One of my students who regularly attends yoga classes recently asked me about using Yoga and Meditation to stop smoking. Although Yoga and Meditation can help us overcome bad habits and replace them with good ones, there needs to be an approach that works both on and off the mat. There is a myriad of information online to help people quit, however there aren’t many personal stories of what people found useful and triumphs.
Quitting smoking – A how to guide.
There are many resources to help us quit smoking. However, a lot of them don’t seem to help us kick the habit long term. In this article, we examine some of the quitting techniques people use. We also interviewed and asked people in the process of quitting what they find useful in aiding their smoking cessation.
– Struggling to stop smoking –
Many people lead a healthy life in many ways, but struggle to kick the habit and quit smoking.
This is an issue for many people, from lecturers at university, accident and emergency doctors, yoga teachers to fitness instructors. Many who are fit and healthy in many ways still struggle to kick nicotine to the kerb. Many struggle when having an alcoholic drink, or a night out.
– Why do people struggle to stop smoking? –
I spoke to one of my friends about the issue. She was a dedicated Yogi, getting up at 6:00am to start her Ashtanga Yoga practice. Skipping social events and nights out to be a good dedicated practitioner. However, she was still struggling to stop smoking. She could go cold turkey for two or three days , then would find herself having secret cigarettes again on her balcony.
She was feeling, guilty disappointed in herself and giving herself a really hard time. According to her, smoking was the only vice left to kick, but the most challenging. She was unhappy with herself. She often stated she did not enjoy smoking anymore or the anxious feelings she would get after having a cigarette. However, nicotine still had a hold over her.
– The Science behind Nicotine Addiction –
Why was she struggling so much? The reason – nicotine dependence.
As we can see from the diagram, smokers have lots of nicotine receptors in our brains. There can be hundreds to thousands of these receptors scattered through the mind. When these receptors are supplied with a nicotine hit, they respond by releasing dopamine to the body. Conversely, when we don’t smoke, these receptors crave nicotine, which causes the symptoms that people report when trying to stop smoking. The more we smoke, the more of these receptors we have. The receptors can take up to 6 weeks to start to dissipate after we stop smoking. totally freeing the mind of them can take months or years.
Now My friend is determined to call herself an ex-smoker; it’s been quite a while since her last cigarette. Although she still has her struggles, her mindset has totally changed. She has put a lot of time and effort into re-programming her mind and body through:
- A devoted and regular meditation practice
- Devotion to her Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga practice
- Focusing on healthy and nutritious food
- Drinking two litres of water a day
- Being aware to avoid ‘triggers‘
This approach is do-able but takes strong will power. There are lots of resources to try when trying to stop smoking and unfortunately not one size fits all. It will be a hard slog of trial and error to see what works for you.
Would you like to stop smoking? Here are some pointers that helped people when quitting once and for all…
– Download a Stop Smoking App –
Smoking apps are brilliant. They have a lot of information to help keep you informed on things such as:
- Money saved
- Health improvements
- Cigarettes passed
- Time stopped smoking
A lot of smokers find these a really useful tool to help focus the mind. The Easy Quit Smoking App is free to download and has helped many smokers stay quit.
– Read Allen Carr’s ‘ The Easy Way to Stop Smoking’ –
Allen’s book has helped many people to quit smoking and stay quit. He used to be a heavy smoker for decades and talks openly and candidly about his struggles and how he came to quit. Many people state they smoked whilst reading the book, but when they finished it they didn’t smoke again. Would it work for you? One way to find out!
– Cravings –
Cravings can send the most calm person reaching for another nicotine hit. When we try to stop smoking, cravings can drive us up the wall. They are very unpleasant sensations that make us feel like we need a cigarette. The mental unease it causes can make us reach for a tab, unless we focus our mind on the reason we wish to stop smoking. There is a lot of evidence that suggests cravings last for no longer than three minutes. Once people learn this, it makes it so much easier to ride out craving. Just focus the mind on something else and it will pass.
– A Reason to Stop Smoking –
One great tip in the journey to quit smoking: focus on a reason to quit that is greater than your craving to smoke.
There are many reasons, such as:
- Improving our health – Breathing better, better circulation, hair, skin, nails etc
- Not smelling of smoke at work, or around our partner, for example.
- Improving lung capacity for sports and activities.
- Saving money (smoking is an expensive habit, especially in the UK!)
Find a reason that top trumps the reasons you feel you need to smoke. Make a comprehensive list and keep it around. When you get a craving, look at it. Remember the reasons that outweigh the need to smoke when times get tough.
– Avoid Triggers to help you Stop Smoking –
Are you aware of what triggers you to smoke? Know your triggers and avoid them as much as you can. Certain social situations, daily habits, routines, friendships, smells and even coffee can trigger a craving.
Get togethers where people are smoking and drinking can also trigger cravings. If you keep a record and monitor what causes cravings, you can plan ways to avoid these situations whilst you focus on quitting.
– Will Power is needed to Stop Smoking –
We can read all the literature, come up with an epic game plan and have all the resources at hand. However, if we don’t have will power, we will struggle to quit. Will power is a necessity in the battle to stop smoking.
– Remove Yourself From Situations Where You May Smoke –
Drinking alcohol, social situations and stressful situations can cause craving and relapses. If you keep track of situations where you may smoke and do something else instead, this will really help you keep on track.
If you are doing well in your journey to quit smoking, the last thing you want to do is relapse. Stay strong!
– Drink at least two litres of water a day –
A wonderful tip to consider when quitting smoking is to always have a bottle of water on your person. When you feel a craving coming on, drink water! It really helps soothe the nervous system and calm the mind. Drinking water really helps cravings to pass quickly, plus it keeps us hydrated!
– Dispose of All Cigarettes & Lighters –
Getting rid of all smoking paraphernalia, as well as any remaining cigarettes, can help you to quit. You cannot be tempted to have ‘just one more’ when you have cravings, unless you drive to a store to buy some. Hopefully by this point, your cravings will have passed.
– Give up Alcohol –
For many smokers, ex smokers and those trying to quit, alcohol and cigarettes go together like peas in a pod.
Many cannot enjoy a drink without smoking. A lot of people have this experience, so if you feel this way you aren’t alone.. There are many benefits of giving up alcohol, so it might be something to reduce the intake of whilst quitting. Many people ntroduced alcohol back into their lives la few months after quitting and remained smoke free.
– Focus on fitness and nutrition –
When you smoke, nicotine receptors release endorphins into the body. When we exercise, the body also release endorphins. Other feel good hormones are also released that help you relax. This means you’re less likely to smoke. Eating healthy and avoiding coffee, alcohol and other things likely to cause cravings mean you are more likely to stay quit.
I’m fond of the phrase: ‘We are what we eat’. Our body and mind use vitamins, minerals , proteins, carbohydrates and other compounds from our food to construct our cells, tissues, bones, mind and body. Our food enables us to re-build our bodies from a cellular level. Not only is what we eat inportant for out physical health, it is important for our mental health and to help us battle cravings. When we have a consistently healthy diet, we have usually do not to want to un-do the hard work. This is why focusing on health and nutrition can be a wonderful tool in smoking cessation.
yoga and meditation can help with this. As well as being good for the physical body, yoga and meditation really help calm, still and focus the mind. This helps to reduce cravings, as well as the intensity of cravings.
Breathing really helps soothe the nervous system. When cravings strike, focus on calming the breath and lengthening the outbreath. This helps turn off the body’s fight or flight mode and helps the nervous system to return to a state of relaxation.
– Research : What does smoking do to your body and mind? –
A quick google search can reveal to you what happens to your mind and body when you smoke. It causes changes your brain chemistry that can take months or even to reverse. Smoking damages your lungs and when you smoke, you arepoisoning yourself with carbon monoxide. Also, it causes your muscles and organs to not function to the best of their ability.
Its worth noting the effects smoking has and how detrimental it is to your physical and mental wellbeing. Also researching the benefits of stopping smoking and the timelines of how health improves when we stop is beneficial.
The tobacco in one cigarette causes upto 10,000 DNA mutations, that thought should be enough to help us start to progress on our quitting journey.
– Tell Friends & Family –
Tell people, especially non-smokers and ex-smokers. They will happily support you and do social things where smoking will not be on other peoples agenda. Its also good to have people to talk to when cravings become unbearable. Its also good to have people to cheer you on when things are good!
– Sleep Hypnosis & Guided Meditations –
There are some wonderful Sleep hypnosis and guided meditation resources on Youtube. Listening to these recordings before bed, during sleep or when meditating during the day.
These resources are free through YouTube and they are a really good way of keeping cravings at bay!
I would recommend Michael Sealeys short guided meditation and sleep hypnosis to stop smoking by Thomas Hall.
Meditation and deep relaxation is a wonderful way to still the mind and calm the nervous system, which helps reduce cravings and their intensity.
– Be gentle to yourself –
Many people relapse before quitting fully. Please don’t be too hard on yourself if you find you relapse. It is all part of the process. Make sure to give yourself time to adjust and do things that are relaxing for the mind.
Spend time in nature, have a long bath, buy a new book. All of these things will help you in your quitting journey.
Are you quitting smoking at the moment? Would you like to quit? Are you an ex smoker now? Can you think of any other tips or pointers to quit smoking cigarettes?
I’d love to hear from you!
Peace and Love… Aimee Lou
About The author:
Aimee is a Yoga, Meditation and Move It or Lose It! teacher in located in Middlesbrough, England, UK.
To find out more, visit www.amalateesside.com