12 Dec Combating Addictive Behaviour With Urge Surfing

Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique which helps users overcome addictive, impulsive and malevolent behaviour. 

Anything can become addictive these days: Our cellphones feel like an extension of our arm, videos go on auto play, we binge on tv shows, all the while, gorging on a whole tub of icecream or never ending popcorn!

We spend hours and hours sitting down at work without realising that it  that too, is a form of an addiction.

So how do we maintain a balance between green and digital? How can we connect with people face to face even though we have to video chat globally for work?

Here are the key steps for using urge surfing to help overcome your addictive behaviour:

  • Identify the craving. The sooner you become aware of the craving the easier it will be to overcome it. You don’t want to have to fight the craving when the object of desire is already in your reach. By that point, the craving may already be too strong for you to overcome.
  • Sit back and watch. The key component of urge surfing is your awareness. The goal is to sit back, watch these desires, and really become attuned to them. Don’t act, just observe , like a scientist observing something under a microscope.
  • Make a mental note of the sensations. It really helps to pinpoint what it is that creates your craving experience. This includes both physical sensations and mental sensations, including certain thought patterns that may be running through your head (“One more won’t hurt me.”), or mental imagery. Often the more aware you become of your craving experience, the more you understand the anatomy of your desires.
  • Be aware of environmental triggers. Often times our addictive behaviors are influenced by certain triggers in our environment. For example, hanging around at a bar makes it harder to resist the temptation to drink alcohol than if you were hanging out at a cafe. In the same way, associating with certain people may make you more likely to engage in an addictive behaviour than if you chose a different group of friends to associate with. Being mindful of these environmental triggers can be an important part of urge surfing and better understanding your addiction. Learn to avoid these triggers in the future and you’ll have an easier time overcoming these negative habits.
  • Keep in mind the lesson of “impermanence.” The takeaway lesson of urge surfing is that all of our thoughts and feelings are impermanent, including our desires. By showing a little patience, and remembering the inherent “transient nature” of our desires, we can remind ourselves that it is possible to ride out these cravings until they inevitably pass.
  • Use a helpful mantra. If you want, you can also accommodate your urge surfing with a helpful mantra. Repeating an affirmation such as, “this too shall pass” or “I can ride out this desire” will help replace unhelpful thoughts with a more stable state of mind.
  • Keep practising. Like most of the mindfulness techniques and tools, “urge surfing” is something that you will get better at the more you practice. Don’t expect to try this one time and be free from your addictive habits. It’s more likely  that it will take a few bouts of trial and error before you begin getting good at it.


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