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."

Post by:
Filed under: Addiction • Brain • Psychology • Smoking

soundoff (3,495 Responses)
  1. Maserati Ghibli S Q4 Lease Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 07:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Roofing Contractors Near Me

    May I simply say what a comfort to discover an individual who actually understands what they're talking about on the internet. You definitely realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people must look at this and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you're not more popular since you surely have the gift.


    May 19, 2021 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. pregnancy gifts for first time moms

    Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!


    May 19, 2021 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. bandar online

    It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it's time to be happy.
    I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or tips.

    Perhaps you can write next articles referring to
    this article. I desire to read more things about it!

    May 19, 2021 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. experience gifts for mom


    May 19, 2021 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. mjtlYIzRYv

    write me an essay free expository essay order essay help cheap uc essay prompt 1 help

    May 19, 2021 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. FmrfEncox

    cialis online without prescription https://cialisee.com/ – cialis usa pharmacy order cialis online no prescription reviews

    May 19, 2021 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rv restoration companies near me


    May 19, 2021 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. local rv repair shops


    May 19, 2021 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Countertops Near Me

    Very nice blog post. I definitely love this site. Thanks!


    May 19, 2021 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. oc trailers

    I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    May 19, 2021 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. tv repair temecula ca

    You made some decent points there. I looked on the web for more info about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.


    May 19, 2021 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. BbshMile

    viagra and melanoma https://loxviagra.com/ how much viagra should i take the first time?

    May 19, 2021 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Google Marketing Agencies


    May 19, 2021 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Digital Marketing Consultant Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Toilets Riverside

    You made some really good points there. I checked on the web for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.


    May 19, 2021 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. collision experts lemon grove


    May 19, 2021 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Entertainment System California


    May 19, 2021 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Bedroom Riverside


    May 19, 2021 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Paint Shop California


    May 19, 2021 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MTkkWEITtw

    not doing homework jokes write community service essay drinking while doing homework chemistry homework help reddit

    May 19, 2021 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Internet Marketing Companies Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Remodeling Riverside


    May 20, 2021 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Content Marketing Consultants

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn't disappoint me just as much as this one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I genuinely thought you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you can fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    May 20, 2021 at 02:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Digital Marketing Company


    May 20, 2021 at 05:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. LebnEncox

    canadian viagra https://xlnpharmacy.com/ Cleocin

    May 20, 2021 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Social Media Marketing Agency Near Me

    Next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't disappoint me as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I really thought you'd have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you can fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    May 20, 2021 at 06:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. cyclosporine

    cyclomune 0.1% eye drops cost cyclosporine eye drops

    May 20, 2021 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Social Media Marketing Businesses

    After looking over a few of the blog posts on your website, I seriously appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I book-marked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my website too and tell me how you feel.


    May 20, 2021 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. shlJczQjQO

    doing homework on ipad essay writing service cv writing service in qatar doing homework is fun

    May 20, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. خرید کالا از چین

    Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I'm
    impressed! Very useful information particularly the last
    part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was seeking this certain info
    for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

    May 20, 2021 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Video Marketing Consultants

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be useful to read through content from other authors and practice a little something from their websites.


    May 20, 2021 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. LbsoZisse

    generic cialis without prescription https://ucialisdas.com/ cialis 20 mg tablets

    May 20, 2021 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Content Marketing Experts

    I was very pleased to uncover this page. I wanted to thank you for ones time for this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to see new information on your blog.


    May 20, 2021 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Local Marketing Near Me

    I'm pretty pleased to discover this page. I need to to thank you for your time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every little bit of it and i also have you book-marked to see new things on your site.


    May 20, 2021 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. dj rv center


    May 20, 2021 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. van conversions orange county ca

    Excellent post. I certainly appreciate this website. Stick with it!


    May 20, 2021 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. trailer repair shops near me


    May 20, 2021 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Sprinter Van Seat Fabric Repair


    May 20, 2021 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. best rv repair shop near me


    May 20, 2021 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Sprinter Repair Mechanics

    bookmarked!!, I like your site!


    May 20, 2021 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. paint shops around me

    May I just say what a comfort to uncover someone who genuinely understands what they're discussing over the internet. You definitely realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people need to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.


    May 20, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Mattresses California


    May 20, 2021 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. SDNvVjCdpQ

    dvd burning service philippines analytical essay topics for high school need help with accounting homework philosophy essays

    May 20, 2021 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. rv storage orange county ca

    There is definately a great deal to find out about this subject. I really like all the points you've made.


    May 20, 2021 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. instagram takipçi satın al

    I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
    It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me
    to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?

    Exceptional work!

    May 20, 2021 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Seats Orange County

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you can remove me from that service? Appreciate it!


    May 20, 2021 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Mercedes Winnebago Sprinter Repair

    I like looking through a post that will make people think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!


    May 20, 2021 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. good sam rv repair

    This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise info… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 21, 2021 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Local Marketing Firm

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so much, However I am going through problems with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting the same RSS issues? Anyone who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 21, 2021 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

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.