Mindful Management of Cravings


Everyone gets cravings. Cravings are not good or bad. They are just cravings. What makes them good or bad is how we respond to them. Successful living requires that we take action to resist acting on cravings if they are going to be harmful to us or others.

The next few blogs will focus on the many effective craving management techniques available to you to help you in your recovery. You will want to develop, with practice, a suite of craving management techniques that work for you. This blog discusses the use of mindfulness to manage cravings.

Managing cravings requires mindfully recognizing the first thought of addicting. Look inside to understand as best you can the pain, if any, that is driving thoughts of addicting. This is the key moment for coping. This is the opportunity to empower yourself using your craving management techniques. If you are feeling powerless or helpless, take initiative to assert yourself to resolve your difficulties. Or, you may realize it is best to let go and accept what is beyond your control. If you are anxious, you may need to practice relaxation techniques, cognitive reframing techniques, or mindfulness techniques. If you are bored or lonely, you will need to develop ways to build meaning, purpose, and connection into your life. These responses are much better than addicting.

A key technique for managing cravings based on mindfulness practices, borrowed from Pema Chodron[1], should be a part of everyone’s repertoire of craving management skills. It involves 4 steps:

The 4 Rs of craving management.
  1. Recognize when you are having cravings;
  2. Resist acting on the cravings through use of one or more craving management techniques;
  3. Relax into your cravings and inquire into the roots of cravings;
  4. Return to a state of mindful presence. Do “the next right thing.”

These “4 Rs,” Recognize, Resist, Relax, and Return, keep people on track and out of trouble. Make it a conscious habit to practice these steps every time you get a craving. With time, you realize that you can live with your cravings. They will not destroy you. You can manage them. They are just a symptom of your disease. With practice of the 4 Rs, you become free of the attractions and aversions that arise in your mind. Thoughts and feelings arise, thoughts and feelings go. You are here, still, centered in the midst of all this mental turbulence, at peace, on track, untroubled, acting with love and integrity from moment to moment. This takes time as your practice slowly changes your brain. Practice with patience, perseverance and faith.

We will continue to discuss other craving management techniques next week. Stay Tuned!

Image from: https://www.bjjee.com/nutrition/how-to-control-your-cravings-for-unhealthy-foods/
[1] Chodron, Pema.Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality. Sounds True. 2005.