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. ae888

    Tin Tức, Sự Kiện Liên Quan Lại Đến Trực Tiếp Soccer Nữ Giới live casinoĐội tuyển chọn nước Việt Nam chỉ cần thiết một kết quả hòa có bàn thắng để lần loại hai góp mặt trên World Cup futsal. Nhưng, để thực hiện được điều này


    June 30, 2021 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Nearby RV Repairs


    June 30, 2021 at 02:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 30, 2021 at 02:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    I was able to find good information from your blog articles.


    June 30, 2021 at 03:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Repair Places Near Me


    June 30, 2021 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RV Repair Around Me


    June 30, 2021 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. pharmaceptica

    buying sildenafil 100mg https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 30, 2021 at 05:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Nearest RV Repair

    When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!


    June 30, 2021 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up and also the rest of the site is extremely good.


    June 30, 2021 at 06:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Repair Shop Near Me

    You are so interesting! I do not suppose I've truly read a single thing like this before. So nice to find someone with some genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is required on the internet, someone with some originality!


    June 30, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 30, 2021 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    I blog often and I really appreciate your content. This article has truly peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new details about once a week. I opted in for your Feed as well.


    June 30, 2021 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Repair Nearby


    June 30, 2021 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dodge Van Repair

    I like it when people get together and share thoughts. Great site, keep it up!


    June 30, 2021 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Nearest RV Repair

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for providing this info.


    June 30, 2021 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me lunch because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here on your blog.


    June 30, 2021 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Vanlife Repair Costs For Mercedes Sprinter


    June 30, 2021 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. THC Gummies

    Im grateful for the blog post.Really thank you! Fantastic.


    June 30, 2021 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Van Upholstery Shop Near Me


    June 30, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Kaitlyn Mcmath

    For newest news you have to visit world wide web and on web I found this site as a best web page for most up-to-date updates.


    September 17, 2022 at 17:28 | 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

Leave a Reply to Tritreviewifind


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.