Mindfulness and quitting smoking
Mindfulness is about being aware of what is taking place in the present – your thoughts, emotions and physical feelings as well as what you see, hear, touch and smell.
Researchers have found that this simple strategy can assist with quitting smoking. Mindfulness can be difficult at first. But, with time and practice, it can be learned and can help you get through cravings.
Mindfulness can work in surprising ways. For example, studies have shown that mindfulness training can lead to people smoking less without them even realising.
Mindfulness starter activity
Mindfulness often uses meditation strategies. A good way to start your mindfulness practice is to try this simple mindfulness meditation:
- Select an everyday activity where your thoughts tend to wander such as brushing your teeth, waiting for the bus or eating lunch.
- Take notice of what you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. Rather than analysing what you are experiencing, just notice it.
- Your mind may wander. That’s ok. When you notice this, gently bring your mind back to your senses.
- Let your thoughts and feelings come and go while you are being mindful, but keep your awareness on your senses, keeping you in the present while the thoughts drift by.
- Now turn your attention to your breath. Feel the air go in and out and the pauses in between. Breathe naturally rather than changing your breath, letting the air come and go.
- Do this for a couple of minutes. Don’t worry if you feel distracted or find it hard. You will improve quickly with practice.
For more information about this activity and how mindfulness works, visit Sane Australia.
Mindfulness and quitting smoking
Once you have got the hang of the mindfulness starter, you can try being mindful when you are experiencing a nicotine craving.
- Stop, take a breath and pay attention to what is happening in this moment. Ask yourself how your body feels and what thoughts you are having.
- Imagine your craving is like a wave coming towards the shore. It may feel like it is getting larger and larger, but eventually, just like a wave, it will become smaller and less intense.
- Recognise the physical feelings of stress in your body. Take a moment away from whatever you are doing and turn your attention to your breathing. Feel the air go in and out and the pauses in between.
- Continue focusing on your breathing until the craving passes.
For extra information about this exercise, visit smokefree.gov
Mindfulness takes focus, patience and time – all three of which can be in short supply.
So, it’s a good idea to have some additional support if you are planning on quitting smoking. Family and friends can be great support when you are quitting smoking. Let them know you are quitting smoking and ask them to support you, particularly when things get tough. Talk to your doctor or health professional about how smoking is affecting your health and how they can support you to quit.
A Quitline counsellor can also be a great supporter. Quitline is a confidential telephone advice and information service for people who want to quit smoking or want to remain quit. A trained counsellor can help you to make a quitting plan and develop strategies to quit smoking and stay smoke free. You can call Quitline on 13 7848 for the cost of a local call.
Never too old to quit
Mindfulness is something that can be learned at any age. And you are never too old to quit smoking and experience the benefits. No matter what age you quit smoking, you can significantly lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer – reducing your likelihood of dying from smoking-related illness.