To quit smoking, don’t stop thinking about cigarettes

Clearing your head of all thoughts nicotine based could be the worst thing you could do if you want to stop smoking.

If you’re among the thousands of smokers trying to give up this year, you’ll know just how tough it can be. You may also think that suppressing thoughts about cigarettes is surely a good start. Right? Not necessarily.

British researchers have discovered that while blocking out nicotine thoughts can help reduce cravings at first, it actually results in the individual smoking more than normal if they eventually cave in.

And the rule doesn’t just apply to smoking. Co-author Dr James Erskine, of University of London, says: ‘These findings have obvious implications for those seeking to give up certain behaviours, for example, smoking, overeating, drinking, sex and other excessive behaviours.

‘If trying to avoid thoughts of something in an attempt to give it up actually unwittingly triggers a subsequent increase, it’s a poor method of self control. This method may stop people using quitting techniques that are ultimately harmful.’

Dr Erskine and his team conducted a study of 85 smokers with a ten-a-day habit.

They were split into three groups and asked to behave as normal in the first and third week.

It was during the second week that one group was asked to suppress their thoughts of smoking, another to actively think about cigarettes, and the third to not change anything.

The group that suppressed thoughts ended up smoking more cigarettes in the third week, whilst the other two groups’ level of smoking remained constant.

‘Knowing what techniques not to use should lead to better understanding of what methods of quitting do work,’ concludes Dr Erskine.


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