My cat has strange cravings. Elastic hairbands. She just can't get enough of them.
We've seen "evidence" that she has eaten them before, and we've done our best to keep them away from her (I'm convinced she can open drawers!). But this week, her bizarre addiction got her into trouble, and she wound up in surgery to remove twelve - yes, TWELVE - of them from her stomach.
She is healing well, but obviously, we are going to have to come up with some new strategies to save her from herself.
All of this has reminded me how powerful our cravings can be, and how hard we humans also have to work to take care of ourselves when it comes to this compelling force.
Here are a five mindful strategies to help conquer your cravings:
- Drop the guilt trip — Whatever it is that challenges your willpower, notice that you may have some guilt or shame associated with it. Beating yourself up when you indulge, or over-indulge, only makes things worse. Self-compassion is a much more powerful approach. Acknowledge your behavior without judgement and ask yourself, "What do I need to take care of myself right now?"
- Do some detective work — If you would like to change your relationship to a substance or behavior that isn't serving your well-being, start by noticing the context in which your cravings most often occur. Mindful awareness is a great tool to help you notice triggers for cravings. When do you have them? Who is around you? Where are they strongest? What makes them easier or harder to ignore? As you expand your awareness, you will notice thoughts, emotions, and situations that are associated with your cravings.
- Use the power of pre-decision — As you identify triggers, work to set up rules for yourself when you are in tempting situations. These rules will help you avoid having to make a decision when your willpower is compromised. For example — "I will not go into the kitchen when I am upset."
- Take self-care breaks — When you notice yourself in a pattern that is related to a craving, find a way to interrupt the pattern. Observe your thoughts mindfully. Take some deep breaths. Go to a relaxing spot. Cultivate gratitude. Have a cup of tea. When you can direct your attention away from a triggering pattern, this interrupts the neural pathway that reinforces your craving. As a result, the craving often passes.
- Care for your context — No one is a super-hero and we all get tempted. So set yourself up for success! As you notice more about your triggers, work at removing them. When you are vulnerable, avoid people or situations that may trigger you. Make it more difficult to access the object of your craving, and easier to access healthier options. Be honest and compassionate with yourself about your areas of vulnerability and address them. Ask for and create what you need. There is no shame in creating a context that supports your optimal well-being.
What about you? What strategies have helped you conquer your cravings? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!