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Conquering Tobacco Addiction: Easy Behaviors That Help

Posted by on December 18, 2013 . 0 Comments.

If you enjoy smoking, you probably know that breaking the addiction will require the ability to resist the pleasure of smoking. But how do you accomplish this?

Maybe you’ve memorized statistics on how bad smoking is for your health, and you’re fully aware of its effect on your family.  But, how can you take control?

Just thinking about having a cigarette triggers many emotions—and you don’t know how to break the cravings. You’re hooked, and you don’t like it.

Smoking cessation instructions at specific VA Medical Centers and other workplaces have some of the answers.  Instructors for these types of smoking cessation classes help participants change the ritual of smoking. Their belief is that the smell of the tobacco, the cup of coffee consumed while smoking, or the comfortable chair used for smoking all play into the addiction.

One such class, taught at the VA Medical Center in Johnson City, Tennessee, has a high success rate of quitting. In addition, participants have a good rate of continued success.

The principles taught in the class include the following:

·        Changing one step at a time breaks the pleasure cycle. For example, students of the program are taught to smoke left-handed if they typically smoke right-handed. If they usually smoke sitting down, they are asked to smoke only while standing up.


·        The ritual of smoking is the key underlying addiction. While the chemicals, especially nicotine, in cigarettes set up chemical cravings, there’s no real market for nicotine pills.  If nicotine were such a pleasurable drug, it would be extremely valuable on the market. This is, of course, not the case.


·        Making up one’s mind to alter the ritual is the secret of long-term success. The class at the VA Medical Centers, which teach the smoking cessation method of switching to new behaviors while you smoke, has a success rate of cessation of 60% in the near-term and about 30% long-term.

While none of us can willfully change our moods and our cravings, we all have control over small behaviors that relate to those moods or cravings. Every smoker has the willpower to slowly make changes in the smoking routine without a great deal of discomfort.  In short, this is doable for everyone.

Why Rituals Bring Comfort

Every person has specific, comforting routines he or she practices. For instance, sitting down to read the newspaper after dinner is a common comforting ritual. Listening to music or walking the family dog can bring comfort to one’s emotions as well.

By practicing several rituals and routines that make us feel good, we can increase our emotional well-being to the point that we don’t intensely crave good feelings induced by smoking. For example, exercising, cooking, dancing, or going to the movies make many people feel more harmonious. Filling up one’s emotional bank account with these kinds of activities helps ensure smoking isn’t the only source of good feelings.

Also, due to the fact that smoking tends to take up lots of time in one’s day, smokers often forego other productive, healthy rituals. They spend excessive time, money, and energy on smoking. By changing or adding desirable activities on purpose, you can regain power over your emotions—thus disengaging from the desire to gain pleasure primarily from tobacco.

If you think about your desire to smoke, you’ll figure out pretty quickly why it feels good. You might use smoking as a way to gain “private time” away from the family.  For example, you might take a walk out in the yard away from others to smoke, look up at the stars, and think about your plans and dreams.

In order to remove smoking from the equation, you will need to be aware of your underlying needs—the need for time alone, the need for quietness and introspection, the need to have a calm atmosphere where you can reflect on your goals and dreams. Acknowledging your true needs will help you lessen the cravings of having those unmet needs soothed by smoking. You can look for other ways to experience good feelings and personal comfort.

The Power of Healthy Behaviors

All of our behaviors are deeply rooted in habits. Most of us can picture how we will approach a typical day if nothing unusual happens.  If you arise at 6 a.m., shower by 6:30, dress and head off to work at 7, you are likely to keep up this particular routine if it works every day. The reason you follow these habits and pattern of doing specific things is that you arrive at work on time. You’ve learned what works to ensure you stay employed.

In order to alter behaviors that exacerbate smoking—those behaviors that hold you captive to a cycle of smoking—you will need to substitute new actions for those behaviors. How? You’ll need to form new habits. Once you understand how powerful new habits are, you won’t mind the discomfort of gaining them.

It’s important to stick with a new habit for a month in order to adapt to it. For example, you will need to consciously switch to left-hand smoking after lighting the cigarette with your right hand. If the phone rings, you may be tempted to switch the phone to your left ear and the cigarette to your right hand. You’ll be back to square one.

As you can see, it takes real self-awareness to work on a new habit. You are breaking the memory of what feels good to you in your brain. You are forcing your body to cooperate. But, in reality, how difficult can this small behavior change really be? As the pleasure of smoking goes down, your willpower to quit should go up.

New Rituals and Healthy Activities

Don’t overwhelm yourself with changes, but do begin to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into smoking cessation. If you can’t bring yourself to ride a stationary bike for half an hour, try riding it for 15 minutes while you watch the news in the morning. Ride another 15 minutes later in the day.

In addition to riding the stationary bike twice a day for a total of 30 minutes, you can take a 15-minute walk before dinner.  Stick with these changes until they become part of your normal routine.

Part of breaking the cycle of smoking is thinking about how to use your time more wisely. If you’re focused on eating healthier, exercising, and staying busy through volunteering or coaching your child’s ball team, you’ll take back the time frames you’ve devoted to tobacco.

Take a step back to evaluate how you’re spending your time. If you smoke two packs of cigarettes each day, you’re using precious time that will amount to hours every day. Deciding to work on your health versus harming it, you can reinvest that time. Planning how to take that control will make you feel empowered to stop giving tobacco rein over your life.

If you don’t have the willpower to quit instantly—as some individuals do—you can alter your habits and smoking routine to find pleasure in many more areas and decrease the pleasure of smoking.  You’ll learn a lot about yourself and what you value when you do this.

Your emotional feelings toward smoking should change. By redirecting your attention to healthy living and taking the fun out of smoking (which might typically involve smoking comfortably while having a drink and watching TV), you can change the smoking ritual to a more awkward routine (standing, smoking left-handed, no drink in hand).

These behavioral changes will help ensure you conquer smoking cessation. Your addiction should start to lose its hold over you.

Last update: January 30, 2014


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