A technique known as urge surfing, which harnesses mindfulness, can help people who are experiencing cravings. Originally developed as a tool to help people struggling to battle alcohol and drug addiction, urge surfing is now being used to help people with overeating, gambling, compulsive shopping, smoking and other compulsive urges.
The idea behind urge surfing is that cravings come in cycles, like waves. They grow in intensity, before crashing and losing their power. By delaying gratification and taking time to identify your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations at the time, coupled with learning to sit comfortably with your urges you can learn to let them go, and not act on them.
I often find that people confuse urge surfing with simply sitting on their hands and waiting for the cravings to pass. While delaying action can help some people, urge surfing is a more proactive approach that involves listening to your mind, heart and body.
For example, where do you notice the craving on a physical level? Are you feeling tension in your shoulders or a gnawing feeling in your stomach? How does your mouth feel? What thoughts are you experiencing? Notice those thoughts and observe them calmly. Keep breathing calmly and steadily and let the thoughts pass through your mind like a video or audio reel.
Instead of battling the urge (or wave), ride it out and wait for it to crash and for cravings to disappear. When you give in to the urge, and give yourself the "fix" you crave, it only increases future cravings. By learning to ride the wave and let it go, over time you will notice cravings are less frequent.
This is a technique that takes time and patience, but if you're prepared to invest the time, it can pay big dividends. The catch is that most people find that the urge to smoke, drink, eat or gamble is so strong, that they forget this tool is available to them. One good way to get into the habit of using mindfulness to combat cravings is to practice meditation or mindfulness daily.
Anytime I mention meditation or mindfulness in my workshops, the majority of the students get a glazed look in their eyes, and start fidgeting and complaining that they can't sit still for that long, let alone keep their thoughts focused on candles, mantras or clearing obsessive thoughts. My solution is to start with small achievable goals.
Most practitioners recommend spending 20 minutes a day in meditation. However, for the purposes of beating cravings 30 seconds may be all you need to interrupt your thought process and reorient your thinking into a more healthy pursuit. Urge surfing can also be adapted to help people with panic attacks or any form of obsessive thoughts. When you have compulsions or cravings, you need a way to interrupt your thoughts before you take action. Mindfulness, or urge surfing, can achieve exactly that.
After a successful career spanning finance, marketing and management roles in Fortune 500 companies, Talia experienced stress-induced burnout, and left the corporate world to establish a consulting business.
Talia is a published author, professional speaker and business mentor. She is also a contributing author to 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life with Bob Proctor, John Gray and Jack Canfield.