One of the most common questions that I get asked is “How do you manage cravings?” We all have them, some more than others, but you know you do! Admit it! Some people crave chocolate, others a cigarette and some crave a packet of chips. A lot of these foods are designed to stoke your cravings but let us put that issue in the parking lot for this moment and instead focus on how to cope. My mother tells me that I first started having coffee at age six and inspite of my poor memory I can remember craving coffee all my life.
There are a few complex things going on in our head with respect to cravings. The first is stimulus. Invariably you will find that cravings are caused by something. It could be stress, anxiety, change or a fellow passenger on the train of cravings who nods and winks and asks you to accompany her out of the building so you can light up. You are really setting yourself on fire you know; but I digress. Understand the stimulus helps you gain a small modicum of control over the event caused by awareness. Its a start. The next is habit. Over time, you will find that your cravings seem to magically appear at the appointed hour without much need for an alarm. You didn’t even press the calling bell, it just appeared with its trade mark calling card that causes the growling low down in your stomach that needs appeasement. Habits form quickly, bad habits probably sooner. The habit gives you temporary pleasure and before you know it you are an addict.
To cope, people try avoidance or delay. If I wait ten minutes perhaps the monster will vaporise. Unfortunately, it does not work and the craving just comes back stronger. What clinical trials and studies are now showing is that a better technique is something called willingness. Willingness requires you to create some space between the desire and your action. Even a few micro seconds where you pause and reflect on your craving and make an effort to accept that craving over time gives you self-control. Coupled with deflection where in those few micro seconds instead of pandering, you do something else perhaps eat a healthy snack or chew on sugar free gum can help break the cycle of stimulus-response-pleasure-need-habit. Remember a lot of this is happening at the speed of sound if not light and therefore you need to be alert. The difference can mean you choosing to be Laurel or Hardy (sorry guys, love you both).