Happy 2018 – Day 187 – Are you drowning in bad habits and cravings? Try surfing them instead!

Never heard of it? You’re not alone! Urge surfing is a little-known but potentially highly-effective mindfulness technique that you can use to curb bad habits.

In the last few years, various mindfulness techniques have helped me to surf thoughts, rather than drowning in them. Urge surfing takes this up a notch.

In essence, when you’re craving donuts/cigarette/beer/whatever, you stay with and ride the urge, like an ocean wave.

When you actually begin to listen to your body, you’ll notice just how fitting this metaphor is. Urges, like waves, start small. But they continuously grow in size, until they’re huge and threatening. It’s at this point when we normally get the hell out of the way – and grab the donuts/cigarette/beer/whatever – but if you don’t; if you stay with it instead, then you’ll see the waves break and fade away into foam.

Experiencing a craving? Follow these steps now:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your back upright and your feet on the floor, but your hands/arms loose. Send your attention to your breath. Just notice your breath, without altering it.
  2. Allow your attention to wander into your body. Notice where in your body you experience the craving and what the sensations are like. Approach this with curiosity and without judgement. You’re just looking in, seeing what’s happening; as if you’re watching a channel on TV.
  3. Send your attention to the area where you’re experiencing the urge. Zoom in and notice the sensations there. Ask questions like:
    – Are the sensations sharp or soft?
    – Are the sensations heavy or light?
    – Are the sensations tingly or still?
    – Are the sensations hot or cold?
    – Are the sensations long or short?
    – Are the sensations powerful or numb?
    – Are your muscles relaxed or tight?
    – What colour would you give these feelings? What shape? Any patterns? Any sounds?
    You may experience a running commentary as you look into these feelings and sensations. That’s okay! Just try and maintain distance, so rather than internally screaming, “It’s SHARP!”… instead get into the habit of saying, “I notice that the feeling is sharp there.” Such a small tweak, but wow does this make a difference!
  4. Stay with these feelings, until you feel them soften; until the wave breaks. If you’re pulled into thoughts, just acknowledge that your mind has wandered, come back to a breath and then return to watching the craving sensations with curiosity.
  5. Refocus on each part of your body that experiences the craving. Notice how the urge comes and goes, mentally noting any changes that occur. For most people, the craving will disappear after a few minutes.

It’s important to note that this isn’t about getting rid of your cravings; it’s about learning to manage them. Rather than trying to fight them (which usually results in failure), we simply notice them with a little more distance.

Our body remains in the fight, but our brain has walked away.

As with anything worthwhile, patience will be required. Don’t expect to be cured of your worst habits after a 3 minute exercise. 3 minutes every day for a month, however, may just bring you life-changing results.

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