Urge Surfing: A mindful way to conquer cravings!
Cravings are like waves. They rise, build to a peak, and eventually fall. We’re going to learn to ride those waves using a skill called Urge Surfing!
Let’s jump in!
(And don’t forget to download the Urge Surfing Worksheet at the bottom of this page!)
The Problem With Cravings
We are surrounded by temptations.
- Cinnamon crunch bagels at the office,
- Gummy bears stashed away in the pantry, and
- Chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream in the freezer.
Whatever is calling your name, one thing is for sure: cravings are a beast!
And what’s worse is:
When we’re faced with temptations, we feel like there are two different versions of ourself fighting for control.
One part of us (our rational side) wants to eat healthy and do the right thing.
There’s an irrational side of us too – and it wants what it wants! And when you think about it, it’s kind of a bully. It’s big, strong, mean, and—most of all—relentless!
This is why we feel like we can’t control ourselves around cravings. It’s like we’re stepping into the ring with a pro boxer without knowing how to throw a punch!
I had a client explain it to me like this, “I feel like I’m battling a giant and I’ve got nothing to defend myself!”
How true is that?!
The reality is: stopping a craving is like trying to hold back a Category 5 hurricane!
But many of us still try. We white-knuckle our way through temptations by bearing down and hoping for the best.
But at MyBodyTutor, we don’t hope for the best. We practice the right skills to deal with cravings. And we win through deliberate practice and accountability.
How To Beat A Craving
The key to beating a craving is first knowing what not to do!
How “Not To” Fight A Craving
1.) Trying to stop them.
We can’t stop cravings – they’ll keep coming with fierce intensity.
There’s a train coming down those tracks, and we can’t stop it by standing in the way!
2.) Distracting ourselves.
On the surface, distracting ourselves sounds like great advice, right? You hear people saying it all the time.
But what we run into is the “polar bear problem.”
Well, try really hard to “not” imagine a polar bear.
Think about anything else – anything at all.
It’s hard, right? The more you try, the more ingrained the image of a polar bear becomes.
Now, here’s how that applies to a temptation:
When we try to think about something other than that warm slice of pecan pie sitting on the counter, the more we start thinking about it. Eventually, we’ll start obsessing over it, and the urge to grab a fork actually gets stronger.
3.) Talking ourselves out of it.
We are really, really good at rationalizing.
If I didn’t want to workout today, I could give you a hundred reasons why skipping is a great idea.
And if we needed a reason why we deserve pizza right now, we could sway a jury of twelve with our argument!
Our efforts to stop, distract, or rationalize away a craving actually intensifies the urge!
???? What we need is a different approach.
And the best way to beat a craving is to treat it like a wave.
- Start small,
- Build momentum as they ramp up,
- Hit a peak, and then
- Gradually fall.
Like a wave, the urge you are battling WILL fall – you just have to let it.
And through practice, we learn to experience an urge without acting on it!
What is Urge Surfing?
We might not be able to stop an angry, ten-foot wave, but we can surf it!
Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique we use to experience a craving rather than fight it. And by doing this, we train ourselves to objectively witness the sensations we are feeling and ride them just like a surfer rides a wave.
How to Surf an Urge
Step 1. Let’s practice.
The goal here is to build confidence!
We wouldn’t jump on a black diamond our first time on the slopes or stand in front of a major league fastball our first time at the plate.
First, we need to practice!
We’ll start small and work with less intense urges – preferably something that doesn’t involve food at all.
For example, let’s pick an urge like wanting to check Facebook, read a text, or play an addictive iPhone game.
We’ll move to food next, but remember, our goal right now is one thing: to build confidence.
Step 2. Set the stage.
(In this example, we’ll use checking our text messages as practice.)
Let’s find a comfortable place—free from distraction—and place our phone with an unread message in front of us.
We’re not going to check our phone, we’re just going to sit and experience how it feels to NOT check our messages.
Step 3. Now sit back and simply observe.
We’re going to be mindful and focus intently on what we’re feeling right now.
- What’s going on with our senses?
- What do you see or hear?
- What does the temperature of the room feel like?
- What kind of thoughts are you’re having?
Now, feel the urge begin to rise.
The idea is to be present and mindful and experience the urge – but not act on it. Imagine yourself as a surfer, riding a wave as the urge builds.
Bonus points: if you can pinpoint the exact moment when the urge hits its peak.
The momentum may feel like there’s no end. That it will keep rising, but just like a roller coaster climbs and climbs, it eventually hits a peak and falls.
Ride the urge until it subsides. Even if it takes some time, it’s okay!
When we’re comfortable with a low-intensity urge, let’s scale up and practice again.
We’ll do these same 3 steps again and again until we know what to expect and we’ve built the confidence to use the food that’s tempting us.
Once we’re at that point, we’ll start again with a low-intensity craving, say something sweet after dinner or going for seconds after we’re already satisfied.
4 Pro Urge Surging Tips:
1.) Get in the right mindset.
- Before you begin, say to yourself, “Okay, I’m intentionally going to experience this craving. I don’t have to be perfect I just need to practice and put the time in.”
- It’s also important to know that intense urges can last for about 20 minutes. So if it feels like it’s taking a long time, it’s perfectly okay.
- Keep going! As we practice, the time an urge lasts will decrease.
2.) Use a mantra.
Mantras are helpful in keeping focused and replacing negative thoughts. Something like:
- “This too shall pass.”
- “It’s about progress not perfection.”
- “This is making me stronger.”
- “Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.”
3.) Keep track of your practice. We’ll want to start practicing at least once a day and build up to three or more times. We’ll even want to begin practicing in different and increasingly difficult situations.
Download the Urge Surfing Worksheet and practice on your own!