Can You Quit Smoking Through Meditation?
We all know someone who is addicted to smoking – a family member, a co-worker or friend, or maybe even you yourself. Once you start smoking and develop a habit out of it, quitting can be extremely challenging. Nicotine, the active compound contained in cigarettes, is one of the most addictive drugs there is. It hijacks the brain’s reward system and creates a state of dependence. Once addiction kicks in, the part of your personality that’s attracted to rebellion, self-medication and pleasure-seeking gains ascendancy. The other part – the part that wants to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle – takes a back seat. But if you or someone you know is ready to stop smoking, meditation is here to help.
How can meditation help smokers quit?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 years ago 42% of the adult population in the U.S. were smokers. Today that percentage is down to around 15%, and it’s still way too high, considering what we now know about smoking-related health issues.
Some people smoke so they can feel normal or blend in. Others reach for their cigarettes when they’re stressed out, saying that it helps calm their nerves. Still others believe that it’s best to enjoy today and not worry about tomorrow. And lots of people who smoke no longer really enjoy their cigarettes – they just can’t do without them.
There are plenty of good reasons to quit, including health, money and social pressure. Many schools and workplaces have gone “smoke-free” and they’re serious about keeping their campus that way. There are different techniques to help smokers quit; among them, meditation has been scientifically proven to be an effective method to help smokers kick the habit once and for all.
In one study, a group of smokers were invited to participate in Transcendental Meditation (TM) sessions for two years. Within that time frame, 51% of the participants quit smoking altogether and 30% significantly reduced their tobacco consumption. These results were far better than those of the control group.
Reducing a major smoking trigger: stress
We’ve seen that stress is a major smoking trigger. When smokers are anxious or stressed, just a few puffs will make them feel more relaxed and better able to cope. They enjoy that brief period of relaxation despite knowing that it won’t last and that smoking is hazardous to their health.
In truth, reaching for a smoke merely camouflages underlying issues of unease, stress and anxiety. Because the relief is temporary, smokers soon feel the need to light up another one. If you (or someone you know) are motivated to stop smoking, meditation will effectively help with stress by promoting more self-awareness and calm. Less stress means a less compelling reason to reach for the next cigarette.
Most smoking habits turn into addictions when the incessant cravings begin. When individuals reach this stage, they pick up a cigarette and smoke it without giving any consideration to the consequences. But when smokers start practicing meditation, they learn to recognize the deep-seated emotions and feelings that trigger their need to smoke.
When a person meditates, they are committing themselves to look at, experience and gradually learn to accept their current mental and physical states, both pleasant and unpleasant. Through meditation, smokers learn to accept what they’re experiencing and feeling. Mindfulness can reshape behavior by showing smokers that they can acknowledge cravings and not necessarily act on them. Whether or not they stop smoking at this stage, meditation will allow them to develop more kindness towards themselves and others. In fact, stopping smoking is a very kind thing to do for oneself and for those who share one’s space.
Researchers have discovered that the brains of long-term mediators differ from those of non-mediators. When you start meditating, your brain starts re-wiring. Those parts that are responsible for the experience of negative emotions such as stress and depression shrink in size, whereas regions associated with calmness, compassion, empathy and self-control develop measurably. As your self-control increases, you are able to develop the willpower necessary to disrupt unwholesome patterns and stop smoking. Meditation is therefore a viable alternative for those who have tried everything else and failed. Studies have also shown that smokers who start meditating may end up kicking the habit naturally, without even realizing they miss it.
For those who need an extra boost, researchers are looking closely at the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapy (MT). MT has a number of advantages when compared to pharmacological or behavioral therapies, accessibility and ease of implementation foremost among them. And those who look to mindfulness to help them kick the habit will discover that their meditation practice does them good in many other ways as well.
Let’s face it, it isn’t easy to stop smoking. But if you could find an effective technique to help you finally quit, wouldn’t you give it a shot? Meditation to stop smoking has shown conclusive results in a number of studies.
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In weekly sessions Dr. Judson Brewer, associate professor of medicine psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, taught Morgan to smoke “mindfully” by keeping a journal about how she experienced the taste of the cigarette, its odors and her bodily sensations and cravings while she smoked.
Morgan thought this was ridiculous.
“I remember thinking this is hokey and it’s not going to work,” she recalled.
Yet, when prompted to quit several weeks into the trial, Morgan smoked her last cigarette. That was 4 years ago.
According to Brewer’s research, Morgan isn’t alone in her success.
In randomized controlled trials, mindful techniques were more than twice as effective American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking treatment, the current gold standard. And Brewer claimed he has demonstrated that mindful awareness training is at least as effective as current treatments with helping patients quit alcohol, cocaine, and gambling.
However, Dr. Peter Shields, the deputy director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ohio State University is skeptical.
“Most people who quit, quit on their own,” Shields, who is also a spokesman for the American Association for Cancer Research said. “It’s fine if they find journalism and meditation helpful but at this point in time that’s not what’s been shown to be effective.”
On the other hand, Jean Kris teller, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Indiana State University and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating, is among a growing cadre of psychiatrists and scientists who think that training the mind can be very effective for helping people change a host of behaviors, including kicking the habit.
Mindfulness works, Kris teller explained, by lowering activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with emotions while increasing activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for executive function and logical decision-making.
With mindful awareness, patients are no longer at the mercy of their cravings, she said. Instead, they can build awareness for their cravings and choose how to respond.
According to Brewer, mindfulness may also allow patients to build healthier behaviors. As he explained it, everyone knows smoking and eating too much is bad for them, but mere knowledge doesn’t change behavior. It’s when they actually begin to pay attention to how smoking tastes, they want to change on a visceral level, he reasoned.
Brewer and his team have even developed a smartphone app, Craving to Quit, which can help people learn similar techniques to what Morgan learned in the research study.
Morgan credits the techniques she learned in the research trial with helping her stay smoke-free, even when she’s itching to smoke. Now she knows how to wait out her desire to smoke until it fades.
The science behind that stone-cold statement has been indisputable for decades. Yet smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and around the world.
Given all that we know about smoking, why do people have so much trouble quitting? As an addiction psychiatrist and neuroscientist, it’s a question I frequently get from my patients and acquaintances. The two-part answer I give them is simple: Quitting is hard, and most people go about it the wrong way.
To explain, let me briefly delve into the science of addiction. The brain has a built-in reward-based learning system. Doing something that makes you feel good provides a reward that reinforces the behavior. Each puff of a cigarette delivers highly addictive nicotine to the bloodstream, and thus to the brain. As nicotine binds to receptors in the brain, it triggers a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in motivating behavior. Each time a smoker smokes, it reinforces a brain pathway that says, “This is great, do it again.”
Because reward-based learning is about immediate satisfaction, and nicotine is fast-acting, smokers get stuck in a habit loop that is tough to interrupt. Behavioral economics has shown that even knowledge of the long-term consequences of smoking can’t compete with the immediate positive reinforcement — our brains privilege immediate gratification over future rewards.
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Breaking this habit loop is no easy feat. E-cigarettes, partial nicotine receptor agonists like varenicline, and nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum offer a path away from combustible cigarettes, but they still ignore the psychological root of the problem. Given nicotine’s half-life of roughly two hours, nicotine replacement therapies help most with physiological withdrawal, making it possible for smokers to cut down to about 10 cigarettes a day. Below that number, context-dependent triggers drive psychological cravings, which aren’t affected by approaches such as nicotine replacement.
Methods such as chewing gum or using substitutes like carrot sticks focus on surface-level distractions and haven’t been shown to yield lasting results. Using willpower to quit, also known as going cold turkey, works for some people, but most research has shown it to be ineffective, and even counterproductive in some cases, because the willpower part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) goes offline when stressed, which is a main trigger for smoking.
To help my patients quit, I coach them to employ mindfulness techniques designed to break bad habits. This works by hacking the reinforcement process in two ways: It updates the reward value of smoking in the brain, and it helps people ride out their cravings instead of acting on them.
The first step of a mindfulness approach involves becoming aware of the immediate effects of smoking. For example, when I have my patients pay attention to smoking, they describe a “burning feeling” as they inhale, and mention that cigarettes don’t taste good and the smell of smoke is unpleasant. Paying attention to the experience of smoking is quite different than distractedly smoking while staring at a smartphone or talking to someone. Potential quitters then learn techniques to ride out cravings by focusing on associated physical sensations such as tightness, heat, contraction, and the like, and simply being aware of them over time as they come and go (rather than re actively and automatically smoking, distracting oneself, or doing something else to make the sensations go away).
Quit smoking naturally: meditate your way into giving up cigarettes
Want to beat a costly and unhealthy addiction?
Within seconds of lighting up a cigarette, nicotine floods the brain and, by imitating a chemical called acetylcholine, makes one feel fantastic.
This calms and re-energizes, kills physical pain, and even improves memory and attention.
Over time, however, the love from the first puff is destined to dissipate.
SMOKING AND ADRENALINE: Nicotine is a stimulant. When you smoke, the adrenal glands start working and in doing so the heart rate increases, the blood vessels contract and air passages dilate. Years of lighting up have made a smoker’s adrenal glands weak and tired because of constant over-stimulation. Read more: How does smoking affect the brain and the nervous system?
Smokers mistakenly believe that cigarettes relieve stress.
What is actually going on is more like climbing out of a hole one has dug himself: the feel-good factor involved in smoking comes from medicating the agitation of… tobacco-craving!
There are enough studies to prove that people who do manage to quit smoking end up feeling a lot less stressed as a consequence.
However, because smoking changes the brain so radically, tobacco is as addictive a substance as cocaine or heroin.
That’s the reason why, despite it being the biggest preventable cause of death in many parts of the world, people still find it so hard to kick the habit.
Why it is easy to quit smoking with Transcendental Meditation?
Since stress-relief is what most people look for in cigarettes, it is no surprise that an authentic tool for stress-busting – the technique of Transcendental Meditation – can have an unexpected side effect of tackling tobacco-addiction.
GIVING IT UP: “I realized four months ago that I had to quit smoking. It was a habit that I had been carrying around with me throughout my modelling career. I thought that smoking would keep me thin… It’s something that makes me very proud now, to be a non-smoker. To take care of myself.” — Raquel Zimmerman, fashion model & meditation practitioner
However, it does precisely what people hoped nicotine would do. Meditating relieves stress.
And several studies prove that, as a result of reducing stress, TM helps people quit smoking.
The effect of meditating seems to be cumulative – the more meditation reduces the stress levels, the less smokers feel the desire for a cigarette.
Scientific evidence on quitting smoking
A meta-analysis of studies on different programs designed to help quit smoking showed that the positive effect of Transcendental Meditation was 2-5 times larger than for other programs.
One of these studies compared the smokers doing TM to those not practicing the technique.
The study, lasting over two years, demonstrated that the rates of quitting and decreasing smoking increased over time and were the highest for the group who practiced Transcendental Meditation daily.
No matter how many times you’ve tried to quit, you can do it now, and this time you’ll succeed. Precision-engineered Theta brainwave frequencies induce a state of hyper-receptivity where subliminal messages get down to the very root of self-sabotage. Specially designed trigger phrases minimize cravings, bolster resolve, and re-build a new sense of self that is healthy, vibrant and free from the grip of nicotine addiction.
This Brain Wave Subliminal activates the unlimited power of your subconscious because it incorporates Theta wave binaural beat frequencies that entrain your brain and induces states of hyper-receptivity to subliminal messages. Here, a new set of self-empowering beliefs are firmly imprinted in the unconscious.
How To Quit Smoking Without Suffering
In this article, you will reveal why you are conditioned to believe the cigarettes serve you and give you a false sense of confidence, security, and relaxation. Also, I will show you how the quit smoking meditation can help you eliminate this sabotaging programming that has been established created in your mind.
Shortly after using this audio, you will choose to liberate yourself from the emotional addiction and the excuses you keep telling yourself that sustain the smoking pattern.
The Times When You Attempted To Quit Smoking… Oh, The Misery!
How many times have you promised yourself “never again”, but soon after, gave in to your cravings? How many times have you stopped smoking just to find yourself lighting up another cigarette? I get it. You want badly to quit smoking but the fear of losing the cigarettes forever is paralyzing you from making that change.
If you have tried to quit smoking before, you went through misery, anger, bitterness, and difficulty to function. At the so-called “quitting smoking period”, you drained into the obsessive cravings for smoking, even long after the nicotine poison has completely left your body.
You might have physically stopped smoking, but didn’t really stop obsessing over it in your head. You were possessed by thoughts of smoking that caused you an enormous suffering, even when you changed your behavior.
That what makes the quit smoking meditation so powerful – you can get rid of those compulsive and demanding voices in your head that convince you to ‘light up a cigarette now”!
When you tried to quit smoking, the coffee didn’t taste the same, hanging out with friends felt like hell, walking down the streets and seeing all the other smokers made the quitting days so much worse…
It was like an ongoing itch that you couldn’t scratch! The pain was unbearable. Every little thing put you over the edge.
You still lived your life, but it wasn’t really you. It was the zombie you. I know exactly how it is like. I was there. I was smoking nonstop for long twelve years before I discovered the power of quit smoking meditations.
My Embarrassing Addiction Story
Smoking was my addiction. Of course, I never saw it coming. I never planned to wind up as a filthy and disgusting chain smoker. I smoked about a pack and a half a day for 12 years. This totaled 900 cigarettes a month – about 11,000 cigarettes a year.
I never knew when I was going to smoke the cigarette that would light up the cancer cells. The funny thing is that I didn’t care. Or I didn’t admit that I cared.
The cigarettes took over my life; my whole schedule was determined by the next smoking time;
I was never focused – my mind was constantly preoccupied with, “When will I smoke next?”
I couldn’t enjoy my time with friends because they asked me not to smoke around them. I had to step outside, sometimes in the rain, snow, or heat. No matter the weather conditions, I was ready to do whatever it took to inhale those toxins into my throat.
Little by little, I changed from a completely independent person to a poor slave who only cared about my next fix. I didn’t realize I was putting myself behind bars.
I thought I was enjoying this.
Despite my “pure joy” coming from my smoking patterns, I knew I had to quit. So I did – about 100 times a day.
When I had attempted to quit before, I was miserable, and I was suffering. It felt like there was no point to live like this, no point to live my whole life wanting something so badly that it hurt not having it.
I felt jealous of smokers during those periods of time that I allegedly “quit smoking”.
I was a wreck and felt like a dead woman walking. I kept on thinking how would I do this for good?
Your Twisted Perception Of Cigarettes And Smoking
If you are like I was, before I became familiar with the life-changing meditation to quit smoking, we probably perceived cigarettes the same.
If you are a smoker who is reading this, you tend to feel that cigarettes are sort of a good friend. They provide a sense of safety net or as a getaway during stressful days.
There is not even one smoker who loved smoking the first cigarettes. After a short while, with repetitiveness, the nicotine absorbs deeply into the blood system and as time goes by, the emotional bondage is joining to this party.