The Magic of Mindfulness in Cessation

Mindfulness is the new science of health and happiness, and it is more relevant and required than ever. We all tend to wear our over-stimulation like a badge of honor.  We are texting and working, and planning, and making lists, and stressing, all simultaneously to the detriment of our emotional well being and health.  Mindfulness can be defined as the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.

I love mindfulness and meditate every morning.  It has made a huge difference in the way I experience each day, and I am better equipped to take on any challenges that come my way just by visualizing my perfect day before it even starts.  It has been life-altering for me, and I believe it has been life-altering for my quit smoking clients as well.  Let me explain….

Being more mindful about tobacco use means thinking about each cigarette we buy, each cigarette we light up and why, and noticing who we are with, where we are, what we are doing and how we are feeling.  This takes practice, but how many times have you seen a smoker light up a smoke when one is still burning in the ashtray, or find a lit cigarette in their hand and they don’t remember lighting it, let alone craving it.  It’s about being in the moment and I’ll share some strategies that will help.

I’m not the only one noticing how mindfulness can assist people to quit for good.  A recent study of mindfulness for tobacco cessation published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence showed similar results.  Participants who smoked half a pack per day were randomly assigned to group sessions with either mindfulness training or the standard quit smoking strategies. Thirty-one percent of those in the mindfulness group were smoke-free, compared to only six percent in the standard treatment group four months later.

Stress is a big trigger for cravings, but let’s not forget that stress can be caused by the nicotine levels in the body reaching a panic low soon after putting out that last cigarette. If you can let go of the craving, then your stress will dissolve and practicing mindfulness is the way to do that. Dr. Brewer would say: “It’s like weeds in your garden.  Standard treatments are like pulling the heads off the weeds, and they grow back.  These treatments don’t uproot the craving itself.  Mindfulness really gets in there and pulls up the roots.”

Use the RAIN acronym:

  • RECOGNIZE:  Recognize the craving for what it is. Take a moment when a craving comes on to really notice it. Relax and/or breathe into it. Be curious about why it’s shown up.
  • ACCEPT: Accept the feeling. Don’t ignore it, but rather use the 4D’s which are Delay, Distract, Drink Water and Deep Breathe to move past it.
  • IMPORTANCE: Rate each cigarette. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this smoke?  How badly do you need it?  Start eliminating smokes with a lower rating first.
  • NOTICE:  Notice what is happening:  Is there pressure, stress, dullness, or tightness in your body? Where does it live?  Who are you being when you smoke? Are you stressed to the max? Are you with a smoking buddy or all alone? Where are you? Ride out the sensation and it will weaken.  In fact, it takes longer to smoke a cigarette than for a craving to pass.

If you do light up a smoke, think about the chemicals entering your body.  Picture those chemicals landing in your lungs, or your heart, or your veins and arteries doing what they do when they arrive at those body parts.  (Not a pleasant visual is it, but that’s the point)

Stop everything you are doing when you smoke and be curious about what you really need at this moment.  Listen to your intuition because it’s quite likely there is something else you need.  What might it be?

Mindfulness can feel uncomfortable for a while, but in time there will be an overwhelming feeling of freedom from the control of the addiction that is smoking, and you will be more aware and intuitive of what makes you healthy and happy.  Cheers to your Mindfulness!

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