Breaking the habit of smoking, getting off the addiction to nicotine, was one of the more difficult challenges in my life. In time, I devised a way based on a little psychology, some yogic breathing exercises, a bit of physiological knowledge and a little perseverance that actually worked. I’ve used it to help many friends stop smoking over the years, and now I’d like to pass it on to all those out there who honestly desire to quit but find it difficult. You don’t need ‘patches’ or any other external devices. Just practice the following on a consistent basis and you’ll soon find yourself breathing cleanly and easily without that awful taste in your mouth and that smell hanging from your clothes.
First a bit of general information. There are two stages to the cessation of the smoking habit. First, comes the physical withdrawal, then the ‘mental’ withdrawal. The first is intensely physical, the second, much more subtly psychological. In the first stage, which takes three or four days of not smoking, you begin to feel more lively, clean, fresh and energized. You’ll feel great, if a little antsy’ with additional energy. That’s great, no problem. But then your mind will begin to tell you that you’ve won, you’ve got it under control, so it really doesn’t matter if you have just one smoke, especially if you’re at a party where smoking is going on and you’ve had a few drinks. Don’t listen to your mind. Tell it to go play its game somewhere else. One toke and you’ve lost and must start all over again. That’s the second stage of the game. The first stage is difficult physically, the second psychologically.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s the simple formula of how you can kick the habit, clean up your lungs, improve your health considerably and have a fresh, more confident perspective on life. Remember, I did it successfully and so too have many of my friends using this technique, so…so can you.
When you feel the urge for a smoke, go outside or somewhere peaceful and breathe deeply and slowly for several minutes or until you feel clear and energized, but calm inside. Usually better to stand straight up while doing this so your lungs have plenty of room inside to expand. Take one deep breath, filling your lungs to their deepest capacity, hold that breath for a count of ten, then so slowly you can barely hear the air coming out, exhale through your nose until your lungs are empty. Do this several times at least or until you feel totally calm inside, which you will if you practice breathing in this way. Stand there afterward just feeling the peace inside you. If thoughts of smoking enter your mind, take another deep breath, hold, then exhale slowly. Let those thoughts, and all thoughts come and go like wavelets flowing down a river. Picture in your mind a setting that is very peaceful for you and stay with it for awhile. Afterward, perhaps take a walk, or do something else physically active you enjoy, if just for a few minutes. O.K. now you’ve had your ‘fix’ and you can go back to doing what you were doing before. Why does this work so well? Read on.
Here’s what’s happening inside you that will quench the desire for a smoke. Breathing deeply and then holding your breath does two things. First, it fills your lungs and bloodstream, thus the brain as well with an increase of oxygen which clarifies your mind, making you feel stronger mentally, thus helping to increase your resolve. Second, it breaks loose tiny bits of nicotine embedded in your lungs from previous ‘smokes’ which then enter your blood stream and fill those neuro-receptors in your brain from which the urge to smoke comes. This gives you a bit of the ‘fix’ your body and mind are calling for. As time goes on your lungs become cleaner and the amount of nicotine breaking off due to the deep breathing exercises becomes less and less, allowing you to go through a natural, slow physical withdrawal from nicotine. This in turn allows the body time to reinstitute the manufacture of the hormone Acetylcholine, which naturally fills the receptors that had been taken over by nicotine. Acetylcholine is highly important in many of the physical and emotional ‘actions’ in the body, thus during the physiological transformation away from nicotine and back to the natural neuro-hormone Acetylcholine you may experience a few behavioral transformations as well, but they are good transformations so don’t worry about them. Even though this physical process of ‘withdrawal’ can be rather intense, it usually takes less than a week, so hang in there.
The psychological aspect is tough in a different way. It is very subtle and still has within it an oral ‘need’ it wants to satisfy, thus the tendency by many to start eating obsessively to satisfy that oral ‘fix’ that had been filled with smoking. When you begin to feel ‘antsy’ inside like you need to consume, do something physically active, something you enjoy doing, jogging, fast walking, any sport, working in your garden, whatever. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it uses up that excess energy you suddenly find inside. It is important to do something that is conveniently available. If you must travel twenty minutes to get to your ‘workout’ venue, it’s probably not what you’re looking for to fill this need.
And that’s it. I know this breathing technique just seems too simple to work, but those things that work best are simple. Just take control of yourself and whenever you feel the need for a smoke, practice this simple technique. If you’re at a business meeting, excuse yourself for a few minutes and go outside or the restroom and breathe. Then go back in a more relaxed state and continue whatever you were doing with a much clearer state of mind and in a more relaxed state of awareness. Believe me, you will be much more successful in your endeavors by taking time out to practice breathing, especially in the first week or so of quitting this totally unnecessary, self-destructive (physically and socially) habit.
Now the most important part if want to succeed long-term. You must change your lifestyle. A smoker’s life tends to focus around smoking. You get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee (a stimulant) and a cigarette. The caffeine stimulates you and the nicotine does so as well…initially. But then the lack of oxygen getting into your lungs acts as a depressant, so you need another cup of coffee, and since they go together as part of your habit, another cigarette.
Alcohol is another ‘partner’ to nicotine. Alcohol gives you a false sense of confidence, making you think you are in control, when actually it weakens your resolve and will-power. I stopped smoking for two years (when I was young, after being hooked on it through second-hand smoke) went out drinking with friends one evening, had one cigarette for ‘old time’s sake’, then another and another. The next morning, I was at the cigarette machine again and it took another year before I stopped for good (thank heavens!). Stopping smoking means stopping those things that you have always associated with smoking. Instead of having that cup of coffee in the morning (which isn’t good for your health, anyway) take a brisk walk outside. Breathe deeply of the fresh morning air, cleansing your lungs and filling your brain with clarifying oxygen which increases your will-power. Then, come back home and have a light, healthy breakfast, tossing in a smoothie while you’re at it. Do the same in the evening before and/or after dinner (which has always been a prime time for a ‘nicotine fix’). Bottom line stop doing those things and consuming those things you associate with cigarettes and fill those voids with healthy, constructive behavior.
The Social Aspect
Now, for the social aspect. Smoking is a culture or a cult if you will. People who smoke tend to group together, reinforcing, rationalizing and validating their habit. If you hang around people who smoke, chances are you are going to start smoking again. If the second-hand smoke doesn’t get you, peer-group pressure and your own still present desire will soon see you asking for a hit. Don’t do it. This is a recipe for failure. I know your friends are dear to you, and as such the best thing you can do is persuade them to stop smoking or at least not smoke around you. (If you do, you’ll soon find out which is more important to your friend/s, your friendship or nicotine.)
If you can get them to jump off the smoking wagon as well, you will be creating a group effort where you and your friends help each other to better yourselves, become healthier, more resolved, with stronger will-power and smell better all at the same time. However, if it turns out that nicotine is more important than your friendship, it might be interesting and very helpful to your stop-smoking campaign if you were to start moving in different social circles, ones with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health as their primary focus instead of weak-willed indulgence in harmful behaviors. Hanging out with people who help and encourage your desire to be healthy and in control is one of the most important aspects of successfully becoming a permanent non-smoker. This not to mention the fact that you will be expanding your social circles and social life toward greater fun and enjoyment. All of this may mean losing, if only for awhile some of those erstwhile smoking friends whom you can only look back upon with sympathy and understanding, your love for them still expanding, yet still determined to blaze your own path in life toward the enchantment of freedom to be as you wish to be.
I wish you the best of resolve. May the world become nicotine-free for it’s helping no one and destroying many. Please feel free to pass this message along.
And if you would like to read in a little more depth of how nicotine violates you mentally, emotionally and physically, as well as links to other sources of information please click the following link.
If you would like to learn some simple meditation techniques which might also help you to succeed in your endeavors, click on the link to Candle Meditationor River Meditation at this website.
For further insights into the 'self' and self-actualization see my forthcoming books Freedom: What it is and how to achieve it, Book 1, Freedom and Self, & Book 2, Freedom and The Ecology of Relationship, due to be published in July of 2019.