The above question may seem like a simple and uninteresting one, but reflecting on it may help you stop smoking (if that’s what you want).
Today, May 31st, is World No Tobacco Day. As the name suggests, the aim of this day is to encourage smokers to give up their cigarettes and rollies for the day to promote a tobacco-free life. However, this is easier said than done.
No doubt nicotine is a tough addiction to beat; research suggests on average it will take most people 24 attempts to successfully quit smoking, but don’t be disheartened just yet; this is an estimated number which can go up or down depending on things like doing prior research and your support systems. The following approach can lower that expected number of attempts down to ≤6. Isn’t that amazing?
So, how do I improve my odds of quitting for good?
Most smoking interventions focus on things like triggers (and how to avoid them) and substituting smoking cigarettes with healthier habits, like eating carrot sticks or chewing gum.
While these abstinence-centred methods are effective to a degree, another approach may prove more effective over all: mindfulness.
A 2011 study investigating the effectiveness of mindfulness training in smoking cessation showed that mindfulness training granted benefits greater than those seen in standard smoking intervention treatments.
In fact, 6 months following the study 31% of participants who were given mindfulness training remained smoke-free, compared to the 3% of participants who were given a standard smoking cessation treatment.
How does it work?
Craving causes physically uncomfortable and even painful sensations in the body. It can make you irritable, tired, and on edge.
When you’re being mindful of these sensations during periods of craving, you eventually begin to realise that that's all they are - just sensations that you don't have to act on. Essentially, the more you allow yourself to sit with discomfort, the more you accept it.
Accepting the uncomfortable feelings that arise from nicotine withdrawal will get you through the first 7 to 10 days, when the symptoms are at their highest severity. Your body will then rapidly adjust to your new nicotine-free lifestyle and your cravings will lessen the longer you go without feeding them. The only hurdle is getting through the initial week or so.
Judson Brewer,MD, PhD, lead researcher at Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, in an interview for Psychology Today explains “Each time you ride out a craving, it gets weaker.”.
How do I do it?
In the same interview, Judson Brewer talks about his systematic approach to being mindful of cravings:
“In my clinical practice, I use the acronym RAIN:
- Recognize the craving that is arising, and relax into it.
- Accept this moment. Don’t ignore it, distract yourself, or try to do something about it.
- Investigate the experience as it builds. Ask yourself, “What is happening in my body right now?”
- Note what is happening. As you note pressure, dullness, tightness, or whatever, it becomes clear that these are nothing more than body sensations. You don’t have to act on them. You can simply ride out the sensations until they subside.”
So, there you have it. The key to breaking an addiction is to be okay with feeling the discomfort during the withdrawal period.
If you smoke and decide to participate in this year’s World No Tobacco Day, or the next time you decide to quit, we encourage you to be mindful of what occurs inside of your mind and body.
Lastly, Lynch’s Pharmacy offers a programme for customers to help people stop smoking, called ‘Quit for Life’. This six week programme includes measuring your ‘lung life' as well as carbon monoxide levels in your breath. We provide daily support and motivation to get you through the first 10 days of quitting.
For more on our “Quit for Life” service, call into Lynchs Pharmacy, Douglas or ring us on 021-4366923 to find out more.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21723049 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909986/ https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e011045 https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/minding-the-body/201204/can-mindfulness-help-you-quit-smoking https://www.mindful.org/craving-to-quit/