If you've ever tried to white-knuckle your way through a craving for, say, anything chocolate (especially when said chocolate is right in front of you), you know how much of a struggle it can be. "Just one bite," you tell yourself. Cut to you finishing the entire cookie/cake/candy bar — and then some.
That's the thing about cravings — they're intense, persistent and nearly impossible to avoid. Fortunately, there's a fix that's actually effective: mindfulness meditation. In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal Appetite confirmed what previous research has suggested — that practicing mindfulness techniques can help reduce the intensity of a craving and make it easier for you to resist temptation.
To help you become of mindfulness pro, LIVESTRONG talked to Jamie Price, wellness expert and co-founder of Stop, Breathe & Think, an app that offers short, personalized meditations based on what you're feeling and lets you track your progress.
Here, she explains the four-step mindfulness process known as RAIN (an acronym for recognize, allow, investigate and non-identification), and how it can keep you from polishing off that plate of cookies.
Step 1: Recognize
First of all, when a craving hits, just notice it. "Try not to be judgmental," says Price. Instead, focus on how your body feels. Are you tense? Tired? Jittery? All of the above? "That way when these feelings come up again, you're aware," she says. "You know, 'I have to watch out because this is what triggers my cravings.'"
Step 2: Allow
"Just learn how to sit with what's going on and let your thoughts be," says Price. "Being with something isn't agreeing with it. When you can soften that resistance it can kind of dissipate a little bit. It may even kind of pass."
Step 3: Investigate
This is the moment to dig a little deeper. Ask yourself: How am I experiencing this in my body? What is the storyline I'm telling myself about it? "Do it with a tone of kindness and friendliness," says Price. "The point is not to get caught up and ruminate," she says. Finally, consider this question: What do I really need right now?
Step 4: Non-Identification
"We have thoughts and feelings, but we aren't our thoughts and feelings," says Price. "Learn to watch them come and go without diving into that stream." Sounds nice, right? Of course, it can take a bit of practice to get to that not-diving-into-the-stream place.
To help, Price suggests trying the RAIN techniques when you're not in the grip of a craving. ( Stop, Breathe & Think even offers a RAIN-specific meditation to guide you.) You'll strengthen your mindfulness skills and be better able to "surf the urge" when a hardcore craving strikes.
Take that, chocolate cake!