Sometimes, we crave something that isn’t good for us because feeding the craving makes us feel differently than we do now. Often, we crave something to make ourselves feel better, or to not feel anything, as a way to escape what we are currently feeling. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that that’s why we are having the craving.
To help deal with cravings that seem out of control, we can distract ourselves with healthy activities that make us feel better by taking our mind off the craving in this moment. Reading, focusing on a hobby, exercising, or playing a game with a friend are just a few examples. That’s the best option if we don’t currently have a good support network. There are many sites that offer lists of activities to distract ourselves from negative emotions to make us feel better and we can use those in the meantime.
The other option is to do the processing work to get to the root of the issue. Doing this processing work all alone is often difficult because it may make us feel a bit worse at times, so it is recommended that distraction be used while we work on developing a good mental health support network: a skilled team that will be there to help us.
Once we have a good support network in place (Ie. Have a counsellor, belong to a self help group, have good role models/friends that we feel comfortable being honest with, etc.), then instead of using distraction, we can more safely focus on the purpose of the craving itself: think about what purpose the item craved will serve for us. From there, we can go deeper to gain insight into the triggers that make the cravings so strong and tackle the negative emotion and issues at ground level.
For example: after losing someone we cared about, we often miss how we felt with them, and will crave things to bring back that feeling of being with them, or to make us forget the feeling altogether because it is too painful. We can ask ourselves “When exactly did the craving get so strong?” We can usually identify something that triggered the craving: a song or a smell that brought back a specific memory, seeing someone who looks similar, remembering a good time together, a thought that made us feel bad and made us miss how they’d make us feel better, etc.. We can then ask ourselves “What feeling are we wanting to escape from?” We might identify grief, loneliness, fear, abandonment, anger, or one or more of several other feelings. Once we identify the feeling that is tripping us up, we can tackle it! There are many resources for coping with every negative emotion, and once we know the one(s) that are triggering the cravings and the reason, the core negative emotion, we can now work with our support network to improve our ability to overcome that negative emotion before it tries to trip us up with out of control cravings again. We can even start with self help workbooks or online resources to start us off, and give us something to focus on right now, rather than giving in to the craving.
Either way, through distractions or through processing, it is important to remember that we can be stronger than our cravings just by reaching out to build a stronger support network, just like you have by coming to 7cups and asking this great question!