Community Blog

Recognizing and accepting cravings

Sigmund Freud smoking a cigar

It’s not so difficult to know how much you spend on a habit, most people are already keeping track in their heads, or can estimate it well (even if they don’t really want to think about it while spending money on it!). They could probably convert the amount of money into an approximation of how much they do your habit, as well.

If you have a bad habit that you want to get control of, it usually has something to do with the amount of money you spend on it, or the amount that you do it. So, you may be defining those actions as failure in your goals to cut back. In that case, what does success look like??

Does success mean quitting entirely to you?

That metric is, of course, important, but it lacks something essential to success. It is not incremental like doing and spending on your habit are. That would be like saying exercise success is going on a run, and failure is stopping running at any point, ever. How can we, instead, set ourselves up to succeed using more incremental success metrics?

Redefining success

What if you defined success, not as reaching your goal, but rather as getting closer to your goal? Imagine a daily smoker who tries to quit but only lasts a week. WRONG! Okay, so I told you to do that, because it’s very common thing to hear, but I want you instead to look at the same scenario this way: a daily smoker resisted countless cravings to smoke in a week, and lasted 7 days in between cigarettes instead of their normal routine of around 3 – 4 hours between each smoke.

That smoker did not fail, they approached their goal. Now if they considered what happened to be a failed quit attempt, they would be quite likely to resume frequency of their old level of use, and continue to feel bad about it. In an article for the Scientific American, Cassie Rodenberg notes feeling guilty and shameful, leading to further addictive behavior (Rodenberg, 2011). This vicious, reality escaping, cycle is probably familiar to many people.

Escrave, on the other hand, helps you create incremental goals, such as increasing the amount of time between using/doing your habit. Do you want to quit something addictive? Don’t. Instead, cut back until you just don’t do it anymore. Additionally, give more weight to your individual successes. Wanting to engage in your habit, but choosing not to, should not slip between the cracks.

In other words, recognize and accept your cravings. It has been shown to be far more effective than just trying to avoid cravings.

What exactly is a craving?

Research suggests that ‘craving’ as a concept has a long history of being defined differently by different people, coupled with the fact that it is often unconscious, makes it very hard to study (Sayette, 2000). Researchers want to be able to compare many different people upon the same scale in order to make generalizations that could apply to almost anybody.

Image result for smoking
Cig-man Fryed smoking

Escrave ain’t about that life, fam.

Or at least, it isn’t exactly like that. The current paradigm is: you have a problem, somebody else studies many people with that problem, (hopefully) comes up with a solution for anybody with the problem, and then somebody else uses that solution to help those with the problem (as long as they get paid for helping!)… Quite a mouthful, right?

Escrave removes a couple steps in that process: you have a problem, you study that problem, and come up with a solution that works for you.

Using the Escrave web app is about you observing your own behavior and adjusting it accordingly. The literature review I looked at suggested that the definitions which individuals have for ‘craving’ are consistent within individuals, even though from person to person the definition may be quite different. So, however you define it, studying your own behavior can be relevant for you.

Tracking cravings is difficult, and nearly impossible to do without some kind of mechanical help. Recognizing incremental successes, like resisting cravings, is incredibly important, as they are the small chunks that build up to achievement of your end goals!

Don’t let your successes slip through the cracks, just because the choice of inaction doesn’t show on the outside! What do you consider a success, and how do you define a craving? Let me know with a comment!

References

Sayette, M. A., Shiffman, S., Tiffany, S. T., Niaura, R. S., Martin, C. S., & Shadel, W. G. (2000). The measurement of drug craving. Addiction (Abingdon, England)95 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), S189-210.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2683662/#

Rodenberg, Cassie (Sept. 23, 2011), How addiction feels, the honest truth. Scientific American.
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/white-noise/how-addiction-feels-the-honest-truth/