August 3rd, 2010
06:14 PM ET
Change your thinking to kick that cigarette habit
Imagine how tantalizing, how powerful the craving for a cigarette is. Then imagine you could stem that craving by merely changing the way you think. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that merely thinking differently could help control cravings.
"Most people think that the reason smokers use substances is because of a lack of self-control," said Kevin Ochsner, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University. "We show they don't lack it, the problem they have is they may not know what strategy to use."
Let's face it, our brains are wired for short-term rewards, whether it is the first drag on a cigarette or the first bite of a hot stack of pancakes. According to study authors, the strategy to curb those cravings is almost deceptively simple: re-wiring the brain to think long-term.
Ochsner and colleagues gave brain scans to 21 people who reported regularly smoking. They posed two scenarios. In one, they measured what happened in the brain after asking smokers to think about the immediate rewards of smoking, for example the first drag on a cigarette, how the smoke would feel entering the lungs, or the sensation of smoke curling out of the mouth. In the second scenario smokers were asked to imagine the long-term consequences of smoking - health problems associated with it - such as emphysema or heart disease.
By way of comparison, the same was done with food. Study respondents were shown photos of delectable, fatty foods and asked to think about the short-term rewards (how great the food would taste), and the long-term consequences (obesity, diabetes, heart disease) while their brain activity was measured.
Turns out, something as simple as focusing on the long-term consequences of smoking (or eating fatty foods) could control the craving.
"This gives us a biological explanation for how cognitive regulation of craving works," said Hedy Kober, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine and the study's lead author. "By changing the way they think about cigarettes in moments of craving, by focusing on the negative long-term consequences, [smokers] can reduce craving and change their own brain activity."
Two areas of the brain are at work when we crave things - the prefrontal cortex and the ventral striatum. The prefrontal cortex is an area associated with reasoning and the ventral striatum is associated with emotion, desire, and craving. Among study participants, successfully curbing cravings involved activating the reasoning part of the brain more than the craving-driven region.
Except re-wiring the brain, re-shaping how one thinks about craving, is far from simple - it is a long process. And then there are important questions about the biological underpinnings of addiction. Still, study authors say that thinking differently is powerful therapy.
"It takes a sustained, continuous effort," said Ochsner. "It is teaching you a new kind of emotional response instead of just going reflexively. It's slow and painful but we absolutely have the potential to do it."
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
This study is spot-on. I smoked 1/2 pack a day from the time I was 15 until I was 42. One day, I got fed up with having a hard time doing relatively moderate exercise (hiking while fishing) and figured it was just a matter of time before I ended up with cancer or a heart attack. Having smokes priced above $8/pack (yes, in NY) pushed me over the edge to just quit. I thought of what I would do with an extra $1000/yr., how much easier it would be to go fishing in my favorite spots, and how I could do all these things longer with my kids. The first week or two was tough, but after that, it's been cake. What has been very helpful is the understanding of my boss & co-workers when I had a "less than 100%" day. Less stress = less desire to go back to the crutch!
I've had a very interesting side-effect though. My desire to perform other tasks, like cleaning the garage and cleaning the basement – basically making my home & surrounding much nicer (without spending money, just by getting rid of junk & clutter) has increased tenfold. The disaster that used to be our garage? ..you could eat off the floor if you were so inclined. The basement is getting there. Oddly, I'm not being compulsive about it, merely thorough! I can spend the evening idly (and happily) with my wife and kids without twitching to go clean something. ..or I can go clean. It's a really odd shift in thinking and not something I set out to do, but I *am* happy about the change!
Whether one smokes or not the dirtiest little secret no one discusses is why people need to find an escape in the first place - the answer is stress. And since no one dare challenge our capitalistic and cultural stresses (in other words we must just take it like a man) we create these social wars against those who have found a temporary escape. Today it is cigs, booze, drugs, food, anonymoussex, and tomorrow ? So, as unpopular a view as this seems - I for one will continue to be a classic closet smoker. Gonna die anyway, and shaving off a few years is no biggie to me given the level of stress I face. No one truly cares either... which is interesting. lol.
Allen Carr has been saying this for years in his best seller "The Easy way to Stop Smoking" . Best book ever written on the subject. He encourages you to smoke while reading it...
I used Allen's method & it made it soooo easy to quit! He truly understands smokers & the psychology behind the addiction.
4 days cigarette free!!! Feeling great and proud of myself! I have smoked for almost 30 years and am almost 45, it came to the point I had just had enough. I find one of the best things is looking at myself in the mirror and reminding myself that I can do this as I am stronger than those nasty b**tards 🙂 postive thoughts help too.
good for you cathy, i am 18days free...it gets easier!
Yeah right. The "Think System". I'd say maybe .000001% of smokers might be able to quit by changing their thinking. Articles like this which make these spurious "quitting can be easy" claims just give the anti-tobacco crowd more ammunition in their fight to persecute smokers: "See – just quit, look how easy". Personally I smoked for 30 years and managed to quit back in 1998, but not without the help of 2 months of Zyban. Believe me "thinking" differently had nothing to do with it. And although I'm now a non-smoker, I sympathize to the max with people who still smoke/can't quit or just plain don't want to. Leave 'em alone.
Leave 'em alone? OK, but don't come crying for free healthcare when you contract lung cancer
i am on my 18th day of not smoking...i am on my 1000000th time trying to quit. nicotine is worse than any other drug out there..so to you who said "there is nothing like a cig or to you who said dont preach to me" that is the addict talking not who you really are..you wouldnt say those things if you were on crack. i am 38, I've been smoking most of my life i will always be a smoker and crave them, i just chose not to smoke today and i feel better and empowered because of my choice. i am no longer a slave to nicotine...good luck to all of you!
This article is right on the money. I quit 5 years ago after smoking at least a pack a day for many years. I just woke up one day deciding it was time (for one I was tired of my wife blaming me for her smoking habit) and put this mantra in my head that I was a non-smoker so why want or crave a cigarette? It worked like a charm... I haven't had one since and never intend too because "I'm a non-smoker". When people ask if I ever crave one when people are smoking near me I reply earnestly, "No, why would I? It repulses me, I'm a non-smoker"
I used quitnet.org to help with my quit after 15 years of slavery.... Thinking about health conequences does help, thinking about children/family, $$$$s saved.. every bit helps. Having a support circle is a must! 3.5 years quit now. Good riddance to a nasty habit.
I quit 4 months ago and used something to change the way I think. There's a book called "the easyway to stop smoking" by Allen Carr. It works. It costs about $12 (slightly more than the cost of two packs of smokes). Give it a shot. If you don't quit after reading the book, you're no worse off than before.
addendum......I smoked 2.5 packs per day for over 30 years
Twenty-three days smoke free. Been smoking since I was eleven, twenty-two now. Used to smoke two packs a day when I was fifteen. My lungs are far beyond charcoal. Finally quit cold turkey after a million and one attempts. Tempted ever so often, but once you pass two weeks you're good to go. It really all is in the mind. If you WANT to kick the habit, you CAN and WILL.
This article is exactly what happened to me. I was a heavy (2-3 packs per day) smoker for 38 years. I loved to smoke. Could not quit. Then I had a heart attack, and quit cold turkey. I guess you could say that my brain was rewired for me.
I'm 23 and I quit smoking after 6 years of sucking on cigarettes. How? After several attempts I read Alan Carr's "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking." He lays out the thoughts of any smoker that has wanted to quit, and breaks through the panic and flight mechanism in a smoker's mind, so that you may see clearly why you want to quit and why it is so hard to stop. Once you know, it's easy to stop. I didn't use patches, e-cigs, gum, or anything, and I haven't wanted a cigarette since. In fact they disgust me now. Life is better as a non smoker.
One way to change the thinking is to stop calling smoking a habit and call it what it really is: an ADDICTION
I smoked from 11 years old until I was 47. Loved the strong menthols. Tried to quit a zillion times.
I took Chantix for about 11 days until cigs tasted bad and didn't give me the boost for which I was looking.
I haven't had a cigarette or nicotine of any kind for 3 years and 7 months. I don't want one, I'm not trying any, and I won't give up.
If I can quit, most anyone can. Cigarettes killed my dad, my mother-in-law, and are killing my mother.
I started at age 11, and am now 60. It looks impossible to quit at this point. Yet this article and posts have inspired me.
Aside from the health stuff, what I hate most is being a slave to it. Also, stinking up my home....
I quit smoking almost 3 months ago. I'm only 24 years old so i kept telling myself that i had time before i had to worry about quitting. That's until doctors found two brain aneurysms. i took chantix and it really helped curb the addiction. it was still incredibly difficult but you just have to want it. i think in a weird way, these aneurysms are going to be what saved my life because they forced me to kick the worst habit there is!
My mother smoked since she was 15, and quit, cold turkey at 68 – after her first heart attack. She never smoked again, but the damage was done. She had an awful 5 more years of more heart attacks and congestive heart failure. It got to the point where she had to sleep sitting up, so she could breathe. Her thought before the last one got her – 'if I had known what it would be like, I would have never wanted to survive the first attack!'
My father was also a heavy 50's smoker, and died of a stroke. None of their children smoked, and none of the grandchildren. I am so proud that this country cut back so well, and restricts smoking. Not sure why they allow it to be sold. (OK, I'm not dumb – it's the industry bribes that keep it going)
(I used to be a mechanic at the Atlanta airport. About once a week, the worlds biggest plane would drop in, load up, and leave. It was a treat to be out by the runway when it came in. One time I asked what the cargo was – tobacco, for the far east – stuff too harsh for even Marlboro smokers to handle)
Started smoking when i was 8 haven't stopped yet. Now I'm 17 and still smoke and love it.............
I started smoking in my teens and smoked until my current age (34). I tried Chantix in February. I loved it and I have not had a cigarette since the end of February. You have to want to quit. The Chantix was a miracle drug for me. I highly recommend it.
so you wanted to then right.
I dipped snuff from age 16 until I quit four years ago. February 6, 2006 was my last dip. The concerns over long term consequences were finally eating away at me, and I could no longer ignore them. I went cold turkey and have never looked back. For me I had to rationalize a future without a jaw or tongue, or worse death. With two small children it made no sense to continue using. The key for me also was to admit that addiction was pretty tricky and that I had to be careful about not talking my way back into using. Your mind can play horrible tricks on you when you want your fix. I'm glad I quit and, I will never pick it up again.
I just reached my 6 months of being a non-smoker yesterday. I HIGHLY recommend reading the book 'The EasyWay to Quit Smoking' by Allen Carr. Ellen Degeneres, Ashton Kutcher, Angelica Huston, Anthony Hopkins & many more swear by it, too. It really does make it easy to quit. I was skeptical, but I read the book, quit & never looked back. Anyone can be a happy non-smoker, trust me! 🙂
Brazil has cut it's smoking rate in half over the past 15 years and now finally there are more adult non-smokers than smokers. By law every pack of cigarettes in Brazil has a picture of a diseased lung, mouth cancer, a dead rat (citing the toxins in smoke that are also used in rat poiison), etc. There's also a toll-free number on each pack to call for help in quitting. These images fit right in with the long-term consequences thinking that this article is talking about. And they work!
People have been smoking somthing since the beginning of time I smoke i know i shouldn't but i just like to smoke i've tried the e-cigarettes they taste great but are way too high in cost and you have to keep recharging them
I started smoking when I was 13. By the the I was 16 I was already trying to quit. I tried the gum, but I think that actually made me more addicted to the cigarettes. I tried several times to quit smoking after that to no avail, then on June 23, 2009 I had a few cigarettes with a friend from out of town. I woke up the next day and didn't smoke. I have been smoke free since then. I don't know how it happened, but Im am so happy it did. Now I see other people smoking and I think its gross. I definitely don't feel like a smoker any more, and it feels good!
Next time you go to light up Brita, I want you to think about the most vile, disgusting thing you can, and also think how attracted you are to older men, and that you would like to spend some time in a hottub, perhaps with one of your friends and this older man...
I kept trying to quit for years until I realized the fact that so many family and friends smoked I was never away from the temptation. So, on Aug. 9, 1995, I drove to my cousin's home out in the country to spend a week and help them erect a gazebo. They had previously quit smoking. I quit on Aug. 10, 1995, but kept two packs of cigarettes in my glove compartment because there's a mental difference between no smoking because no cigarette is available and not smoking because you choose not to smoke. I haven't smoked since. The key for me was to not be around smokers until I got through a week of quitting. The date is significant to me because it's said that if you quit for 15 years and don't get lung cancer, your chances of doing so have dropped back down relatively close to those who've never smoked. And next week it will be 15 years!
I quit with the help of http://www.whyquit.com . Nothing to sell, no commercial products, just the Truth. And the Truth can make you free!!!
I quit 11 months ago, but when I was a smoker, I hated it when people made me feel guilty for smoking – as if I was a bad person. I wanted to quit, but it was so hard. I now know that most smokers were in my position. If we could snap our fingers and the thought of a cigarette would not cross our mind any more than if we had never started, we would jump at that. So I am very sympathetic to smokers now.
Having said that, my best tool was going through bag after bag of cough drops. For about a month my tongue was constantly numb from "chain-chewing" cough drops (I know, you are supposed to suck on cough drops – but desperate times calls for desperate measures – I would go through a bag of 50 every day). When I would want a cigarette, I would pop another and the second I was chewing, it solved the problem for the next 2 minutes. Then the craving came back – another cough drop. As long as my tongue was numb (from the eucalyptus oil I guess), the desire to smoke was delayed another 2 minutes.
Having battled cancer for five years and losing my voice box lymph nods my right breast is now my throat ,still battling everyday I wish I would have never pick up one twenty five years ago thinking I was cool ! I am only 49 and half dead.
a malignant tumor on my kidney did it for me... stopped the day the doctor confirmed the cancer... now a 9 inch scar, a missing rib and numbness on that side remind me every day that picking up a cigarette just isn't worth it
I'm 27 now and picked up smoking when i was about 15 years old. I recently quit and now have been smoke free for almost 2 months. I quit cold turkey.The only way you're really going to quit is if you truly want it. It really is a life changing decision to make. Once you're really ready to quit, all it takes is self confidence and sunflower seeds.
I quit last year in April age 55 smoked since I was 16. Used Chantix, not a magic pill but it took the edge off. After two winters of having Bronchitis had to quit. The second bout of it the first round of meds did not work, back to Doc to get more meds. He told me take these if u are not better in 4 to 5 days go to ER and get yourself admitted. I hate hospitals more then I like smoking.
If u smoke u WILL eventually get some form of smoking related disease. In my case it was reversable there are others that are not. Your nicotine addiction tells u it is Ok don't worry u won't get sick that happens to someone else. The nicodemon lies
I've been smoking 1/2 a pack to 1 pack a day for about 5 years. Quit about a week ago. I sneaked a couple over the weekend and felt completely childish and weak for doing so. Ive tried weaning myself off smoking only at night or after work, it doesn't work. You have to quit and you have to quit completely. Felt my first really hardcore nic fit last Monday and was really embarrassed. Ive found that fresh fruit and physical stress and activity help. Its still a nightmare but I'm working it out.
I quit almost 3 years ago after smoking for over 10 years. I still don't fully understand how I did it or what happened. I did not plan to quit, but I woke up 1 day and decided I was done. I did not even crave one for at least 3 months and at that point I wasn't going to give in. I also didn't gain any weight or replace it with something else. Even though it was easy for me I will never give into one in the future. I know that if I have only 1 smoke I will start up again like I had never stopped.
For those who believe the worse than a cigarette dribble, take the time to do some research instead of taking someones word for it-especially the FDA's. If you want it in a convenient package check out the library & library annex at e-cigarette-forum.
What is the base in the e cig liquid is Propylene Glycol (PG)–go check out McCormick's flavoring-it's in there. It's in other foods you eat-icing anyone. It's in the stuff you use for breathing treatments. It's used in fog machines & toys that create fog-you know, the ones your kid is playing with.
Yes, it's used in anti freeze too which is why the big scare. It's in there to MAKE IT SAFE FOR KIDS AND ANIMALS.
Yes, there was other carcinogens found but only because the nicotine came from tobacco. The FDA gets their nicotine the same way and (if you'd taken the time to check) there is more carcinogens in nicotine gun and other quit smoking aids than they found in ONE liquid cartridge out of several tested.
As for the China remark-Eliminate everything from your daily life made there and your pickings get a whole lot smaller. Besides, if you're still leery because of that ONE liquid cartridge, you can buy liquid made in the USA.
The e-cig was a little miracle for me. I've been smoke free for over and year. I feel better. The COPD is gone, so if the Advair and the inhaler.
My hearing has even improved.
As for this is not quitting-that is pretty much what can be said for anyone that has a sucker or gum in their mouth to fight the urge to light up. There is no smoke, there is vaper so yes, I'm a NON SMOKER.
Before I go, I say congrats to you all who quit cold turkey, but even you have to realize, this does not work for the majority. Since I know how much better I feel (my doctor certainly has noticed), it's far better to be puffing on an e cig that does not create smoke, that only contains three carcinogens instead of 4000, and does not create second or third hand smoke.
You are still a slave to nicotine. Switching to e-cigs has done nothing but helped you as an addict justify your addiction and perpetuate your denial. What purpose does taking the drug serve? At least with heroin or even pot you could say that you do the drug to get a high–I smoked to not be an a**hole. When I smoked I was up to a pack and a half a day at my worst. One thing that put things into perspective was to try and think of another thing that I did 30 times throughout my day.
I read a book a while ago called "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking" by Allen Carr. TOTALLY made me stop smoking. Most of his message is about putting a positive spin on it. Instead of thinking how miserable it is to quit, think of all the great things that will happen to you once you stop. Smell better, feel better, more money, look better,...etc. I firmly believe it's the tobacco companies that make you think it's too hard to quit. The book also says something that makes total sense: why would you want to give your hard earned money to a tobacco company to slowly committ suicide? think about it....
I'm glad to see other fans of Allen Carr out there! He was a genius!
I smoked at least a pack a day for 15 years. I read his book, quit & never once had to deal with any withdrawal pangs. It was amazing! If you're still smoking & want to quit check out http://www.allencarr.com.
Two things I always tell people that want to quit:
1. Do it for yourself, not for anyone else. Not for your spouse, your children, your parents, your neighbor, your dog....nobody!! If you do it for anyone else, it makes it too easy to blame them when you're going through the mental withdrawal, and use it for an excuse to start up again. You have to be selfish in your desire to quit.
2. The physical symptoms are GONE within a week, sometimes within a few days. It's the MENTAL part of quitting that's truly tough, and the reason why so many people un-quit (so to speak). Think of the times when you crave a cigarette as a little demon standing on your shoulder, whispering into your ear, "Come on.....wouldn't a cigarette taste really GOOD right now??" Then mentally envision yourself reaching up and flicking that little son of a gun off your shoulder! Believe me, the longer you go without, the longer you'll go between cravings, and the easier it is to overcome them.
I smoked for 23.5 years......and I've been smoke free for going on 6 years now. 🙂
My physical symptoms lasted for 6 months. I've been smoke free since 10/15/08!!!
It definitely depends on your thinking....I quit in 1977..after 5 attempts...but it was cold turkey....I was smoking 2 packs a day:(
Now I jog 10-15k 3/4 times week and have lost 70 pounds...and my BP is 128/78....so at the age of 61yrs..that is proof Stop-Smoking' does help your long term health.
I started smoking when I was 15 (22 years ago). I tried to fight it, but everyone around me was literally trying to get me to start. It truly was a case of peer pressure, from family and friends. I also happen to have generalized anxiety disorder and ptsd. I've tried cold turkey (twice), patches (twice), switching to lighter cigarettes, gum, hypnosis, the flu (twice) and finally weaning. Weaning so far has yielded the best results. Every other time I 'quit' I'd always come back with a vengeance – smoking non-lights and more than before. I tried taking zoloft, effexor, xanax, valium, clonepan, and alcohol to fight the anxiety. The only thing that works for me is 'knowing' I can smoke if I need to (panic attacks or severe stress), but limiting myself when I'm in a good mood. I've widdled it down to half a pack a day from 1 pack a day. I wish I could quit, but without some kind of relief for my nerves, I become self-destructive. I wish I could just have that part of my brain removed. But I guess it also makes me the person I am – which I am thankful for too. I wish I had never tried that first cigarette.
IT'S NOT A HABIT IT IS AN ADDICTION!!! JUST LOOK AT ALL OF THESE NICOTINE ADDICTS TRYING TO SELL YOU THEIR E-CIGARETTES!!! YOU PEOPLE ARE STILL NICOTINE ADDICTS AND YOU NEED TO REALIZE THAT BEFORE YOU CAN HELP YOURSELVES!!!
Sounds like BS. They are completely ignoring the physical chemical addiction which is the primary reason people still smoke knowing it's bad for them. This study treats smoking as if it's merely a mental addiction that you just need to control with your brain. These scientists don't seem to know the first thing about addiction.
I smoked for 12 years, quit after using the command phrase technique.
No one really enjoys smoking. The thinking that compels smoking becomes installed in the unconscious where it exerts automatic control. This situation is only remedied when the thinking is intentionally dropped, reversed, let go of.
What a bunch of wusses. Quitting is easy, I've done it many times! Sometimes longer, sometimes not so long. 10 months so far this time.
This is one of the more naive takes on smoking cessation I have ever encountered. I quit a year and a half ago with the aid of chantix, which did not cause me to committ suicide. It did not throw me into depression. I got two stomach aches because I did not follow directions and took the pills without food.
thinking differently alone does not kill the habit. Chantix does.
Do not believe the fear mongering about this medication. The tobacco lobbyists do not want people to know how incredibly affective this medication is which is why you read about "suicidal tendencies"....there have been according to my doctor, only two documented cases of suicide..and the victims were on many other medications. They took these two incidences, and because it did happen, they used it to tarnish chantix's good name.
I thank god for pfizer and chantix every day, every time I walk past a smoker and feel repulsed by their presence. the shame alone is enough to keep me off that crap!
I smoked for one year and started developing a cough and gastrointestinal disorders. I quit by using nicotine patches, nicorette gum, and so it was a "cold stop".
Increasing antioxidants by eating more fruits and vegetables, using a filter, increasing water intake are the basics to neutralize carcinogens.
That's easy to say but if it was easy to do, we'd all have quit smoking and lost weight a long time ago.
No, I disagree. Shifting your neuron football game from the ventral striatum to the prefrontal cortex is virtually impossible. You can't just –do– it; you need help.
In fact, I'd like to know if there are drugs that can help? Are there medications that can help us in this shift?
Am I the only one to notice that the title of this peice "Change your thinking to kick that cigarette habit." ........ it's comforting to know that people in charge of international news including those who edit the stories for review, have no idea of the difference between the usage of YOUR and YOU'RE. Thank you public school system for not letting us down.
Actually, "your" is the correct spelling in this case. "You're" is a contraction of "you are." It's not supposed to be, "change you are thinking to kick that cigarette habit." "Your" is the possessive form, and is therefore used correctly by the CNN editors in this instance. Furthermore, there are a few grammatical errors in your own complaint.
Or are you saying that the headline orignally said, "Change you're thinking..." until you pointed it out?!? On my screen at the moment it rightly says "your." If that's the case, it's interesting to know that the CNN editors actually read these comments...
Hi, CNN editor! I have to say this article is way better than the ones that make recommendations like, "when you get a craving, just eat a healthy snack," or, "go for a run." People who write stories like that are not familiar with the realities of true addiction.