How to feel an urge

Delay gratification.

Why is knowing how to allow and feel urges important when we’re working towards a goal?

Because when we give in to urges, we move farther away from our goals. 

Urges feel important–they feel urgent. Most of the time, when we feel an urge, our automatic response is to react to it by giving in to the urge. Because when we give in to the urge, we’ll no longer feel the urge. Feeling an urge can be uncomfortable and so we want to get rid of the feeling as quickly as we can.

But giving in to urges for instant gratification keeps us from getting what we really want, especially when we’re wanting to lose weight, exercise more, spend less, drink less, create something, or to separate from an ex, as examples.

  • When we want to lose weight, the urge is to overeat. 
  • When we want to exercise more, the urge is to sleep in or “not feel like it.”
  • When we want to save money or spend less, the urge is to buy something new even if we don’t need it.
  • When we want to stop overdrinking, the urge is to have a second (or third) drink.
  • When we want to create something, the urge is to check social media feeds or consume content in other ways that prevent us from creating.
  • When we want to separate from an ex, the urge is to text or call or look at their social media accounts.

It’s pretty clear how giving in to those urges would keep us from moving towards our goals.

So I want to offer that instead of reacting to and giving in to an urge, we can allow it to be there and to feel it. Even if it’s uncomfortable. 

We can get mixed up about what it means to allow or feel an urge because when we’re not giving in to it, we’re usually resisting it and trying to push it away. We might be thinking, “I don’t want to have this urge. I should have more willpower. Why can’t I stop wanting this?” This also is not allowing an urge to be there if we’re fighting against it and beating ourselves up for it. 

Allowing an urge to be there without reacting to it looks like this:

  • Notice when an urge arises and allow yourself to be curious about it.
  • Acknowledge the urge with something like, “OK, I feel the urge to eat something right now even though I know I’m not physically hungry.”
  • Let the urge be there, instead of resisting it and trying to push it away, with something like, “I‘m feeling this urge and it feels so uncomfortable. I feel this urge, and that’s okay.” 
  • Notice the discomfort of NOT giving in to the urge–in this example, by not reaching for a snack right away.
  • After 10 minutes or so of having allowed the urge to be there, see if the desire to reach for a snack (or some other action related to the urge you’re feeling) is still there.

When we get good at allowing urges to be there, we get closer to our goals because we won’t give in to the urges that take us away from our goals. We learn to delay instant gratification for the real gratification we desire from obtaining our goals.  

Your turn: What is a goal you’re working towards? What urges would you want to practice allowing in order to move closer to that goal? Are you willing to feel the discomfort of NOT giving in to the urge? What happens when you tell yourself, “I feel the urge to _____, and that’s okay”?

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