If you are a smoker, chances are you have probably tried to quit before, and you know it is can be a challenge. It is not a lack of desire or willpower. You have not found something new to do in place of smoking. Finding a new habit to replace cigarettes will help you to stop smoking and never go back.
Your cravings for a cigarettes come from 3 places. First, the craving for nicotine and its stimulative effect, which everyone is familiar with. Second, to desire to avoid nicotine withdrawal. Ceasing nicotine can cause uncomfortable feelings for a few days to a few weeks. And third is a behavioral dependency to the habit of smoking cigarettes. Most people are not aware of how powerful the habit is, and it can last a lifetime!
For most people smoking is ritual. It is done at the same times every day, when the same things happen, or events take place. Smokers have a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette, talk on the phone, have a cigarette, walk the dog, smoke a cigarette. These habits are engrained deep in the brain, in the basal ganglia, and can’t be erased… but they can be replaced.
The Habit Loop of Smoking
This habit of smoking is a cycle called the Habit Loop made up of a cue, action, and reward. The cue can be anything from a stressful event, to a time of day, or place. Next is the action, which is smoking a cigarette, however it is not the reward. The reward whatever you get out of smoking, like relief from boredom, an excuse to socialize, or a break from stressful events. The brain learns that when the you get your cue to smoke, and follow it up with a cigarette, something good will happen.
Nicotine replacement therapy is generally unhelpful because it does nothing to address this long term habit of smoking. Most smokers are only moderately addicted to nicotine, and withdrawal lasts a few days to 3 weeks. However, most people who have quit smoking go back to their old habits months later, when their craving to smoke has nothing to do with a physical addiction to the nicotine.
Habits are a powerful force. They save brain power by helping us perform repeated actions on autopilot, saving brain power. If you can become aware of your cues to smoke, and replace the habit with something new and healthy. Become aware of your cues, and you can harness the power of habits to create new healthy ones, that will do greatly improve your lifelong wellbeing.
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