Cravings can come at a cost. It may be a financial cost, say if you are attached to having a new car in your life. Or a health cost if your addiction is a drug or nicotine. I don’t suffer from either of these attachments, my craving is exercise! It might sound crazy to some people but that truly is my thing, getting out in the fresh air and working my body. I absolutely love it and I feel so good when I get that hit that exercise brings.
So not all cravings are bad habits in themselves but when our thoughts get to the stage where we need the object of our desire rather than just wanting it then it can become a problem. What if we don’t get our fix? What if we can’t get our fix?
I have been through a real period of adjustment with my running since my diagnosis with MS and this weekend was a bit of a break through for me. I used to run marathon distances and over the last two years I have cut that down to a few miles a day. This has taken a lot of adjustment and I still feel sad when I see friends doing longer runs that I would have done in the old days. In truth I still long to do them but I know my new routine is better for my health and that is why I have managed to change.
Despite having massively cut my milage I still run nearly every day. This weekend my husband was away from Thursday morning until Sunday Night. I was a single parent for the weekend so getting out for a run was just not a possibility. It was a real break through for me to get happily through the weekend without my fix! I do have to confess when I went this morning I loved it more than ever!
Reflecting on our craving really helps. Yesterday it was our local half marathon and I got a real pang when I went into the town centre and saw the runners finishing. I use the word pang because it really was, it was a physical sensation in my stomach. It was a reminder that I am not fixed of my craving and that I still need to recognise how this impacts on me.
I spent some time reflecting on what I had seen and this helped. The reality of the finish line when you have used your last ounce of energy hit home. The weary runners staggering away reminded me of runs at the peak of my addiction when I would go and do a race, even if I was alone, and actually it could be a lonely experience. When you run a race (or two) every weekend you can’t expect friends and family to turn out to watch every time!
I remember one particular half marathon when I was injured before I ran, but I was so determined to do the race that I did it anyway. When I stopped running my body seized up and I struggled to make it from the finishing line to my car. When I got home I made it into the bath but couldn’t get out again until my husband (then boyfriend) came over and pulled me out. The water had gone cold and I was pretty tearful. I had to spend the next day in bed and quite a while recovering.
Thinking back through this memory made me realise how we tend to see things through rose tinted glasses. We have fantasies in our mind of how great the thing we long for is. If we can mindfully think through the reality of the situation that we long for then perhaps we can see the benefit in letting go of our attachment. Perhaps that habit is no longer the best thing for us. Wearing my body out to this extent was certainly not the best thing for me.
I know that the short runs I do now suit me so much better. I look better, I feel better and I have much more balance in my life. Giving up my attachment is a slow process but this weekend showed me I am getting there, slowly. I am so much more aware of my thoughts because of mindfulness and when I start to think I would be happier if I was still running a million miles, I can see that this is just a thought and not the reality.
This principal works for all sorts of things. So if you suffer from a craving try this…
1) Recognise pain as feedback – if the thing you crave still gives you a physical pang then you have not finished with it yet. Still more repair to do!
2) Examine the experience of the thing you crave. Think through in detail the experience. Aren’t there down sides to it too?
3) Reflect on the cost of the craving – are you actually better off without it?
4) Recognise your thoughts and beliefs. Once you acknowledge the thoughts they lose their grip.
Every now and then it does us good to look at the habits we have formed. We need to check in and make sure the choices we make are good for us. That we are taking care of ourselves.
Come on a Revitalise Day and enjoy a relaxing day that gives you the time for just this sort of reflection.