Stop giving in to cravings: the simple skill of urge surfing.

We all have the tendency to “overdo” things, depending on our own personal psyche;  certain food or drinks, certain hobbies, mindless escapes, etc. Though we often beat ourselves up over it, this is a completely normal part of the human experience and has nothing to do with how “strong” or “moral” we are – it is just being human. 

However, it can have harmful effects on us or others. We can recognize this, and recognize that we need to moderate what we’re doing, without judging ourselves. One very useful tactic for moderating our cravings is called “urge-surfing.” This is simple, easy and surprisingly effective. Here’s how you do it:

1.) Recognize and accept that you’re having a craving or an urge.

This sounds silly – but we tend to ignore feelings we don’t like or pretend they aren’t happening in the hopes they’ll go away. This has the opposite effect; those feelings get stronger in a bid for our attention. Just recognizing and acknowledging the urge will often be enough to calm it. 

2.) Investigate your thoughts and feelings with curiosity and WITHOUT JUDGMENT (this is VERY important – self-judgment will shut down any positive outcomes quicker than you can say self-judgment).

Again, this is to acknowledge and respect your feelings so they don’t have to escalate in order to get your attention. It also helps you learn more about yourself and learn how you get “triggered,” which can help you avoid urges in the future. 

3.) Note that it’s happening and remember that urges come in a wave – if you can ride it out until it subsides, you’ll be just fine. And the more waves you “surf” without giving in to the craving, the easier it will get and the less often it will happen, until eventually they stop. 

A couple of caveats:

  • This procedure can also work very well for spikes in anxiety and other emotions. Cravings are usually intertwined with high anxiety; urge surfing works the same way for both. 
  • This procedure may not work as a stand-alone in some circumstances, especially for extreme anxiety attacks or cravings for addictive substances, but it can still be incredibly helpful in conjunction with other coping skills, medications and/or therapeutic measures.

If you believe you need some professional support with anything described above, please come and see us in Cary, Fuquay-Varina, or Apex! 

CarrieAnn Lefsaker

Mental Health Student Intern