I’ve watched my father poison himself with cancer-sticks for practically his entire life, and had been doing so for over a decade before I was even born.
Just like most long term smokers, he had tried to quit smoking countless times without success.
Going cold turkey, nicotine patches, chewing gum, and even anti-smoking medication to suppress cravings. Nothing worked for more than a couple of months, of course.
It always fascinated me how someone can be so addicted to something they clearly know is bad for their health and wellbeing.
It turns out that every bad and destructive habit has some element of good to it, otherwise the brain wouldn’t implement it. As powerful as the subconscious mind is, it has one fatal flaw – it cannot make evaluations such as long term cause and effect (this is the job of the conscious mind).
Unfortunately, all habits are operated by the subconscious mind and run on autopilot to respond to instantaneous stimuli of environmental triggers, as well as triggers internal to your physical being.
As long as a habit works to avoid pain and/or gain pleasure, it’s good to go – and this is where the dangers lie.
When you ask chronic smokers what it is they get out of smoking, they typically respond with phrases such as: “it reduces my stress, it helps me relax, it makes me more calm” which fits well with the ‘avoid pain, gain pleasure’ formula of habit formation. Nicotine also helps to strengthen the habit by releasing “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain.
When observing the breathing pattern of a smoker whilst smoking, their lungs are forced to take larger and deeper inhalations, hold their breath slightly longer than usual, and then exhale slowly.
There’s a great similarity to the rhythmic breathing of smoking, and that of meditation practices. More specifically, it mimics the relaxation response.
For more information, you can read The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson
If you’re a smoker, you may recognise this process very well:
• Firstly, you settle in a calm place, commonly on a break from work. You stand outside, on a balcony, a smoker’s lounge – essentially anywhere away from general commotion.
• You allow your general stresses and thoughts about your day empty from your mind, and you become more present to the moment.
• You focus on something, a word, an object, a sound – or in this case, your cigarette.
• You breathe deeply, slowly and rhythmically.
Now, if you removed only the cigarette from this process, you are ultimately meditating and eliciting your body’s natural relaxation response – a perfectly healthy relaxation exercise.
So why don’t people do this instead of smoking?
Simply because smoking a cigarette is a well suited trigger for the process of relaxation.
It often requires you to isolate yourself temporarily due to no smoking zones away from distractions, allows you to have a single point of focus, ensures you breathing is deep, slow and rhythmic for an extended period of time (5-10 minutes), and smoking multiple cigarettes throughout the day allows you to practice this process regularly.
Although you get to experience moments of relaxation, you also have the unfortunate side effects of poisoning your lungs with horrible toxins. This speeds up your process of aging, and shaves off decades of your lifespan.
Ironically, by practicing the relaxation response naturally, you gain many health benefits, both physical and mental, that add decades to your life.
Since all habits have an inherent element of good to them, your brain will powerfully resist on removing habits, so don’t bother.
If you’re committed to quit smoking, all you really have to do is replace the trigger, and keep the habit.
Follow the 5 simple steps below:
1. Firstly, remove all smoking triggers in sight from your daily routine (i.e. cigarette packets, lighters, ashtrays, etc.).
2. Decide right now that whenever you have a craving to smoke, you will take that as a sign of your body wanting to relax, and perform the relaxation response.
3. Go to a quiet place away from distraction, and breathe how you would normally breathe when smoking – slow, deep and rhythmical.
4. Do this for 5-10 minutes.
5. Repeat the process several times throughout the day whenever you crave relaxation.
This process may feel awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning, but it’s important to remember that developing any new habit takes time and patience until your brain takes on the new triggers. You may also experience withdrawal symptoms (from the nicotine), but as always, it will pass with time.
If you still find yourself unable to resist smoking cigarettes, consider investing in the Quit Smoking Magic program, another natural method designed to quickly help you quit smoking once and for all.
Remember, your life is on the line. You can choose to continue smoking and slowly diminish your health and wellbeing (not to mention your money), or you can choose to use the same habit in a healthy, and life enhancing way.
Make the right choice. Good luck!