I recently came across some revelational information about cravings while listening to author Gretchen Rubin’s podcast “Happier.” (Which I totally recommend by the way– tons of practical and simple tips to make your life happier.) My whole life, I thought cravings build over time– the more you ignore them, the more powerful and unavoidable they become until you just have to satisfy them.
However, cravings actually diminish over time. And the secret to conquering a craving? Distracting yourself for 15 minutes. A study published in 2015 revealed that taking a 15 minute walk shortly after facing a stressful situation greatly reduced participants’ chocolate cravings. This can also work for other cravings, like cigarettes. Smokers who took short, low-intensity walks had significantly less of an urge to smoke afterward.
I think this finding is so cool because we have this misconception that cravings are impossible to curb; they’ll increase until we can’t take it anymore and we end up binging on chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol, or whatever other vice we may have. Suppressing the craving is certainly not the solution– this can actually make the craving even more prominent, since we’re thinking, ‘don’t think about it,’ so we paradoxically think about it all the more– instead, we need to actively distract ourselves in order for the craving to successfully subside.
It doesn’t have to be walking. You just have to do something that causes your mind to focus on something else for long enough that you forget about it. Doing some sort of physical rather than mental activity probably makes it easier to change your state of mind, so that’s why walking has been proven to be so effective for diminishing cravings. You could also clean your room, do your laundry, do push ups, go for a bike ride. Physical activity also makes it physically harder to hold things like junk food, so I would imagine that also helps.
All it takes is 15 minutes for you to beat your craving. The next time you feel the urge to reach into the cookie jar, go for a walk. And if you still feel the need to have it after 15 minutes, allow yourself to have one. However, it’s important to not let this become a habit. Instead, try to switch out your habit of snacking for a habit of distraction.
You can watch or read more about Rubin’s strategy of distraction here.
Let me know if you try this and how it works for you! I’ll definitely be trying this out to curb my (wallet-draining) cappuccino addiction. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, considering I am sipping on a cappuccino as I type this. Probably should’ve jumped some rope instead.