Cravings (quotes)


What is a craving?


A craving is an intense desire for something


Cravings are part of the human condition

  • Cravings – powerful desires – are part of the human condition. Our brains are “hard-wired” to appreciate and to pursue natural rewards such as food and sex because of their critical survival value. Drugs used by addicted people activate the same circuits that motivate food and sexual behaviour. Signals, called cues, can be sights, sounds, smell or thoughts. Cues activate the brain’s powerful “go!” circuit creating cravings. The cravings for alcohol and other drugs can be even stronger than those for food or sex.  Anna Rose Childress, Ph.D.

The price of cravings


Cravings, and being controlled by them, can cause unhappiness

  • Bear in mind, having cravings or a desire for anything that belongs in the physical world is not a source of happiness; instead these cravings are a source of unhappiness. It is not the lack of something that is behind your unhappiness; instead your craving is the root cause behind your unhappiness. Sampo Kaasila
  • Unhappiness

Sometimes, great pleasures can lead to great pains, especially if we come addicted to them

  • We can often endure an extra pound of pain far more easily than we can suffer the withdrawal of an ounce of accustomed pleasure. Sydney J. Harris
  • Throw moderation to the winds, and the greatest pleasures bring the greatest pains. Democritus
  • So called pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit, are but punishments. Seneca
  • When will pleasure crash with regret? Terri Guillemets
  • For some, pleasure is a fever they can’t shake… Terri Guillemets
  • There is no such thing as pure pleasure; some anxiety always goes with it. Ovid
  • Man will endure a lot of pain to obtain a little pleasure.
  • This is how we are with wine and beautiful food… we want and we get drunk with wanting, then the headache and bitterness afterward. Rumi
  • From such a gentle thing, from such a fountain of all delight, my every pain is born. Michelangelo
  • An over-indulgence of anything, even something as pure as water, can intoxicate. Criss Jami
  • Pleasure that is obtained by unreasonable and unsuitable cost, must always end in pain. Samuel Johnson
  • There is something self-defeating in the too-conscious pursuit of pleasure. Max Eastman
  • In diving to the bottom of pleasure we bring up more gravel than pearls. Honore de Balzac
  • Every pleasure or emotional high contains within itself the seed of pain: it’s inseparable opposite, which will manifest in time. Eckhart Tolle
  • Letting go is the lesson. Letting go is always the lesson. Have you ever noticed how much of our agony is all tied up with craving and loss? Susan Gordon Lydon
  • Temporary happiness isn’t worth long-term pain.
  • PleasurePain

Urges and cravings don’t tend to last for long and do not have to be acted upon

  • Urges for substance use rarely last for very long. In fact, they almost never last for longer than about 30 minutes, if there is no opportunity to use. People admitted to a high quality detoxification centre where there is no access to their drug of choice often find it remarkable how little craving they get. If there is no opportunity to use then there is no internal struggle. It is this internal struggle that feeds the cravings. Dr Christopher Walsh
  • Most of us will have had past experiences of urges passing. This is an important strategy to identify, as it can greatly improve self efficacy for riding out urges. The main message is that urges do not have to be acted upon. Dr Christopher Walsh

Surfing the waves of craving through mindfulness


Cravings can be compared to waves that crest and subside

  • Cravings come in waves, growing stronger and more powerful before cresting and then disappearing. G. Alan Marlatt
  • Desires are just waves in the mind. A desire is just a thing among many. I feel no urge to satisfy it, no action needs be taken on it. Freedom from desire means this: the compulsion to satisfy is absent. Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • An urge to engage in an addictive behavior can be seen as an ocean wave in that it starts small, gets bigger, crests, and finally subsides. Elisha Goldstein Ph.D

Trying to fight, suppress or resist an urge or craving often does not work

  • Trying to fight cravings is like trying to block a waterfall. We end up being inundated. With the approach of mindfulness, we step aside and watch the water (cravings, impulses & urges) just go right past. This is true for everybody, but few addicts ever give themselves the chance to prove it. Dr Christopher Walsh
  • Suppressing a thought feeling or sensation, including pain ultimately increases it. Clark Ball & Pape
  • Often people try to eliminate the urges by distraction or talking themselves out of them. This usually just feeds the urges and creates the illusion that they are interminable until you give in to them. Dr Christopher Walsh

Try “surfing” the urge instead through mindfulness

  • Instead of trying to distract from or argue with the unpleasant thoughts, feelings or urges, mindfulness simply makes the thoughts, feelings or urges less important. When we use mindfulness, we stay exposed to the thoughts feelings or urges for their natural duration without feeding or repressing them. In fact, if we just let an urge be – non-judgmentally –  without feeding it or fighting it (fighting it is just another way of feeding it anyway) then it will crest subside and pass. Dr Christopher Walsh
  • Imagine that urges are like ocean waves that arrive crest and subside. They are small when they start, will grow in size, and then will break up and dissipate. Practise mindfulness regularly and especially notice any impulses or urges that appear. Then we are well prepared to ride these waves without giving in to the urge by using mindfulness.  Dr Christopher Walsh
  • Mindfulness can help all sorts of temptation and addiction, from food cravings to shopping addiction, substance abuse, and Internet porn. Dr Christopher Walsh
  • Mindfulness

Mindfulness interrupts the brain’s response to craving

  • The experience of a strong craving is the product of several brain areas co-activating: regions that make you make you focus on the object of the craving; regions that create the mixed feelings of desire (anticipating the pleasure of reward, while also experiencing the pain and stress of not yet having what you want), and regions that motivate action to get what you want. Paying mindful attention to the trigger of the craving interrupted this complex brain response, and ultimately protected smokers from their own desire.   Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

Here is a mindfulness exercise to try

  • Sit with back unsupported in a chair or on a cushion on the floor. Start Mindfulness Meditation.  Wait for any sense of discomfort e.g. Restlessness, an itch.  Note the desire to move and resist it.  Notice thoughts that arise.  g. “I wish this itch would go.”  These thoughts are just thoughts. So gently bring your attention back to your breath and bodily sensations.  Note the changing position, shape and quality of the discomfort over time. Be interested in feeling it as precisely as you can. Notice how the shape and intensity changes with the cycle of the breath. Is it stronger during the in breath or during the out breath?   You might find your thoughts spontaneously going to other matters.  These are still just thoughts. Gently bring your attention back to your breath and body sensations. They are probably different again. You have just observed the changing nature and impermanence of urges. When you notice the physical sensations with interest, you are directly facing the urges rather than feeding them through fighting them.   Dr Christopher Walsh

Here are more techniques for managing cravings 


1.  Distract yourself

  • Practice distraction until the craving has gone. Do something to engage your thinking, your attention, your body, so that you give the craving a chance to pass. Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.
  • Remember, cravings are often triggered by subtle environmental cues. We are probably seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, touching, or tasting something that’s activating the craving. We may have no idea what it is. If we get a craving, we can get up and go somewhere else. Gorski
  • Cravings typically last ten minutes. Recognize that and divert your mind: Call someone, listen to music, run an errand, meditate or exercise. John Foreyt, PhD
  • Distract yourself — When you notice a craving setting in, find something else to think about. Take a walk, listen to your favorite playlist, call a friend. Just set your mind to something else. Joanna Dolgoff, M.D.
  • Distraction – the goal of these methods is to move a person’s attention away from negative internal thoughts or uncomfortable feelings, towards a more neutral external focus. They seem simple, but can all be effective. Concentrate on your surroundings and describe them to yourself in detail, this can be quite ‘grounding’ when you feel like you’re losing it.  2 Talk to someone, anyone. A trusted friend, relative, your counsellor or even a total stranger if need be. It can help you get away from that loop running in your head. 3.  Change the scenery – go for a walk, a drive, a bike ride, just get away from wherever you are right now.  4. Oddly enough, cleaning or other household chores can be perfectly distracting if you’re craving, and you might feel some sense of achievement too. Tobin Hunt

2.  Just focus on one moment at a time

  • One thing too is that the craving will not be there constantly, even though it might feel like it at times. You don’t need willpower 24 hours a day; just distract yourself in the moment that the urge arises. If you can distract yourself for a few minutes the intensity should pass. You might have to do this many, many times in a day, but thinking of a short intense burst of flame that you need to throw a blanket on can feel better than thinking that there is a blazing inferno that you need to constantly fight. Amanda Harvey

3.  Challenge your thoughts

  • Challenge cognitive distortions that feed the craving. Identify the thoughts that you are having that make it ok to relapse. Challenge each thought as it comes up. These cognitive distortions are lies and defenses that make it ok to relapse. Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.
  • Reduce the power of the internal voice. In most of us, feelings of craving unleash an internal voice that convinces us of the inevitability of use.  A craving might cause internal voice statements such as:  “I can’t fight this any longer.” However, once we take an objective look at craving induced inner voice statements, we can see that they are not inherently true at all; and so we can learn to counter these statements with more accurate reflections of reality. “I can’t fight this any longer” becomes, “Cravings can be unpleasant and difficult, but they are only temporary, I will feel better in a minute, as long as I don’t drink or use.”  Anna Rose Childress, Ph.D.

4.  Use thought stopping techniques

  • Use thought stopping techniques, like visualizing a stop sign, and saying “stop!”, replacing positive memories about using with realistic appraisals of your current situation, or using grounding exercises, such as observing the objects around you (i.e., 3 things I see, hear, touch). Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

5.  Spoil yourself once in a while

  • Spoiling yourself once in a while is actually good for you. It triggers endorphins.  Its satisfying.  You don’t have to throw down the self-discipline gauntlet, just relax a little.  Indulging can help you control cravings so they don’t turn into binge- fests.  Balance is about enjoying bliss, not just cutting out the junk.  Stephen Covey

6.  Learn relaxation techniques

  • Anxiety, Anger, Frustration and Stress are amongst the biggest triggers for cravings. So learning some relaxation techniques can be a life-saver. If you’re not so tense, you’re less likely to act impulsively. And if you’ve been using alcohol to relax for years, then you are going to have to learn some other methods. Tobin Hunt
  • Recovering people should regularly practice meditation and relaxation techniques. These techniques can lower stress and help to turn off cravings. Gorski
  • There is one way to immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s ten to fifteen seconds per breath—slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self- control mode. A few minutes of this technique will make you feel calm, in control, and capable of handling cravings or challenges. Kelly McGonigal
  • Relaxation

7. Do a stress relieving activity

  • The next time you’re feeling stressed and about to reach for the promise of relief, consider trying a more effective stress reliever instead. The most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

8.  Make a 5-minute contract

  • Try anti-craving behavioural strategies, such as the 5-minute contract (making a contract with yourself not to act on the desire for the next five minutes, and then engaging in a distracting activity in the meantime.) Many urges are short- lived – you will find they are weaker if you can “surf through” the first few minutes. Anna Rose Childress, Ph.D.

9.  Do physical exercise

  • Exercise turns out to be the closest thing to a wonder drug that self-control scientists have discovered. For starters, the willpower benefits of exercise are immediate. Fifteen minutes on a treadmill reduces cravings, as seen when researchers try to tempt dieters with chocolate and smokers with cigarettes. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
  • Aerobic exercises seem to stop craving. Get out and jog; take a vigorous walk; go swimming. Anything strenuous enough to make you breathe hard and perspire is okay. Keep it up for fifteen to twenty minutes at least three times a week. This form of exercise reduces stress and causes the brain to create chemicals that turn off the craving. Gorski
  • Exercise turns out to be the closest thing to a wonder drug that self-control scientists have discovered. For starters, the willpower benefits of exercise are immediate. Fifteen minutes on a treadmill reduces cravings, as seen when researchers try to tempt dieters with chocolate and smokers with cigarettes. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
  • Exercise

10.  Don’t eat sugar

  • Don’t eat sugar. The sugar rush may relieve the craving for about twenty minutes, but the craving usually comes back with a vengeance later. Gorski

11. Identify and manage or avoid the triggers that lead to your craving

  • Triggers are situations or factors that set up your craving. They could be certain people, places, activities or stress, anger and so on.  Jozzy Scott
  • Identify the cues or triggers that have set up the cravings. Have you recently experienced environmental cues or emotional/psychological cues? Resist the cravings and spend your mental energy thinking about how you can avoid these same triggers in the immediate future or how you deal with them without using. Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

12.  Get plenty of rest and sleep

  • Get a good night’s sleep. Many cravings are aggravated by fatigue. Gorski
  • Get at least eight hours of sleep each night to prevent cravings. Joanna Dolgoff, M.D.
  • Cravings sneak up when we’re tired. Focus on the fatigue: Shut the door, close your eyes, re- energize. Paula Dranov
  • Rest and renewal, Sleep

13.  Get help

  • Call upon the guidance of a trained treatment professional may be needed for successfully implementing any of a number of well- described behavioral techniques that can be helpful in managing cravings. Anna Rose Childress, Ph.D.

14.  Use spiritual practices like prayer

  • Use your spirituality to resist cravings. Use prayer, meditation, or reciting the Serenity Prayer, or making a gratitude list for what you have already received in recovery. Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.
  • Temptation is stronger in the minds of people who are in doubt. Prayer makes it weaker. Toba Beta
  • Prayer

15.  Talk your craving through

  • Talk it through. If we talk it out, we won’t have to act it out. When a craving starts, we need to talk about it, right now. The longer we wait, the harder it is to talk it through. A craving kept secret gets worse. Most of the time talking about the craving will turn it off. Gorski

Feeding cravings


Stop feeding the craving and it will go away in time

  • Each time you overcome a bout of cravings they become less intense and less frequent if we don’t feed the urges and if we don’t give in to the addiction. Dr Christopher Walsh
  • Urges do go away, but they may be very strong for a short while immediately after quitting. Knowing that they will weaken will help you to continue to surf the impulses that you feel, especially in response to your personal triggers. Dr Christopher Walsh

Urges can be compared to feeding a stray cat

  • Urges can be compared with feeding a stray cat. In the beginning, you may want to feed the cat because it cries for food and attention. However, your act of feeding the cat encourages it to repeat its cries and attention seeking. You find yourself giving in each time. Over a period of time the cat grows bolder and other cats join it in crying for food and attention.  You may begin to regret your actions, as a large number of strays are now contributing to noise and other problems. If you make a decision to resist feeding the “cat army,” there will be loud and pitiful cries for a few days. In fact they will be at their strongest when you have decided not to reinforce their behaviour. Soon, however, they will come to realise that they are no longer being reinforced, and will gradually diminish and disappear. Your decision to stick with the action you know is best for you will “undo” the problem that you unknowingly built up in the first place. Dr Christopher Walsh

Willpower and cravings


Developing your will power gives you great power over your cravings and your life…

  • The greatest strength and wealth is self-control. Pythagoras
  • There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse. Daniel Goleman
  • Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself. Elie Wiesel
  • He who reins within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king. John Milton
  • Exercising self-control in one area seemed to improve all areas of life. Roy Baumeister
  • Will powerSelf-controlSelf-discipline

Resisting temptation makes you stronger

  • Good habits result from resisting temptation. Proverb
  • Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before. William Butler Yeats
  • We gain the strength of the temptation we resist. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Temptation

Build your will power slowly like a muscle

  • If you want more self-control, you can get more. And you get more self-control the same way you get bigger muscles—you’ve got to give it regular workouts. Heidi Grant
  • When you’re trying to make a big change or transform an old habit, look for a small way to practice self- control that strengthens your willpower, but doesn’t overwhelm it completely. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

Guilt and self-criticism do not work

  • In the quest for self-control, the usual weapons we wield against ourselves—guilt, stress, and shame—don’t work. People who have the greatest self-control aren’t waging self-war. They have learned to accept and integrate these competing selves. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
  • Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self- control. In contrast, self- compassion—being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure—is associated with more motivation and better self- Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
  • Guilt

Cravings and spirituality


Our greatest (often excessive) cravings for love and approval can be lessened by loving ourselves

  • What we all want, really, is to be loved. That craving drives our worst behavior. Jodi Picoult
  • People who do not understand themselves have a craving for understanding. Wilhelm Stekel
  • The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. William James
  • Self-love

From a spiritual perspective, the ego is the fundamental source of craving

  • Another aspect of the emotional pain that is an intrinsic part of the egoic mind is a deep- seated sense of lack or incompleteness, of not being whole… If it is unconscious, it will only be felt directly as an intense craving, wanting and needing. People will often enter into a compulsive pursuit of ego- gratification and things to identify with in order to fill this hole they feel within.  So they strive after money, success, power, recognition, or a special relationship, basically so they can feel better about themselves, feel more complete.  But even when they attain all these things, they soon find that the hole is still there, that is is bottomless.  Eckhart Tolle
  • Transcending the ego

Cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfilment in external things

  • All cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfilment in external things and in the future as a substitute for being. As long as I am my mind, I am those cravings, those needs, wants, attachments, and aversions… Don’t seek to become free of desire or “achieve” enlightenment.  Become present.  Be there as the observer of the mind.  Eckhart Tolle
  • I am present with any addictive impulses I may have. I observe them as they arise. All cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfilment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of Being. Eckhart Tolle
  • Everything we seek in form to complete ourselves, including the stimuli of food, drugs, entertainment and things, is a substitute for the aliveness of being. Eckhart Tolle

Be present and substitute the craving with the joy of being

  • I am present with any addictive impulses I may have. I observe them as they arise. All cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of Being. Eckhart Tolle
  • BeingPresence

On a lighter note 

  • Abstainer: A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. Ambrose Bierce
  • Always yield to temptation because it may not pass your way again. Proverb
  • Do not worry about avoiding temptation; as you grow older it will avoid you. Joey Adams
  • Don’t tempt me I can resist anything but temptation. Oscar Wilde
  • Don’t worry about avoiding temptation – as you grow older it starts avoiding you.
  • I can resist anything except temptation. Oscar Wilde
  • I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it. Mae West
  • I have no problem not listening to The Temptations. Mitch Hedberg
  • I tried yoga once but took off for the mall halfway through class, as I had a sudden craving for a soft pretzel and world peace. Terri Guillemets
  • Lawyer: one who protects us against robbery by taking away the temptation. L. Mencken
  • Lead me not into temptation. I can find the way myself. Jane Seabrook
  • Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it. Sam Levenson
  • Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity. George Bernard Shaw
  • Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and you choosing the one that’ll get you home earlier. Dan Bennett
  • Most people would like to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch. Robert Orben
  • Nothing makes it easier to resist temptation than a proper bringing-up, a sound set of values – and witnesses. Franklin P. Jones
  • Sex drive—a physical craving that begins in adolescence and ends at marriage. Robert Byrne
  • Temptation is an irresistible force at work on a movable body. L. Mencken
  • Temptation: Something which, when resisted, gives happiness and which, when yielded to, gives even greater happiness.
  • The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Oscar Wilde
  • There are several good protections against temptations but the surest is cowardice. Mark Twain
  • There is no stronger craving in the world than that of the rich for titles except that of the titled for riches. Hesketh Pearson
  • Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address. Lane Olinghouse
  • Virtue is insufficient temptation. George Bernard Shaw
  • What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely. Franklin Jones