Surfing the Urge

Jeremy Sharp, PhDmindfulness, resources for therapists Leave a Comment

I found a great series of posts on using mindfulness for addictive behaviors the other day at Dr. Elisha Goldstein’s blog. Well worth checking out the entire series, but I’d like to highlight a particular piece that really stuck out to me.

Dr. Goldstein includes “urge surfing” in the skills needed to combat addictive behaviors using mindfulness. Urge surfing is a way to ride the “wave” of feelings that often come with addiction and other behaviors that we may not want to partake in but often do anyway. The way he describes it, the urge resembles a wave in that it starts small, builds in power or strength until a seemingly unbearable point, and then breaks as we either indulge in the behavior (often accompanied by a feeling of relief) or let it pass.

I really like this description. Specifically, I like how it treats the urge not as a permanent state of unrest, but as a process that ebbs and flows. He says that most urges last only 20-30 minutes, tops. So if we can utilize these urge surfing strategies to get past this critical window of time, we can often overcome the urge itself…until it comes the next time 🙂

I’ve been talking with my clients quite a bit about urge surfing in a variety of contexts. It’s not just for addictive behaviors, although those are great to practice with. Urge surfing can also come in handy when you’re debating that extra dessert or find yourself about to shoot off that angry email.

If you have some time, give Dr. Goldstein’s post a read and try to apply it somewhere in your life this week. You may thank yourself later on 🙂

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