The wave of craving – how to overcome any bad habit

Do you find yourself constantly struggling to avoid temptations? Me too; that’s why I have written this blog to reaffirm what I have learned about self-discipline and guide you down a path to better self-control.

Craving as a wave

My meditation practice began falling apart lately, and I noticed it has had knock-on effects on my ability to resist sweets. Where knowledge is a tree, craving is a wave. Understanding this simple metaphor will go a long way toward eliminating craving-based habits, which will be good for your healthspan. 

I first heard of the wave of craving metaphor from Judson Brewer in his book the craving mind. In the book, he explains that, like a wave, a craving gradually builds up power until it seems unstoppable but then crashes and disappears. 

The wave is an apt metaphor; both are constantly coming and going. The more powerful a wave is, the harder it is to avoid it. Fighting it is aimless, leaving you with two choices: avoid it or surf it. When you fulfill the craving, you are trying to avoid the wave.

Diving under a wave to avoid it is a bad plan; when your head is out of the water, there’s another ready to crash down on you. Meanwhile, by surfing that wave back to shore, you avoid the pressure of the next one.

Read on to learn how you can build a mental surfboard to ride out your cravings. Like surfing, it will take a lot of practice before you can stand on the board and make it to the beach, so be patient and don’t judge yourself.   

Photo by Oliver Sju00f6stru00f6m on

Riding the wave of craving

You must develop two key disciplines to regain control of your habits: noticing and distancing. You can’t fight an invisible enemy, so you first need to shine some light on your cravings. This is the hard part, but it is made easier by developing my favourite longevity habitmeditation.

A meditation practice will help you build the mental infrastructure you need to see your cravings as they arise. I’ve previously written about how to start meditatingStill, apps such as HeadspaceCalm, or Insight Timer can be a great asset for becoming spiritual.

Headspace has a meditation series dedicated to cravings. In it, they walk you through a noting technique that helps you notice your thoughts as they come up. Whether meditating with an app or in a group, the practice will help you shine a light on your habits. This light will make it easier to develop the second discipline for crushing cravings: distancing. 

Distancing yourself from your cravings

Once you see your cravings, you must learn how to interact with them. This is where we leave the spiritual realm of meditation and enter the scientific one of Walter Mischel’s The Marshmallow Test

His research led him to create the Hot-Cold system to explain craving. This system is terrific because it is intuitive. The hotter a temptation is, the more automatic it is, strengthening the desire.

Contrarily, the cooler a temptation is, the more thought goes into the decision to satisfy it. Psychologist Yaacov Trope and Nira Liberman showed that the best way to change the temperature of cravings is to alter the psychological distance between you and them.

You can alter this distance to increase your cravings for good habits and decrease them for bad ones. There are four types of distances you can have with your cravings: 


Physically distancing yourself from your object of desire is the most accessible mode of psychological distance because it requires very little imagination. This is where you make it easier to do sustainable habits and harder to fall for the bad ones. 

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You could decrease the distance to the habit to increase your chance of making a good habit. For example, if you want to start running, you could find a route close to your home to start running from the house rather than travelling somewhere for your run. 

Contrarily, if you want to decrease how often you eat chips, decide not to keep them in the house. When you crave them, they will either be unavailable or far away. This distance increases the energy required to satisfy your craving, which decreases the chance that you will have them.


In Atomic Habits, James Clear does a great job of explaining how identity is responsible for determining your habits. You can use this concept to create social distance between you and your craving. If you smoke, you probably identify as a smoker. 

The first step to changing this habit is to change your identity. You can create distance between yourself and those cigarettes by deciding that you are no longer a smoker. You may still smoke, but once you have decided that you are no longer a smoker, you enable that change to happen. 

The words you use in these declarations matter, but as David Goggins illustrates in Can’t Hurt Me, your statements will become you after enough repetitions. Be bold and remind yourself often of your new identity until it becomes who you are.  


When it comes to avoiding bad habits, time can be your friend or enemy. As with physical distancing, decreasing the time you are exposed to temptations will reduce your chance of falling for them. 

You can use time in two ways. Either by minimizing the time, you spend close to your cravings or only allowing them at particular times. Use brute force to fight your cravings but have an end time that is mildly challenging to reach. 

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on

If social media is your vice, you can use app timers to automatically shut it down after a daily allowance. You might change the settings as soon as it kicks you. Still, the inconvenience of having to do that will make the habit less rewarding. 

Alternatively, you can allow yourself a “social media window,” a specific period during the day when you can scroll freely but only during that period. These limits, combined with the mindfulness from meditation, will show you the reward of your habits – or lack thereof for the unsustainable ones – which brings us to the next point.


This is the most challenging form of distancing but also the most effective. Certainty is where you meditate on your craving and note the reward. How certain are you that your craving will satisfy you? 

According to the glitch in our brain, our desires are unfulfillable – the more you get, the more you will want. It is a perpetual cycle of desire. 

The way to break this cycle is through observation and appreciation. These two powerful techniques – the foundation of meditation – teach you to appreciate what you have rather than always craving more. 

Even dark chocolate can become delicious when you take the time to meditate on it. Use temptation bundling to distract you from your strongest cravings. If you can’t eliminate it, replacing it with something better is the next best thing.

If you feel your cravings are often getting the best of you and want to change your habits, I am happy to help. Book an introductory session with me so we can discuss your transformation. If, however, you are not yet ready for that step, it’s okay. You can subscribe to my newsletter below to have this content sent directly to your inbox and get to know me a little first. Thanks for reading and commenting below about what you found most interesting. 

working on it…
Welcome to the long longevity community.

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