There are lots of ways to both manage the urge and strengthen your own ability to manage them.
The first technique is called urge surfing where we don’t act on the urge but rather observe it. We see the urge rise on the wave and then ride the wave all the way through until the urge settles like a wave does. Often mild to moderate urges last approximately 15 minutes and then settle. It can be quite an experience surfing it and makes you stronger for doing so.
However, some urges don’t go and may be stronger. So there are various techniques for this too. A common mnemonic for one of the techniques is DEADS, which is not a great mnemonic in my opinion, a bit dark. But anyway let’s go with it.
Delay – Even if you can delay for 5-10 minutes that may change the experience you have with the emotion and thus make you better able to handle it. You probably don’t believe me but give it a go a few times, you may be surprised how often this works.
Escape/avoid – leave the situation or avoid it. Changing your surroundings is incredibly powerful and really works. As I said in part 1 our brains associate different things together, like stress and eating, or having a beer and wanting a smoke. The same is true for our surroundings. Often people who smoke have urges in specific locations, like in a car or out the front door. But never in the shower because the brain has not learnt to associate this place with smoking. So, when you feel an urge, change your location, go for a walk outside or a drive. Again you may be surprised how well this works.
Distract – Take control of your whole body and do something else. Don’t just sit there and ruminate on the urge, but put your focus on something else. For some people that may be artwork, or talking to someone like calling a friend, reading a book, walking, showering, or exercising,
Substitute – Lastly, substitute your behavior. That requires you to notice what triggers the urge which is similar to our habits I mentioned in previous videos. First, we notice the triggers and our urges, then we partly satisfy those urges in other ways. If you’re having issues with anger, substitute in a walk as your new behavior. When you get a craving to smoke a cigarette, pick up a piece of fruit or vegetable or have a glass of water. IF you want dessert after dinner then have a piece of fruit instead. Whilst these won’t be the same as satisfying the urges in their original way, they will go partly there make them easier to distract, delay. Hence often we need to use all of these in combination, each makes the urges a bit weaker.
In a way, our urges are small parts of our brains that are active, but they are not the whole brain nor our whole selves. So it is important to label them for what they are, just a small part of the brain. Likewise, we need to challenge it. Use the other parts of your brain and bodies to challenge this and take control, be the alpha person, be the head of the pack and tribe, don’t let it own you or control you. When you feel it, put it in its place. In part 1 there is a tip I gave about putting cravings into perspective where we treat them like a yapping dog. Check it out again after this video if you want a refresher. But by properly labelling your urges, and the other techniques above you become quicker and better at them and the urges themselves get weaker. They get weaker because your brain is rewiring and relearning new associations and ways of being and this makes everything easier.
So that is how we manage urges in the short term and make urges weaker in the long term. But how do we strengthen our own minds?
One of the ways is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is exactly what it sounds like, be mindful and aware of your experiences in the present. You can practice this for 10 minutes a day but actually you can practice it more as a way of life. Meaning just taking multiple small opportunities throughout the day to be aware of what you are doing and thinking, like what you are eating, or how you feel, or looking at your surroundings. This practice is like doing biceps for the brain. It develops your mind-strength to create space between you and your urges, which then allows you to practice the above more successfully. There are a variety of mindfulness apps like headspace and smiling mind, but also free courses like the link below from Monash University.