Tomorrow, Wednesday 14th March is National No Smoking day in the UK (http://www.nosmokingday.org.uk/). Whilst I would always say that any day is a good day to stop smoking habit, if the motivation associated with an event like this helps to encourage more people to quit then let’s have them even more regularly!
As an ex-smoker myself I know how difficult it can be to stop smoking and then how much more of a challenge it can be to stay stopped. I do not care how people stop, whether they use will power, nicotine replacement therapy, prescription medicines (e.g. Bupropion also known as Zyban and Varenicline known as Champix), acupuncture, meditation, counselling and of course my own personal area of competence – hypnotherapy.
It seems though that ‘staying stopped’ is in fact the real challenge, regardless of whatever method one uses to stop. I think this is because of the form of psychological addiction which is on top of the physical addiction to nicotine and the habitual nature of smoking (after a meal, with a drink, with friends or colleagues at work etc.).
My own belief is that the psychological addiction could have originated in the reason someone starts smoking in the first place. This is typically as a result of wanting to demonstrate that someone is not timid or afraid; to be one of the gang and fit with the crowd; to appear sophisticated, cool or more attractive to the opposite (or same) sex; to be more adult; to assert ones independence; to protest, rebel or to defy authority.
Over time these reasons have become merged with other emotional factors to such an extent that when someone who has stopped smoking experiences, or thinks they may experience, a situation where in the past they would have smoked then they revert to the habit in the anticipation of relief from those feelings and emotions. Often there is no conscious decision made, the subconscious believes that smoking will help to alleviate the symptoms and so the addict smokes. By doing this the subconscious, I think, is remembering that it helped the person to ‘feel better’ when they started smoking and also that over time smoking has ‘helped’ the person in all sorts of other situations and so in order to ‘help’ again it encourages the resumption of the habit and this is very difficult to withstand because of the strength of the subconscious mind.
It is in this area that hypnotherapy plays a particularly significant part in helping someone to stop. The true hypnotic state allows for direct communication with the subconscious mind and the establishment of selective thinking within the subject. This means that the subject is more likely to accept suggestions for changed thinking and behaviour under circumstances which may have been associated with smoking in the past – and feeling good about it!
In this way, if the underlying beliefs and thought patterns can be changed at the subconscious level, then the ex smoker has more of a chance of staying an ex smoker for longer, if not permanently.