rather than as an enjoyable thing I added to a meal or enjoyed when with friends.

Drinking was more of a habit, instead of being a conscious decision.

I’m down to 5 drinks a week. The number that’s healthy for the average woman, according to the CDC, is 7. But I wanted alcohol-free days, and I wanted to get used to ways to cope/deal with the frustrations of life without making an Old Fashioned or pouring a glass of wine.

I deliberately did this during a time I normally drink more: the holidays. Add in speaking at a conference/mini-vacation abroad, and it was a good way to test if I could do it.

Here’s what I found out about drinking: it’s all about ritual for me. The ritual of making the drink and then enjoying it. On the days I didn’t drink, I still wanted to make something, to have that moment of slowing down which leads to relaxation. So I started drinking bitters and soda with some type of citrus fruit most days. Putting together two things, mixing them, and adding in the garnish, it felt like a drink.

And then, just recently I watch an episode of The West Wing, “Bartlett for America”, and Leo talks about drinking, what it means for him.

I said, I like the little things. The way a glass feels in your hand—a good glass, thick, with a heavy base. I love the sound an ice cube makes when you drop it from just the right height.

I can completely relate to this entire speech. It’s worth watching the whole scene, in my opinion, it’s really great television. And that’s what made me realize that what I’m doing—cutting back, being disciplined—has been the right thing for me.

The only footnote I’ll add on to this is that, wow, people are annoying about this. I’ve had servers give me a bad time about not wanting alcohol, I’ve had friends look at me strangely, and I’ve felt like I have to explain myself way more than I should.

If someone isn’t drinking, give them a break, it’s not a bad thing. Remember, others’ actions aren’t judging yours, I’m doing what’s best for me, and that in no way is a judgement on what you are or aren’t doing.

Then, on December 1st, I decided to add another piece to the mix. I started a 30-day challenge and chose doing yoga daily as my challenge.

Yoga, as I defined it for my 30-day challenge, means doing either Asana, Pranayama, or meditation every day. Some days, I don’t do what many think of as “yoga” but it’s yoga for me.

I had one change of habit going well, drinking less, and then I added another. And it’s been amazing. Drinking less means I’m sleeping better, feeling better, and as a bonus, I’ve lost some weight. Doing yoga daily means that I take time out to slow down, listen to my body, and get away from everything. And even though I’m just past the halfway mark, my back feels amazing.

I recently read this quote in Yoga at Home and it hit home.

Cultivate discipline. Discipline breeds familiarity and brings you to a place where you can recognize yourself. … Familiarize yourself with yourself.

Thanks to Matthew Oliphant and Kristin Valentine for editing and giving feedback on this post.