LOVE Not Smoking
Forget willpower and withdrawal and do something different
Natural Quit Smoking
Program recommended by The Share Guide
How come people carry on smoking when the costs clearly outweigh the benefits? Why do they get hooked? Because nicotine is a drug and, like many drugs, it is addictive. And the cigarette is an efficient nicotine delivery system. A single puff leads to swift absorption of nicotine into the bloodstream and the rapid transportation of a high concentration 'bolus' of nicotine to the brain by the arterial circulatory system. This stimulates the adrenal glands so the smoker gets a rush of epinephrine (adrenaline). As well as nicotine, thousands of toxic chemicals in tobacco--including arsenic and carbon monoxide, and the carcinogens benzo(a)pyrene, aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrosamines--enter the body. Some of these chemicals are also found in rat poison and the insecticide DDT. Hardly sounds irresistible, does it?
There's another powerful force at work, too. Nicotine also activates the reward pathways in the brain, releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine. Dopamine fuels the brain's reward system and lies behind all types of addictions, accounting for that buzz or high that many describe. Although its pleasure-giving qualities are undeniable, neuroscientists have recently been discovering that other neurochemical systems and brain circuits also play a role in nicotine addiction.
For a long time scientists have known that there is a 'pathway' in the brain behind everything we do, a set of interconnected brain cells that form a path along which messages travel. And the more they travel along it, the more that pathway gets hard-wired into the brain. We're excited by recent research which has shown that, at any age or stage of life, human beings can forge new brain pathways. The brain may have designated neural connections but they are not fixed at birth, nor are they necessarily with us for life. They can be modified and new ones can be formed. That's the key to change.
The upshot is this: not only does the brain affect what we do; what we do also affects the brain. And so, of course, when we Do Something Different, we get something different. That's why behavioural techniques are so incredibly effective and powerful. You may be addicted to nicotine, but your brain is far more addicted to life--or at least to all the sneaky, automatic rituals and routines that are hooked up to your smoking habit. The cup of coffee, the long drive, the telephone calls, the stressful conversation--all those well-established triggers.
The Love Not Smoking: Do Something Different programme we created to quitting smoking gives you new life habits that replace smoking, so of course they don't miss it. Positive addictions take over from the old ways. The ex-smokers have gained something, not had anything taken away. Crazy as it may seem, when a smoker's brain has been hijacked by nicotine, they convince themselves that the next cigarette is the high spot on their future horizon, the one pleasure they have to look forward to (even though the pleasure comes from relief of withdrawal from nicotine). It seems bizarre that anyone should eagerly anticipate something with potentially fatal consequences, but the habitual brain isn't always a rational one. And for some people, whose lives are deprived or unhappy, smoking is perceived as their 'one pleasure' and they use this false sense of entitlement to justify continuing.
The Do Something Different method isn't about giving up. It's about getting back. Getting back your self-control, your health, your money, your relationships and your life. More importantly, though, it doesn't force you to exercise your willpower or change your thinking; it targets your behaviour. In deciding to become a non-smoker you have already decided to change. You want a different future. But flexible behaviour is necessary for change and, unless you do something different, the present will become permanent.
Our approach targets two different aspects of your life:
1. Your general everyday life - the little routines and ways you go about doing things that seem to have nothing to do with smoking.
2. Your smoking behaviour specifically - the when, where and why of smoking.
This two-pronged attack is crucial because your smoking is tangled up with lots of other aspects of your life. You will have learned to associate many of the things that you do with smoking. That's why our programme aims to slowly undermine and then break those links, so you find it easier not to smoke.
Before you even give up cigarettes, you will start preparing by slowly and gently breaking up some of those old well-connected pathways. If you start disrupting the habit web in a diverse set of ways, when you come to quit, it will be so much easier. Nothing painful, nothing drastic, just juggling the synapses a bit.
You can start off with making some changes in a space at home (or work or even your car)--any place where you frequently smoke. It will become your first No-Smoking Zone. That starts to tackle one environmental trigger. While still smoking, you'll begin to learn how to split up events that were previously connected. So if you've always had a coffee and a cigarette, you can still have a coffee and a cigarette--just not at the same time. This process gradually chips away at the links in the chain of habits that condition you to light up.
Many quitting techniques appeal to the logical, conscious part of the brain. But the conscious part of the brain arrives too late at the scene of the crime to be of any help. Modern brain research shows it's at the unconscious, unthinking level that most of the dirty work is done. And that's where change has to be targeted.
Reams of scientific papers have attested to the weakness of willpower and the fact that it is a limited resource that is easily depleted and unsustainable. That's why our programme focuses on behaviour change, on doing something different rather than thinking something different. It's easier to change what you do than change what you think.
Don't look ahead too much, just take one day at a time. The daily tasks we recommend involve removing one or two incidental things that have become habits, trying new things and considering simple alternatives. Our research shows that habits are obstacles to people getting what they want because willpower is too weak to overcome them. Your subconscious mind has built up a whole host of different associations that have led it to expect nicotine at particular times, or in specific contexts or locations. Doing something different breaks the chains of habits and extinguishes the cues that have conditioned you to smoke. Nicotine isn't the only enemy within; there's inertia, too.
Cognitive capacity is freed up by automatic-ness; that's what makes us multitasking, thinking human beings. But sometimes, when we want to change behaviour, we need to force some of those automatic habits into conscious awareness. Once we're aware of them, we can try to redirect ourselves down a different pathway. So instead of automatically smoking, learn how to divert yourself down a different, smoke-free pathway. And with time that new pathway will become the default, making the old one redundant. That's what doing something different helps you to do.
Adapted with permission from Love Not Smoking ©2011 by Karen Pine and Ben Fletcher, published by Hay House, Carlsbad, CA. Available in stores or visit www.hayhouse.com
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