How to Beat Cravings and Quit Smoking with Meditation
If you’ve recently decided to quit smoking, first of all — congratulations! It’s not always the easiest decision to make, or to stick to, especially if you’ve used smoking to help you deal with stress in the past.
One of the things that makes sticking to a cigarette-free life difficult at times are cravings. Even though cravings typically only last five to 10 minutes, they can feel pretty uncomfortable. You may be aware of some effective methods that can ease cravings (using Nicorette’s Coated Ice Mint Lozenges, a complete smoking cessation program that provides lasting craving relief, is one great method). But what if there was a way to help reduce the stress that can sometimes lead to the craving for a cigarette?
Well, studies are beginning to suggest that there may be a way to do just that — with meditation.
Easing Chronic Stress With Meditation
While research is still ongoing, there have been some very interesting findings around a regular meditation practice and the reduction of chronic stress. Recent research also says that regular meditation practice may possibly decrease depression, improve sleep, and improve pain management.4
The best part about meditation is that you don’t have to be some kind of yogi guru to start practicing it — you don’t even need to leave your house! There are many different types of meditation, from mindfulness, to mantra, to guided, to tai chi, so you can pick the one that works best for you and your personality.
How to Start Meditating
If you’re looking for a way to ease the stress that may be contributing to your cigarette cravings, it’s really as easy as one, two, three:
- Find a quiet place
Whether it’s your bed, a couch, or on a yoga mat, just make sure you feel comfortable and relaxed!
- Focus your attention
Use your breathing, a word, or an image to help focus and clear your thoughts. Don’t worry if your thoughts wander initially — like any new skill, meditation takes practice. Just try to refocus your thoughts back whenever you notice them getting away from you. In time, this should happen less often.
- Be open
No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do what you can to stay open and non-judgmental of how “good” you are at it. After all, meditation is meant to ease stress and anxiety, not cause more of it!
Quitting Smoking With Meditation
Meditation can help people who have already quit smoking to manage the stress that might otherwise cause them to reach for a cigarette, but what about smokers who want to learn how to stop smoking in the first place?
If you’re looking to use meditation for smoking cessation, you may notice a few benefits:
- It reduces stress.1
Feeling stressed and anxious can be a big trigger that causes smokers to reach for a cigarette. By introducing meditation, or mindfulness training, you’ll be more able to recognize and accept stressors.1 If you can manage your stressors without needing to smoke, you may be able to break the association that you need to smoke in order to cope.1
- It teaches you to be aware of your habits and cravings.1
Smokers may find themselves reaching for a cigarette without giving much thought to the action.1 By practicing smoking cessation meditation, smokers begin to recognize and accept how they are feeling physically and emotionally.1
" Instead of lighting up, take a moment to understand how you’re feeling when your body craves the nicotine in a cigarette and actively choose to let that craving pass on its own."1This process can begin to reshape behaviors and how smokers react to physical cravings.1
- It can improve self-control.1
Meditation to stop smoking can increase connectivity between regions of your brain that are responsible to self-regulation.1 If you’re determined to stop smoking and have a strong sense of willpower and self-control, you are more likely to be successful.
Some smokers may find success with apps that ask them to record their thoughts and feelings when a cigarette craving strikes. Studies have shown that smokers who committed to using a smartphone app for smoking cessation significantly weakened the relationship between craving and daily smoking.2 Findings suggest that mindfulness training and meditation may be effective as a treatment to stop smoking, thanks to its hand in severing the association between craving and smoking.3
Some smokers may find success pairing mindfulness exercises with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Others may turn to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products or natural remedies to help them quit. No matter what method you decide to use to help ease any stress associated with quitting cigarettes, what matters is that you find something that works for you. And take heart — the worst of your cravings should only last a few days to a few weeks after smoking your last cigarette!