Your browser is out-of-date and some features may not work as expected. We suggest you upgrade your browser. Click here for more info.

Use this simple practice to change your relationship to
unhelpful habitual urges.

What do you do when you notice an urge to do something that you know is not going to be helpful for your longer term goals? Maybe reaching for that chocolate bar or icecream, buying that bottle of wine or pack of cigarettes, snapping at a child or partner, staying at work a bit longer than you promised your loved ones, opening your social media app, or your web browser for some mindless surfing. In small doses, none of these things are harmful. Done regularly enough your body will suffer. As might your relationships. And maybe your heart and soul. 

There’s a tiny window of opportunity between the moment when you have an urge and the next moment when you irrevocably act on it. In that space try this.

1. Pause. Stop whatever you’re doing. 

2. Take a few mindfully aware breaths. Inhale through your nose, notice your belly swelling with the inbreath and notice it deflating with the outbreath. Notice the nuances of your breath. 

3. Slowly, ask yourself this question: “What do I need?” “What do I actually really need, in this moment, right now?”

4. Notice the answers your mind gives you. Don’t grasp for the first answer it gives you. Nor despair if the answer is a frustrating “I don’t know!”. 

5. Let the responses settle around you as you gently breathe and kindly ask again. 

Not, “what would I like”. Not, “what do I want”. Not what do I need today, or in this life. Just in this moment, right now, what do I need. 

Tune in to your body. This is a question most often answered by the body. What is it telling you when you take the time to ask? Can you give it what it needs? 

Here’s some of the answers I get when I ask this question

A glass of cool clear water                               To move my body

To go to bed and sleep                                    Some sunshine on my skin

A bowl of lightly steamed green vegies           To breathe mindfully for a little longer (eg, “3 minute breathing space”)

A shower                                                         To go to the toilet*

Sometimes the answer comes from other parts of me. My social self, or my emotional or spiritual self. Or my intellectual self.

To give myself a hug (try it!)

A sense of accomplishment

The scent of something fragrant

To sing or dance

To listen to a piece of beautiful music

To contact nature (put my feet on the earth my toes in the sand, listen to a bird, see the wind in the trees)

To play

To laugh

The smile or touch of a loved one

Time out

To look at the night sky

Repeat as often as necessary.

This practice invites you to step into a place of deep self-respect. It is a practice that recognises your body has needs. And that many of our other needs are not too difficult to meet. It is also quite affirming – it recognises that you are quite capable of meeting many of your basic needs. The practice of responding to what you truly need – in any one moment – again and again - builds a lifetime of self care and self respect. Your body will thank you. As might your heart and soul, and loved ones.

* Don’t laugh! How often do you put off going to the loo because there’s just one more task that needs to be done, just one more person who needs to be attended to? I found myself one busy morning becoming increasingly narky and irritable. I had a lot to do, stuff wasn’t going as smoothly as expected, things weren’t working that should have been working. The irritable feeling seemed justified. Until I paused, and asked myself “what do I need?” The answer was obvious – I needed to go to the loo! Phew, relief! That simple act of noticing and attending to my body’s most basic needs shifted the set of the rest of my day.
Ask me about my audio recorded brief mindfulness exercise to help you step into a place where you might contact your immediate needs.
From your psychologist, Jennifer Grant