The truth behind nicotine addiction and how hypnotherapy can help, without the need for nicotine replacements.
A Breath of Fresh Air
When I was a kid (we’re not talking war time here, but definitely pre- Instagram/Love Island era, when we still had house phones and only 4 T.V channels) it was not an unusual occurrence to come in to contact with a smoker. I’d play at my friends whose parents smoked in the house, I’d go to a restaurant where there were ashtrays on every table, even trains had smoking carriages. Smoking was normal. So much so, that by age 14, I had endured my first cigarette and by 15, was well on my way to being a fully-fledged smoker. And so, it continued until my mid 20’s when I met my now husband, who as non-smoker, politely suggested, on more than one occasion that it might be time to quit.
In the 10 or so years that I smoked, the world’s perception of smoking changed dramatically. It went from being the norm to come home from a night out with cigarette burns in your clothes and your hair smelling like a bonfire, to being huddled into a makeshift shelter in the corner of your local pub garden to get your fix. The ban of smoking in all pubs, clubs, restaurants, and workplaces in 2007 understandably had a massive impact on the social aspect of smoking and no doubt this bold move led to the continued decline in numbers of smokers in the UK since.
Stubbing it Out
According to the recent independent review by Dr Javed Khan (Making Smoking Obsolete: Review, June 2022), despite a consistent decline in numbers, there are still an estimated 6 million people who do smoke in England. And of those 6 million, it’s expected that 2 out of 3 of those who are considered to be ‘lifetime smokers’, will likely die as a result of the habit. That’s potentially 4 million people who will die because they smoke. When you consider that (to date of the writing of this blog) there has been around 184 thousand deaths from COVID 19 in the UK, smoking is still a much greater threat to health than anything the Pandemic has bought.
Dr Khan has come up with a number of recommendations within his review that, if agreed by the government, intend to rapidly reduce this number to make England ‘smoke free’ by 2030. Some of the suggestions within the report include continually increasing the age of sale for tobacco products (like they have successfully already done in New Zealand), increased investment of £125 million per year for support services assisting people to quit and the introduction of a tobacco licence for retailers to limit the availability of tobacco across the country.
Fighting Fire with Fire
Another focus within the review is around the promotion of vaping or E-Cigarettes as a reliable and effective method for quitting smoking. This causes some area for debate amongst health care professionals as vaping has been around for such a short time, that we are yet to fully understand the full impact that this could have on people’s long-term health. What is more widely accepted however, is that despite having some of its own potential hazards, the more modern habit of vaping is considerably safer than the smoking of traditional cigarettes. 50%-95% safer in fact. Unfortunately, vaping itself, can also feel tricky for some to give up and I have worked with a number of clients who have successfully quit cigarettes, only to have to then face a further challenge of quitting vaping later down the line.
Smoke and Mirrors
But what if I told you that the need for nicotine replacement is not as necessary as you think? There are a few groups of people out there who are pretty keen for us all to continue to think that nicotine is exceptionally difficult to withdraw from. Tobacco companies, who make billions from the sales of cigarettes, have a vested interest in keeping us firmly believing that quitting nicotine will be too difficult to even contemplate. That the withdrawal symptoms will be too much to take and that we’ll fail before the end of the day as the craving of the nicotine will be too great. When our primitive brains are given any evidence to suggest that we might fail at something, it will quickly step in to encourage us to play it safe and not venture outside of our comfort zone. Cue then the pharmaceutical companies who come to our rescue with an array of gums, patches and other nicotine replacements that promise to feed this terrible addiction without the need to smoke.
The truth is, that nicotine has a half-life of only 2 hours. That means that 2 hours after your last cigarette, at least half of the amount of the nicotine from that cigarette has left your system. There is also a suggestion that the strongest craving you will get for more nicotine will happen at around 45 minutes after you finished your last cigarette. Yet how often have you quite easily made it past an hour without one? In the cinema? A long meeting a work? So, most of the time, you are cruising through the strongest craving that nicotine can throw at you, with absolutely no assistance or thought. This then poses the question, if the addiction to nicotine alone is not really the culprit of why we find it hard to quit, what is? The answer is down to how our brains create and store habits.
The Thinking Behind the Habit
The human brain has the wonderful advantage of having an intellectual part to it that helps us to think through problems, be creative and rational. This is the part that knows that smoking can kill us and wants us to stop. But the original, primitive part of our brain (the fight/flight part) that is there to keep us alive, can get quite set in its ways and likes us to repeat any action that we previously carried out, that it believes might be keeping us alive. A little counter intuitive you might think, that it would want us to keep smoking in order for us to stay alive, but have a think about some of the reasons you might tell yourself that you smoke. It makes you feel less stressed? It helps you to feel more sociable? It relaxes you? Why would your brain want you to stop doing something that it firmly believes can do the above?
How Hypnotherapy Can Help You to Quit Smoking
‘Hypnosis’ or ‘trance’ can often be misunderstood as some mystical spell, but it is in fact a very ordinary state of being and is something we experience multiple times a day, when driving, running, watching tv etc. The advantage of being in this state is being able to directly access your subconscious, which is extremely useful when you are looking to make lasting changes to habits, such as smoking. It’s also deeply relaxing and helps to keep stress levels lower which is important in the early stages of quitting, because our primitive brain takes charge when we are overwhelmed with stress and to make lasting changes, we need our intellectual minds in the driving seat.
As well as dispelling a number of false beliefs around smoking and reducing stress levels, a one-off smoking cessation with a solution focused hypnotherapist will also arm you with a number of other practical tools that will equip you to quit confidently and permanently. Understanding how your brain works and the things you can do to better control it, are not just helpful for giving up cigarettes, but will impact on other areas of your life too as an added bonus, particularly if you experience stress and anxiety and would like to gain back control in other areas of your life.
So, although it seems hopeful that smoking cigarettes will one day become something we just read about in history books, along with dinosaurs, mini-discs and Neighbours, there is still work to be done to support those who do still smoke and who no longer want to run the risk of being one of the 4 million whose life will end prematurely as a result of this habit. If you or someone you know is ready to take that step, then please do get in touch. In the space of 2 hours, you too can sit on the other side of the smoking fence, without the need for on-going treatments or expensive paraphernalia and enjoying life to the full once again.
And I can tell you from my own experience, the view from here is pretty great!
About the Author: Rose Horgan works with people online in our Epping Forest clinic and she specialises in working with people anxiety, low confidence and parental stress. Rose is a member of the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapists and, as an experienced Social Worker, she is also registered with the British Associate of Social Work.
If you would like to explore how solution focused hypnotherapy can help you to to stop smoking or reduce stress and anxiety, why not get in touch to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist? Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Essex, Fife, Hertfordshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, London, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, and Somerset.
Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are all recognised by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s leading not-for-profit hypnotherapy professional association.
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