Cigarette smoking is a personal choice. However, if you are considering stopping smoking, you may already realize that quitting requires more than willpower, reading scary statistics, or in some cases even direct recommendations of you physician. When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, she was confident that chemotherapy will essential stop her from having a cigarette. But, that smoking slow-down has not last for long. Obviously, there are some very powerful reasons for maintaining the dangerous habits, even in the cases, when your body gives you straightforward signals that it is time to quit.
Yes, there is pure drug addiction which even the strongest tobacco supporters cannot ignore. But this explanation is clearly insufficient to understand the self-destruction behavior of smoking cigarettes. In one of our previous publications we posted interesting article posted by famous psychologist and tobacco advocate Ernest Dichter in 1947. But, scientific research in the last 50 plus years revealed the danger in much more details. But, you still smoke, no matter what.
So, before engaging in the stop smoking process, we need to analyze our habits and mind frame to identify the important conscious and subconscious motivations of why you started smoking and why we choose to continue smoke. By understanding those real reasons, may be you will be able to generate an effective personalized stop smoking plan that incorporates new strategies of coping and dealing with life.
1. Smoking Is a Lifestyle Coping Tool
For many people, smoking is a reliable lifestyle coping tool. Although every person’s specific reasons to smoke are unique, they all share a common theme. Smoking is used as a way to suppress uncomfortable feelings, and smoking is used to alleviate stress, calm nerves, and relax. No wonder that when you are deprived of smoking, your mind and body are unsettled for a little while.
Below is a list of some positive intentions often associated with smoking. Knowing why you smoke is one of the first steps towards quitting. Check any and all that apply to you.
___ Coping with anger, stress, anxiety, tiredness, or sadness.
___ Smoking is pleasant and relaxing.
___ Smoking is stimulating.
___ Acceptance – being part of a group.
___ Good way of socializing and communicating.
___ Provides support when things go wrong.
___ A way to look confident and in control.
___ Keeps weight down.
___ Rebellion – defining self as different or unique from a group.
___ A reminder to breathe.
___ Something to do with your mouth and hands.
___ Shutting out stimuli from the outside world.
___ Shutting out emotions from the inside world
___ Something to do just for you and nobody else.
___ A way to shift gears or changes states.
___ An way to feel confident.
___ A way to shut off distressing feelings.
___ A way to deal with stress or anxiety.
___ A way to get attention.
___ Marking the beginning or the end of something.
2. Smoking Tranquilizer
The habit of cigarette smoking is often used to tranquilize emotional issues like anxiety, stress, or low self-esteem. In addition, smoking provides comfort to people with conditions of chronic pain and depression. Smokers with emotional stress or chronic pain often turn to smoking as an attempt to treat their pain. For instance, they may use it to reduce anxiety, provide a sense of calmness and energy, and elevate their mood.
Some evidence does suggest that nicotine has some pain-relief benefits. Nicotine releases brain chemicals which soothe pain, heighten positive emotions, and creating a sense of reward. However, any benefit from smoking only eases the pain for a few minutes. Cigarettes contain many other chemicals shown to worsen healing ability of bone, tooth, and cartilage.
The mental association between smoking and pain relief can make quitting quite difficult, as can the increased short-term discomfort that quitting smoking adds to a person already suffering with chronic pain, depression, or emotional distress.
What are some effective ways for people with chronic pain – whether physical or emotional – to make the decision to quit smoking? First, evidence shows that in people who suffer chronic pain, smokers have more pain than nonsmokers do. Also, accept that smoking cessation may indeed make you feel worse in the short run, but may be key to regaining enough vitality to live fully with pain.
3. The Feel Good Syndrome
Smoking is a way to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions such as sadness, grief, and anxiety. It can hide apprehensions, fears, and pain. This is accomplished partly through the chemical effects of nicotine on the brain.
When smoking, the release of brain chemicals makes smokers feel like they are coping and dealing with life and stressful emotional situations. Nicotine brings up a level of good feelings. Cigarette smokers are aware when nicotine levels and good feelings begin to decrease, and light up quickly enough to stay in their personal comfort zone. However, they may not realize that avoiding their feelings is not the same as taking positive steps to create a life of greater potential and meaning.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that people suffering from nicotine withdrawal have increased aggression, anxiety, hostility, and anger. However, perhaps these emotional responses are due not to withdrawal, but due to an increased awareness of unresolved emotions. If smoking dulls emotions, logically quitting smoking allows awareness of those emotions to bubble up to the surface. If emotional issues aren’t resolved, a smoker may feel overwhelmed and eventually turn back to cigarettes to deal with the uncomfortable feelings.
4. Smoking Makes You Feel Calm and Alive
Smokers often say that lighting up a cigarette can calm their nerves, satisfy their cravings, and help them feel energized. Indeed, nicotine in tobacco joins on to receptors in your brain that release “feel good” chemicals that can make you feel calm and energized all at once. Smoking acts as a drug, inducing a feeling of well-being with each puff. But, it’s a phony sense of well-being that never produces a permanent satisfying or fulfilling result. Smoking lures you into believing that you can escape some underlying truth or reality. However, smoking doesn’t allow you to actually transform your day-to-day life and live connected to your deeper hopes and dreams.
Instead, when you smoke, the carbon monoxide in the smoke bonds to your red blood cells, taking up the spaces where oxygen needs to bond. This makes you less able to take in the deep, oxygen-filled breath needed to bring you life, to activate new energy, to allow health and healing, or bring creative insight into your problems and issues.
5. Smoking Helps to get Focused and Alert
You would not probably find any work places, where you can smoke at your office table. But, there are many devoted smokers who would claim that smokeless work is significantly less productive than the work, associated with non-stop chain smoking. Partially, it is your addiction says that, and partially it may be caused by the therapeutic characteristics of nicotine. Nicotine indeed has some positive effects on the thinking process, but it is quite short, and relapse is quite severe, impacting negatively your brain performance. Nicotine reaches the brain ten seconds after the smoke is inhaled and remains active for 20-40 minutes. After reaching, nicotine affects, changes and controls the specialized receptor cells (responsible for regulating the well-being, mood and memory) in the brain. This, in turn, changes the chemistry of the brain, which finally affects the smoker’s mood and concentration.
Yes, nicotine by itself may be quite useful. One recent study has found that one of nicotine's metabolites, cotinine, may improve memory and protect brain cells from diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Another new study shows that nicotine can help improve some of the learning and memory problems associated with hypothyroidism.
However, the cigarette tobacco does not contain pure nicotine. The tar and additives are responsible for most of the negative health effects associated with smoking cigarettes.
6. You Are In The Midst Of Transition
If you previously quit smoking, and then resumed the habit once again, consider the idea that perhaps you are in the midst of some “growing pains.” Perhaps you were feeling dissatisfied, restless, ready to change, but then felt the fear that change often ignites. Growing spiritually, emotionally, and physically brings with it the experience of discomfort. Old beliefs rise up, creating sensations of hurt, pain, sadness, anxiety, and uneasiness.
By taking up the habit if smoking again, those uncomfortable feels are soothed. However, smoking also brings an abrupt halt to personal transformation and the evolution of self. Although painful, these feelings are necessary in your personal development. Learning to accept feelings in a new way can help lead you out of disempowering or limiting beliefs, and into a life filled with greater happiness, satisfaction, contentment, or purpose. When you stop smoking and start breathing – conscious, deep, smoke-free, oxygen-filled breaths – your evolution will start up once again.
Why Do You Smoke?
If you smoke, then you do so because the act of smoking is personally meaningful to you. Therefore, if you are considering quitting, take some time and explore the reasons underlying your decision to smoke. Become interested, observe yourself, and get curious. Allow yourself an opportunity to turn into a smoking undercover investigator, ready to uncover an intriguing mystery. Before lighting up your next cigarette, while you are smoking, and right as you put that cigarette out, ask yourself:
What positive functions do I believe smoking provides me?
- How will smoking help or change the situation?
- What situations make me smoke the most?
- What emotions or feelings am I trying to avoid or deny?
- If I didn’t smoke right now, what would I feel? How would I handle that feeling?
- What would I do with the energy that is freed up from smoking cessation?
Tobacco smoke is dual acting, and can be used as a stimulant or sedative, it can alert or soothe. It is also a mild hypnotic substance, when life gets viewed through rose colored glasses, including a smoking habit/addiction.
Smoking cigarettes delivers nicotine and other numerous drugs present in tobacco, plus an unhealthy dose of toxins direct, via the lungs into the blood system and hence to the brain which eagerly mops up the nicotine with its nicotinic receptors, which activates the dopamine reward system. It then comes to rely upon the nicotine for this continued stimulation and does not want you to stop. The rebalancing systems in the body react over time to this increase by cutting down the number of receptors, the brain responds by upping the demand for more cigarettes...eventually spiraling out of control into a full blown cigarette addiction...
The most important factor in stopping smoking is a genuine desire to stop smoking. You were not a born smoker; it’s something you learned to do. Learning new ways of coping with stress is possible, as is learning new ways to relax and raise confidence levels. Use the reasons presented above as clues to uncover the underlying reasons why you smoke. Then, in addition to making a firm decision to stop smoking, also make a firm plan to address your underlying needs. You’re not only kicking the habit, you’re also creating a new balance with your body, mind, and self!
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