Have you ever acted out of impulse because of an emotional experience? These are known as urges or cue-elicited cravings. These urges usually follow a thought to promote habitual behavior to help manage or cope with that thought. Such behavior is typical and occurs in everyone. However, these urges are associated with negative behaviors and often lead to drug and alcohol use. Regular substance use can soon become an addiction or hinder your recovery by tempting you to take a drink or use a drug.
The idea of urge surfing is to help you utilize mindfulness to create boundaries within yourself to understand how and why you react in specific ways. Let’s take a closer look at the nature of urges and how the concept of urge surfing can help you learn to curb your impulses.
The Nature of Urges
Urges don’t typically last longer than 30 minutes, so long as you do not do something to feed their power. Feeding an urge consists of thinking about it, planning to do it, or trying to justify the urge as rational behavior. When you give in, the urge will overcome you, and you will likely partake in irrational behavior that will lead to adverse outcomes. Additionally, trying to fight an urge can often make them feel more substantial. If you let your urges grow by feeding them, it could feel as if they are never going to stop until you give in. An urge is similar to addiction in that to overcome it, you must identify the underlying cause and work to combat it.
Research suggests that the idea of objectively experiencing urges without acting on them has given rise to the phrase “urge surfing.” Urge surfing is cravings conceptualized like waves in the ocean, and individuals are encouraged to surf their urges, thus allowing them to pass without giving into them. The emphasis is to develop more accepting attitudes towards cravings by learning to view them as a mental event instead of an attribute of oneself. The ability to remove yourself and monitor your experiences is detached in a way that helps decrease reactive behavior, thereby allowing cravings that are not reflexively associated with alcohol or drug use.
Think of Urges as an Ocean Wave
Think of your urges like waves. They rise, crest, and then break, retracting back into the ocean. Thinking in these terms can give you the ability to view your urges differently and resist these urges. You can choose to fight the “wave,” however, the problem with fighting the wave is that you are unlikely ever to win. The wave, like an urge, is a powerful force that can consume you. However, most try this approach first because they think that they can stand up to their urges or “wave” and resist the sheer force and power of it.
Instead, learn how to ride the wave. When you understand that you are certainly going to be hit by the urge, choosing to ride it out is a significant step toward improving your life. When you ride the urge, you decide to be in control of yourself and make the choices that affect what happens until the urge subsides.
Mindfulness and Urge Surfing
Mindfulness is a great practice to help you slow down your thoughts and sit with them. As a practice, this approach enables you to stay in the present and recognize what you are thinking. The objective is to help you identify how you feel about what you are thinking and why. In helping to control impulses, mindfulness shows success in decreasing the reactionary responses associated with cravings, impulses, and urges, specifically when it comes to substance use disorders. Mindfulness is among the top practices you can utilize to help you surf your urges. Therefore, when an urge occurs, take a moment to identify what you are feeling and that this feeling will become an urge. The earlier you can identify your oncoming urge, the better chance you will have at overcoming it. Try to feel your emotions and understand that these changes are happening fast and are not typical occurrences but urges.
Being mindful takes being aware of what is happening outside of your thoughts. For example, did something come on the television or webpage that triggered this impulsive response? Being aware can help you locate the source of why you are feeling this way. By doing this, you can bring a great deal of relief to the situation because you now understand why you are responding this way. Further, keep a journal to record your thoughts and triggers. Tracking your thoughts and triggers will help you understand your body’s symptoms at the onset of an urge episode. Are your urge responses associated with an elevated heartbeat, headache, or upset stomach? Where do you feel these symptoms? Tracking this works to help you manage situations that cause urge responses.
Ride the Wave & Know Urges Shall Pass
Your recovery has likely taught you that everything that makes you feel uncomfortable or out of control will pass. Always keep this in mind when working through what is troubling or challenging you. You can use positive affirmation and repeat to yourself things like, “I can overcome this” or “I will get through this.” Most importantly, understand that you are not alone. Urges affect people globally each day. When you take the time and put in the work to overcome your urges – when you learn how to urge surf – you will discover that you are ultimately in control of your behavior.
Managing your urges is among the most difficult challenges in recovery; however, with the proper treatment and support, you have the opportunity to overcome them. Using mindfulness techniques, such as urge surfing, can help you stay the course. If you need additional help, New Hope Ranch in Manor, Texas, is always here. Reach out to us by calling (737) 600-8565.