How Best to Quit Smoking
Interview with Dr. Randy Gilchrist
Q. Randy, you have worked with people to overcome their bad habits, especially smoking. Can you tell me why people continue to smoke even though they know that this is slowly eroding their health?
There are two main reasons as I understand it. First, smoking is a stubborn habit that naturally connects with many everyday activities, times of day, social interactions, and emotional states that continually "trigger" the urge to smoke—often at an unconscious level. In this way, smoking becomes like a reliable, old friend that offers relaxation, comfort, and focus with every interaction (puff). It's like the old song goes—"breaking up is hard to do."
Second, smoking acts as an addiction as well. Because the body and mind become used to the "rush" from regular nicotine fixes, quitting can immediately trigger strong and uncomfortable physical and psychological withdrawal cravings to pressure a return to smoking. This discomfort can last for several weeks or even months. Typical withdrawal symptoms include irritability, restlessness, sadness, nervousness, coughing, a slight sore throat, constipation, insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, a decreased heart rate, and/or an increased appetite. With all of this, it's no wonder most people have a hard time quitting on their own!
Q. If there were three things that a cigarette smoker could right now to help them drop the habit, what would they be?
First, smokers should immediately have a physical examination with their primary care physician to learn the extent to which smoking has already begun to affect their health. An examination should also include recommendations to do to start reversing any present damage. This one is essential.
Second, ask several supportive, understanding family members and friends to give the emotional encouragement and listening ears you'll need during your change process. Make sure these supportive people aren't smokers themselves. It can be hard to quit with someone always lighting up in front of you!
Third, get healthier! Strategically improve your diet, exercise, and sleeping patterns. Study it. Plan it. Do it. Because quitting smoking can involve temporary lapses in energy, lowered concentration, and increased moodiness, you will need to take better care of yourself to replace your "nicotine highs" with "natural highs" and better self-control. healthier living is what makes this possible. Remember, there are no feelings that nicotine gives you that the brain can't also generate through healthier means. You just need to plan more, be creative, and commit to the process.
Q. People often give up their attempt to quit smoking. Do you have some advice to help them stay motivated?
You know you want to quit smoking. But do you know WHY? For many people who are trying to quit smoking, it helps to have a list of reasons why — a kind of map that you can turn back to when the going gets tough.
What are YOUR reasons to quit?
- You want to add more years to your life, by decreasing your health risks.
- You want to stop spending money on cigarettes, and save that extra spending money for yourself.
- You want to prove to yourself that you can meet this challenge . . . so you can go on to improving your lifestyle in other ways.
- You want to experience more natural energy, better health, and better quality of life.
- You want to model healthy living for your children and grandchildren.
- (Insert your own reasons here — and keep the list.)
Whatever your reasons are, you should write them down and keep them close. Have them in front of you. Repeat them to yourself again and again. Keep a 3"x5" card in your pocket or purse with the list. In doing so, you'll be laying the psychological groundwork to make quitting easy.
I'd like to tell you about a comprehensive hypnosis program for smoking cessation, The Non-Smoker's Edge. This program uses new techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy and clinical hypnosis to help you truly want to quit smoking ... with your mind, body, and soul. Using a holistic approach, it helps you keep your goal in mind at all times. And not just your goal, but the reasons for this goal.
Desire is critical to action. Maybe that's why multi-session hypnosis has a 66% success rate at helping people quit smoking. That's higher than any other smoking cessation method that there is.
I think hypnosis works so well with smoking cessation because habits and addictions in general tend to be very psychological in nature. Among other things, hypnosis helps to change and improve the way a person thinks about his or her "problem." It also helps people gain greater access to the tools and resources they'll need during the change process. In fact, many of my clients acknowledge at the beginning that their habit/addiction is "mostly psychological" and that they just need to "change the way they think about it."
Randy Gilchrist, Psy.D., is a fully qualified psychotherapist with a Master's Degree and license in marriage and family therapy, and a doctoral degree and license in clinical psychology. He specializes in strategic multi-session hypnosis programs for complex issues such as smoking cessation, and is the creator of The Non-Smoker's Edge, published by The Hypnosis Network.