Urge Surfing Image

What Is Urge Surfing & How Does It Work? [Meditation & Mindfulness]

In binge eating, Eating, impulsive overeating, Self-control, Temptation by Alex O'Toole

Urge surfing is a meditation or mindfulness exercise that can help to control impulsive behaviours. It’s a powerful tool for addressing addiction and has been proven to work in many different types of setting. In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what it is and how it works so you can decide if it’s something that may be useful in your own life.

What Is Urge Surfing?

Urge surfing is a technique for addressing impulsive behaviours such as binge eating, drinking heavily, or any other addictive behaviours. It was first introduced by Dr. Alan Marlatt who developed the popular ‘Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention’ approach for treating addictive behaviours.

The key to this approach is that you watch the urges go by instead of trying to fight with them. Instead of relying on willpower to ‘resist’ the urge, you observe how it feels and use specific meditation techniques to deal with it. It removes the internal struggle which can be mentally draining and replaces it with a more passive approach.

The interesting thing about urges is that they rarely last more than 30 minutes. Although this can feel like a lifetime when you’re actually experiencing them, if you can make it past this point then you can avoid the impulsive or addictive behaviour. Urge surfing can help you ‘ride out’ your unhealthy impulses and learn to manage them over the long-term.

Does Urge Surfing Mindfulness Work?

In Dr. Marlatt’s initial research, he found that smokers who practiced urge surfing reduced their smoking by 26%. This was more than twice the reduction of the control group who just tried to resist the urges using willpower alone. Since then, numerous other research studies have shown it to be effective and it’s become a mainstay of addiction therapy.

Urge surfing doesn’t just help you to resist temptation – it helps to improve confidence in your resistance capabilities too. People who practice urge surfing often report an improved level of confidence in their ability to break bad habits. For anyone who feels that they aren’t ‘strong enough’ to resist temptations, urge surfing may be a helpful technique to try.

To learn more about how urge surfing is the secret to self-control, check out this TEDx Talk by Jonathan Bricker…

Impulsivity Urge Surfing Exercises

Many of the clients we see in our clinic have found urge surfing exercises to be extremely beneficial. When you feel the urge to overeat, drink, smoke, gamble, or whatever you want to resist try this… Acknowledge the feeling as it washes over you like a wave and allow it to rise and fall. Don’t react, no matter how intense the feeling may be. Just allow it to rise and then subside.

You might be skeptical about this approach to overcoming impulses. Perhaps you don’t think it’ll be effective or just can’t see it working for your personal situation. But the truth is, mindfulness is a technique that’s working for thousands of people around the world. There are many people out there who are battling addiction or impulsive behaviours just like you. And they’re finding success with urge surfing…

So how do you learn how to surf urges? Some practitioners provide an urge surfing handout or worksheet to follow. However, we’ve found that this is a technique that people learn best by actually doing (rather than simply reading). So, in our online courses, we include two urge surfing guided meditations for you to follow.

One urge surfing meditation is set to beach sounds and the other features background music. You can choose the one that most appeals or alternate them to add variety to your mindfulness practice. These exercises teach you how to use your breathing as a surfboard to ride out the urges.

Trying to resist impulses using willpower alone is incredibly difficult, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We can teach you practical tools and strategies to overcome addictive behaviours and regain control over your life. Our online courses allow you to address your impulsivity for a fraction of the price it would cost to see a therapist. To learn more about them, click here.