Hypnosis is the most effective way of giving up smoking, according to the largest ever scientific comparison of ways of breaking the habit. Willpower, it turns out, counts for very little.
Quitting or stopping smoking has been a huge struggle for many people for years. And there are several major hurdles to beat. But unfortunately for smokers the only problems they foresee and try to beat are their nicotine addiction and the withdrawal symptoms that follow.
But there are several other major barriers to quitting smoking, they include weight gain, a fear that people will no longer be able to enjoy their lives without cigarettes, the fear that it is going to be difficult, the fear that they will not be able to tackle life's problems without cigarettes and the mental associations smokers have.
These factors are largely ignored. This is mainly down to lack of understanding, lack of preparation and a lack of know how. The main problem is that smokers and experts alike fail to realise how big a role the mind plays in a smoker's life and his smoking activities.
When a smoker started smoking, it was for a reason -- to fit in, rebel, deal with a difficult problem, cover up an insecurity, impress a sibling or friend etc. And unbeknown to them that reason for smoking still exists, but deep in the back of their mind. They also have several other reasons for smoking, known as Smoking Links. That is, a link to a certain place, group of people, time, location, emotion, event or situation amongst others.
This is where the mind plays a huge role -- it is the mind that has tied any of the above situations and many more, to a cigarette. So now whenever a smokers wakes up, drives to work, is about to get on a long haul flight or is about to meet their partner's parents for the first time, they light a cigarette. It is called a learned response -- after years of repetition the mind has now taken over and makes each smoker reach for a cigarette without thinking about it -- it's automatic.
So when people stop smoking they are bound to encounter these types of situations or times again. The mind then does what it has been trained to do for years -- it thinks about a cigarette -- it has been taught to do so and now does it on cue.
So the mind has a huge role to play in smoking and smokers' addiction. Smokers have taught their mind to think about smoking in certain situations. But the mind can also be taught to remove those associations.
With the help of hypnosis smokers can reach the part of the mind that controls smoking -- the subconscious, and allow it to once again cooperate with the conscious mind's desire to stop smoking.
Our mind works much like a computer -- in that we have programmes that decide what we do, when we do it and how we do it. These programmes can also be referred to as software. Some of the software is essential for us to 'work.'
For example, a computer needs an operating system to function. In a similar way humans need an operating system -- this is controlled by our subconscious mind. These pieces of software include our breathing, operation of our Central Nervous System, our heartbeat and blood circulation, the need to sleep, our digestive system and the operation of our bowels.
These pieces of software work automatically without us having to think about it -- we don't think about our breathing or heartbeat -- they happen automatically. These programmes or pieces of software are known as on-board programmes -- they were with us when we were born.
But we all have many pieces of installed software. On a computer that can be things like MS Word, Excel, Publisher, Outlook, Macromeadia Dreamweaver, Online Poker, Calculator, and internet explorer -- all programmes that aren't essential for the computer to work. But when installed allow that individual computer to perform different tasks or skills independently of each other.
The software programmes on our minds were installed or learned as well. For example, throughout our lives we have all learned different skills that allow or make us do what we do. First it was crawling, walking, talking, writing, tying our laces. Then when we got older we learned to ride a bike, drive a car, shuffle a pack of cards, throw a ball, juggle, cook, send an email and draw.
Again these are programmes that we have taught ourselves, and after some repetition and practice they now occur automatically. When we are driving we don't think, red traffic light: ok foot off the accelerator and onto brake, check mirror, back into first gear, handbrake. This sequence happens on it's own -- we taught ourselves to do this.
Smoking is exactly the same -- it is a programme on people's minds. It happens automatically. Smokers know this is true because every smoker without exception knows that he/she has found a cigarette in their hand without remembering lighting it or thinking about it. It is now automatic -- a learned response to a certain situation or event.
The role hypnosis plays in stopping smoking is key. It helps smokers access the part of their mind that has the smoking programme -- the subconscious, and then it allows the smoker to remove that programme, and critically replace it with something else.
This later part is very important because many smokers despite hypnosis still encounter situations that remind them to smoke. But when a smoker learns to change his focus to a new area of his life (installed through hypnosis) he is free to change his focus to something new. This allows him to continue enjoying his life free from cigarettes.
This is also key because many smokers fear they are losing out by quitting smoking. When they replace the smoking programme on their mind, they change their source of fun or pleasure. Therefore doing away with any desires or reminders to smoke.
Another major benefit in using hypnosis to stop smoking is that it helps people to prevent weight gain. Why stop smoking without preventing a major factor in relapse? Hypnosis allows smokers to put their mind back in touch with their appetite so that they eat only the right types of food in the right amounts.
So in order to stop smoking smokers must remove their reasons for smoking. If they have no reason to smoke, why smoke? This can be done largely through hypnosis -- by removing associations and desires. Several habit and routine changes also help people to disassociate and remove their reasons for smoking.
For example, many smokers light up because it is their source of pleasure and maybe it the one thing that is theirs and theirs alone. The solution is for the smoker to find a new hobby, that takes up quite a bit of time (enough to distract the smoker from thinking about cigarettes), about an hour a day or so works great, so that he can see and realise that there is life after cigarettes.
His reason for smoking was pleasure, but now with a new activity or hobby that gives the same amount of pleasure and preferably more, he can live his life to the fullest.
Once he has removed his reasons for smoking, the smoker should then use his reasons for stopping smoking to propel himself forward. A major mistake many smokers make is that they start off thinking -- I should stop because it is going to kill me, I'm going to get emphysema etc. Which is possibly true but it does no good to his state of mind -- he is quitting out of fear rather than out of desire.
So once the smoker has removed his reasons for stopping smoking he should focus on his positive reasons for stopping smoking. These can be:
- Getting to spend more time with his children
- Better smelling clothes, hair and breath
- Better and easier breathing
- More money for holidays/vacations, clothes, CDs
- Improved physical fitness
- Improved self-esteem, confidence and respect
This positive mind frame will help him to see the good things he will get when he stop smoking. In this state of mind he relishes stopping smoking rather than resenting having to give up his pleasures. This can be done through hypnosis but also through a positive outlook on life and a positive approach to stopping smoking.
Once he has removed his reasons for smoking and focused his mind on the good things he will get when he does stop, it is important that he avoids any pitfalls and also prevents anything that will make him relapse.
This is mainly due to thinking about cigarettes, weight gain and withdrawal symptoms. Again hypnosis helps to change the smoker's mind and thoughts away from smoking, replacing cigarettes with food and preventing withdrawal symptoms.
However, there are a few other things that he can do to aid in this process himself. He can take vitamin and mineral supplements to give his body the food that he needs, therefore preventing weight gain and withdrawal symptoms. He can find a new hobby to take his mind off thinking and focusing on cigarettes.
And he can drink plenty of fruit juices and water to flush nicotine out of his body, prevent withdrawal symptoms and also help to prevent weight gain.
There are many aspects to cover, from how smokers look at cigarettes, their mind set and approach to stopping smoking, preventing relapses and withdrawal symptoms, removing the smoking programme from the mind and replacing it with another one and very importantly ensuring that the smokers goes on to enjoy his life after cigarettes, rather than resenting it.
NRT, will power and cold turkey just cannot cover these aspects and many more involved when stopping smoking. Hypnosis helps to break up the smoking habit and addiction at its root -- in a smoker's mind.