Yesterday I wrote about a study that demonstrated how beliefs can change physiological processes, and that made me want to write about how to lose a habit like smoking. I’m always leery of writing a “how to” thing because it’s giving advice that nobody asked for, but I finally decided it was worth telling, even if only one person benefits from it.
So here’s the thing: If you smoke and want to quit, there’s an easy, relaxed, natural way to do it. You won’t gain weight or crave cigarettes or get the jitters. You won’t have to chew gum or slap on patches.
It’s your brain that has the habit of smoking, not your lips or your fingers, so your brain has to change from smoker to non-smoker. To do that, you simply fall asleep every night with an image of yourself in a situation in which you usually smoke. As if you were on a movie screen, see yourself as clearly as possible, with all the color and background sound that would be in that place. See your hands loose and relaxed, see your face smiling, see yourself being cool, because wanting to be cool is the reason everybody started smoking in the first place. Spend about 15 minutes every night seeing that image, and let it be the last thing on your mind as you go to sleep — the brain continues to process images fed it just before sleep.
Do that every night, and during the day forget it. Smoke when you want to. Smoke as much as you want to. Don’t do any smoking substitutions, just smoke. But each night, do your imaging, always relaxed, always happy, always looking sharp and fun, and always not smoking.
Don’t tell anybody what you’re doing! Don’t even think about it yourself. Just smoke when you want to, and when you notice that you’re forgetting to smoke for hours at a time, don’t mention it to anybody. Don’t celebrate. Don’t do anything. Just continue doing your imaging sessions every night, and smoking whenever you want to the rest of the time.
If you do that imaging religiously, and KEEP QUIET ABOUT IT, I absolutely promise that a day will come when you realize you haven’t had a cigarette in two or three days. If you want to, run smoke one real fast. It won’t matter, because you will have gone from being a smoker to a nonsmoker, and nonsmokers hate the taste and smell of cigarettes. Pretty soon, so will you, and you’ll never want another one.
The reason this works is that the brain doesn’t know the difference in something we vividly imagine and something we actually experience. So every time you imagine yourself not smoking, your brain adapts a little bit to this new way of being. But if you talk about it or TRY to stop, you’ll be reminding your brain that it’s a smoker, and it will think you’re trying to make it do something it doesn’t want to do. Brains aren’t stupid. They learn quickly, and one vivid imaginary experience has as much power as a lot of real ones. The key is to repeat the image until the habit of not smoking has become stronger than the habit of smoking. Whether it takes thirty days or three times that, it’s a lot easier and more permanent than any of the cold-turkey or assisted-nicotine techniques. I promise.