Have you ever wondered how you can Beat Cravings and Urges?
Trying to ignore or suppress an urge or cravings just does not work and the more you try not to think about not having that cigarette, drink or chocolate bar, the more you think about it!
Don’t we all battle with some kind of craving or urge at some time and the harder you try to avoid thinking of it or ignoring it the worse it gets. Not even distraction helps and inevitably we succumb to what we are trying to avoid. All of this creating an internal game of back and forth creating lots of internal conflict and the more you resist, the more likely the thought persist and the more likely you are giving in to the craving or urge.
There is plenty of research to show that suppressing a thought, feeling or sensation, ultimately increases it.* It is like me asking you not to think of a pink elephant. … That’s right you just can’t but think of it.
When you experience an urge or craving your brain is lead to believe that the only way to let the urge or craving go away is to give into it. Research tells us that typically urges or cravings only last for a few minutes and will pass whether you give in or not.
There is a solution and you can teach your brain that it is possible to experience an urge or craving without giving in.
Surfing the Urge
There is a method that has proven to work very well and even has the science to back it, called “Surfing the Urge”. Sarah Bowen, a research scientist in the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington has used this method with great success. Bowen explains that cravings and urges always pass eventually, whether or not you give in to them.
“Cravings are like waves,” “They rise up, and they fall back down. What you’re going to do is just ride through that wave.” Bowen
Bowen would tell smokers that when they felt a strong craving, they should imagine the urge as an ocean wave. Waves would build in intensity and ultimately crash and dissolve. The smokers were to picture themselves riding the wave, not fighting it but also not giving in to it. They were instructed to pay close attention to the urge to smoke, without trying to change it or get rid of it. What thoughts were going through their mind? What did the urge feel like in the body?” *
Although Bowen used the “Surfing the Urge”* technique on smokers, Kelly McGonigal* believes It is likely that this process can help all sorts of temptation and addiction, from food cravings to shopping addiction, substance abuse, and Internet porn.
4 Basic Steps in how to “Surf the Urge”
Once you recognize that you are having a craving, find a comfortable position.
Acknowledge and accept that you are having a craving or urge and that it will last for a little while.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Focus on where in your body you are experiencing the craving or urge and notice the exact sensations in that area. For example, do you feel hot, cold, tingly, or numb etc
Repeat the focusing with each part of your body that experiences the craving
Release tension with breathing – ride out your craving, releasing tension with each breath.
Important: The purpose of this exercise is not to make the craving go away but to experience the craving in a new way.
By learning a new way to experience cravings you learn a valuable skill in overcoming them, and as you learn to experience your cravings in a mindful way, without judging and without giving in, you will find that in time the frequency and intensity with which you experience them will diminish.
About the Author:
Bennie Louw BA.Hons (Univ of Stell), Certified Hypnotherapist, NLP, HNLP Practitioner/Coach and Certified Parts Therapy Facilitator.
Bennie has a passion for motivating people to breakthrough limiting beliefs. He can help you discover and get what you want in life. As a qualified NLP, HNLP Coach, practitioner and Certified Hypnotherapist he provides an opportunity for change and motivation to succeed.
* Sarah Bowen, a research scientist in the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington
* Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., is a health psychologist teaching at Stanford University and specializing in the mind-body connection
* Clark Ball & Pape 1991, Gold & Wegner 1995, Wegner, Schneider, Carter & White, 1987, Wegner, Schneider, Knutson & McMahon 1991, Cioffi & Holloway 1993 – https://www.mindfulness.org.au/urge-surfing
* Urge surfing is a technique attributed to the late psychologist Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of addictions treatment.