The first thing people ask is whether it really is possible to quit smoking without using willpower or mentally beating themselves up by reminding themselves of all the bad things they are inhaling. The answer is yes, it is possible. Contrary to popular belief, you are actually not as addicted to smoking, as you are to the emotions that are involved in the act and ritual of smoking. This is the same reason why all those tobacco substitution products most often do not work to create permanent change.
Let’s start by looking at how the mind works. We experience the world through our five senses being visual, auditory, touch, taste and smell. As we experience an event, the amount of data is too much to be useful. So, our minds filter it to enable us to focus on extracting meaning. We do this by distorting, generalising and deleting the information we take in. Based on these filters we then develop an internal emotional state-of-being, which is positive, neutral or negative. From this state, we are driven to behave in a particular way that will benefit us. With smoking, this could be having a cigarette to relieve stress, counter nervousness or increase confidence. It is sometimes a difficult concept to grasp but all behaviours, however bad, are motivated by a good intention for the person doing them.
From our external behaviour, we then get a result which influences our comprehension and from that, we start to construct even more unconscious filters in the form of values, beliefs, reactions, identity, personality, culture and so on. Once those are formed, our five senses then come back into play and through a further filtering process called the Reticular Activating System, we then start experiencing evidence that backs up our beliefs and values, deepening the pattern of our thinking.
These patterns that make up our unconscious programmes begin to form from pre-birth, as soon as our sensory organs have developed. By understanding the structure of these programmes, I then work with clients on any aspect of their programme that is stopping them from achieving their goals.
The majority of unconscious programmes are dependent on events that were experienced before the age of seven years old. This is because our conscious mind is only fully developed by then. It is fascinating to think that the seeds of our adult behaviours beliefs are sown long so early in childhood.
The interesting thing with smoking, is that it is a behaviour that is picked up much later in life, typically when a child hits puberty. A recent survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students in the US between 2011 and 2015 stated that 46% of high school student had tried a tobacco product. In the same survey, 90% of cigarette smokers started before the age of 18 years and 99% before the age of 26 years.
This is great news for those wanting to quit. Most smokers can pinpoint their first experience and bring up the emotions of that time. Once recognised, we work on disconnecting the emotions from the cigarette and you are finally able to experience a cigarette for the chemicals it contains. Just like a non-smoker would if they were trying to smoke. Quitting becomes the result of eliminating the emotional drivers without the need for willpower or tobacco replacement products.
However, victory does not come easily without preparation. Whether you choose to quit using willpower or with professional support, here are five simple steps to help increase your success.
- Book a day in the diary that you commit to as your stop smoking day.
- To boost motivation, list all the reasons you can think of for wanting to stop. The rank them in order of what is the most important to you. Refer back as necessary.
- The list all the immediate benefits that you will appreciate once you have stopped. Again, rank them in order of what is most important. Refer back as necessary.
- Spend a week or two before that day journaling your emotions just before each cigarette. This develops your emotional intelligence through being mindfully aware of every cigarette you smoke, your emotions and the kind of events that could be triggers.
- Once you recognise the emotional needs that are driving you to smoke, you can start planning how you can meet those needs with alternative activities. Think mind, body and soul. What are you going to do instead?
Rania Laing is an ICF Certified Professional Coach, NLP Practitioner and Clinical Hypnotherapist with The Change Associates. Visit www.changeassociates.ae