Using Mindfulness to Manage Cravings
Mindful eating is the simple process of tuning in to your body’s need for nourishment and observing your thoughts around food. Eating mindfully allows you to become more in touch with the pleasure and enjoyment of your meals while feeding your body and soul. By taking time to enjoy the process of preparing food and relishing its flavor, aroma and texture, it becomes easier to make healthy choices. However, no matter how clear our intentions are, we often fall victim to the powerful force of our minds. Understanding the process of cravings can be the first step to breaking the nagging cycle and overcoming even the strongest cravings. The neural circuits in our brain are wired to associate our experiences with an emotion, either satisfying or unpleasant. When we repeat pleasurable experiences based on our brains perception of the event, a habit is formed. Understanding this cycle allows us to practice compassion toward our thoughts and enables us to make adjustments and break negative habits. Judson Brewer, a Researcher at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts believes that mindfulness is the key to breaking the link between our habits that are linked to addictive behaviors and is essential for removing the emotional reactivity to our thoughts.
By removing the emotion that is coupled with a craving, you are able to witness your thoughts freely, instead of feeling connected to them. You can’t force thoughts away, especially those with the strength and momentum of desire behind them. Consider your most nagging craving. Try observing your actions and tracing each step to determine how the habit is reinforcing itself. Notice your thoughts and feelings and everything about the moment.
The next time you find yourself overcome by a craving, try using the “STOP” technique.
“S” stands for stop.
“T” stands for take three deep breaths.
“O” stands for observe.
“P” stands for proceed.
Use this acronym as a roadmap to navigate and understand where the craving is coming from and what it really means. What thoughts are running through your mind and what is this craving telling you? How will you feel if you act on this craving? Be compassionate in this moment and allow yourself to discover what you are truly craving.
Practicing mindfulness around your cravings fosters a more flexible relationship with your desires but requires practice. Breaking old habits and building new ones takes time and persistence. Be patient and kind to yourself. Practice observing your thoughts, letting them pass and appreciating the psychological freedom that comes with eliminating destructive urges.