Bite Sized Habits Newsflash - Managing Temptations/Cravings Urges Part 1

"In the world of behavioural change, simple works"

Tim Ferris


Is distraction a problem for you? Is your mind full of chatter that stops you from staying focused on your goals? The stresses and strains of life are plentiful. If you want to make real change, start small, be realistic and be kind to yourself. Here are a few tips for how...


Something to do

Something I've personally been revisiting recently is the essentials. What's most important in business, in life, in health? It's so easy to let the minutiae fill our days but this can take over our worlds and our lives. Is getting another 30 minutes of emails done really more important than meditating or choosing to go for a walk with your spouse to unwind after a stressful day? It's crazy how distracted we all are from what is most essential in our lives. I'm certainly guilty of this and as with all habits, need regular reminding and repetition to strengthen this muscle. I highly recommend this free 21-day course to help you do the same. (1-minute watch)

Click here


Something to read

One thing participants of the Bite Sized Habits course often mention is that doing the course has helped them quiet the constant "mind chatter" around what they feel they should and should not be doing with their daily habits. In his new book, Chatter, Ethan Kross helps us understand how to harness inner chatter to become more supportive. This article from Ethan has some great tools on how to do this on your own. (6-minute read)

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Bite Size Habit Tip - Managing Temptations/Cravings Urges 

Human behaviour is prompted by a desire to escape discomfort, which therefore means that temptation management is pain management. If we want to be able to resist temptation we can manage the external triggers by removing the cues from the environment (i.e. so that the chocolate cake isn’t the first thing we see when we open the fridge) but we also need to work on managing our internal triggers. Whether it’s checking your phone whilst you’re working or grabbing a snack because you are bored, this week and next I will be sharing some of the evidence-based temptation/cravings/urge management techniques we learn in the Bite Sized Habits course to support you to build your skills in resisting temptation.

As we know, we tend to be highly reactive to our own thoughts and feelings; We feel hungry therefore we must eat immediately, we smell a delicious smell or see a delicious food and therefore we need to have it, we get the thought to check our emails and feel we must do it immediately. What if, rather than reacting we simply sat with these thoughts and feelings in order to understand more about their origins and drivers. Below is something you can experiment with this week to do exactly that.

  1. Note first. When a temptation/urge/craving comes up this week note the sensation. You can write down what you are feeling. Is it boredom, restlessness, frustration, stress?
  2. You can take this even further by starting a temptation diary. Noting down the temptation at the time it occurs - time of day, what you were doing and how you felt at the moment.
  3. Become a temptation detective. Once you have noted down the feeling or kept a temptation diary put on your detective hat and get really curious about your behaviours.

But try not to do this in a self-punishing way, look at your systems rather than yourself - we don't want to beat ourselves up. Try to helicopter out and see how things are or aren’t adding up for you. We don't want to berate ourselves for feeling tempted. Remember, you can't control these urges to give in to temptation. You don't control your feelings. But you can in time learn to control your response to both. In some of my published research, we found that after 7 days of keeping a temptation diary most people could see regular patterns in their temptations both from internal and external triggers (the 3.30 pm biscuit slump in response to boredom/stress was a common temptation!).

Tracking/noting can help us understand what we need more of to prevent these temptations from happening in the first place. For example, you can work on external triggers e.g. remove the biscuit jar from the kitchen counter. And more deeply than that learn to manage the internal triggers e.g. hone the tools that help you manage your stress/boredom/frustration better. You can start this process by noting how you feel when temptation arises (step 1 above). Awareness is a habit disrupter and a great first step noting allows us to block the habitual response to react, it is awareness that disarms that sensation (as they say you’ve got to name it to tame it). And in time you can then start to work on tackling the internal triggers head-on (e.g. developing stress management techniques, finding alternatives to food when bored, managing activities that make you anxious vs. those that soothe you), crowding out the unhelpful habits. However for now noting on its own and if you can manage a couple of days of tracking it can be such an eye-opener in terms of helping you understand the drivers of your behaviours.

If you want to kick start your habit changes, why not sign up for the FREE 5 Day Challenge - join the challenge here

Published on 5th Aug 2021 at 12:00 by Heather McKee

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Dr. Heather McKee is registered in Ireland Reg. No. 687397 with the registered address at 314 Mother Teresa House, Loreto Abby, Rathfarnham, D14 NR20, Co. Dublin, Ireland

This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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