13 Feb The Power of Mindfulness: Learning to Accept Cravings Instead of Fighting Them
When you are faced with something unpleasant, human nature makes you inclined to fight or run. However, there is a third option for responding to something that is unpleasant but not an immediate threat: acceptance. When cravings from addiction hit, they can be easier to manage when you learn to accept them and work through them with the approach of mindfulness rather than fighting the cravings away.
Why Fighting Cravings Can Be Unsuccessful
When cravings hit, they can come suddenly out of nowhere or be activated by a trigger. In this situation, you experience a physical reaction that can include increased heart rate, higher body temperature, and more. The emotional reaction can be even more intense, making you feel like you do not have control.
Oftentimes, the energy needed to fight these powerful emotional and physical sensations can be difficult to find in the moment. If you are able to fight against these feelings, your mind and body are already escalated. You risk losing the battle because you are expending more energy to fight the cravings. The possibility of losing control over your emotions increases if you are fighting something. When you lose control of your emotions, you are more likely to give in to a craving.
Accepting Cravings to Overcome Them
If you’ve ever played in the waves at the beach, you may have discovered what happens when you get caught in a wave. When you stand still and try to resist the wave, it will knock you over and pummel you. More so, when you try to swim against it, you will use up all of your strength and either get pummeled or carried out by an undercurrent. The best outcome against an impending wave is to accept it—jump into it and go with the flow of the water.
Cravings are often compared to waves in the ocean, as they also have a rise, a peak, and a fall. Like ocean waves, cravings come and go. The best defense against a craving is to accept it and ride it out. You can master these situations by accepting the craving, understanding that it will have a rise, a peak, a fall, and then be gone. In this way, you can conserve energy, control your emotions, and successfully work through the craving without giving in to it.
Learning Acceptance Through Mindfulness
One of the most effective tools for learning acceptance is the practice of mindfulness. Acceptance is one of the primary tenets of mindfulness, allowing your body to relax and simply notice what is going on around you, accepting everything as it stands in the moment. Learning to accept without judgment can be challenging and new for many people. However, once learned, acceptance is a valuable skill that can be applied to many areas of your life, not just cravings or your recovery.
Due to its effectiveness in addressing addiction, mindfulness-based interventions are becoming more standard in treating addiction. According to research published in 2018, mindfulness-based interventions were initially intended to help to find the middle ground “between attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain.” Mindfulness is intended to help you find acceptance to be able to endure cravings and stay in that middle ground without relapsing.
Applying Mindfulness to Prevent Relapse
A separate study also published in 2018 in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation discussed mindfulness in many different ways to support treatment for addiction. However, as the study pointed out, mindfulness as relapse prevention may be the most important use for the tool. Mindfulness can be practiced nearly anywhere. The ability to use mindfulness to prevent relapse allows you to feel safer wherever you are.
Mindfulness-based techniques can be used as meditation in addition to learning acceptance. When applied to moments of craving, these interventions can be helpful. Specifically, by accepting the craving in the moment, mindfulness allows you to ride the craving out and prevent a relapse.
Mindfulness for Crisis Management and Prevention
Acceptance and mindfulness can be practiced daily to increase your skills and train your mind. By regularly practicing mindfulness, your brain becomes stronger and is able to prevent relapses more effectively. Mindfulness is like an exercise for the brain. The more you practice it, the stronger the mind becomes. This is the preventative side of acceptance and mindfulness.
The reason you would practice mindfulness is to be prepared for a crisis moment. When your mind is stronger and you’ve practiced acceptance more, the easier it will be to utilize mindfulness in the moment and resist cravings. Managing cravings through the use of the crisis management techniques you have practiced most will help ensure that you can prevent a relapse. Learning to accept cravings through mindfulness is a powerful tool to help you ride the cravings out healthily. This tool for crisis management will prevent you from exhausting energy when attempting to fight against cravings.