If you’re struggling to quit cigarettes, here’s a meditation technique that can help
There is no one way to quit smoking. Different strategies work for different people. If you want to quit but have been unable to do so through other means, there is an alternative: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation. It is a conscious awareness of every moment. It is done by paying careful attention to each moment, no matter what is happening in that moment. And it is done without judgment.
Mindfulness helps us to be in control of our emotions and urges, rather than react to them in an impulsive and irrational way. In the case of quitting cigarettes, it helps us to process our cravings and allow them to subside, rather than giving in to them.
To get used to the concept of mindfulness, try this 15-second exercise. Focus your mind on the sensation of your breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Try to keep your mind focused on breathing for five breaths. Observe how it feels, without thinking about it.
If you’re finding it a little tricky to identify the sensation in your nostrils, you can try using a wet tissue to moisten the outside edge of your nostrils. This will make the air coming in and out of your nostrils feel cool, making it easier to identify the sensation.
Practise the five-breath refresher exercise any time you feel you would like to consolidate your ability to focus your mind’s attention on a single sensation.
Craving control exercise
Any time you get a craving for a cigarette, whether the urge is brought on by a physical craving, an emotion, a thought, a sensation, a situation you find yourself in or an association you have with smoking (for instance, a cigarette with a coffee after a meal or with a drink at a bar), take a 60-second “time out” from whatever you are doing, and follow these steps.
- Allow yourself the physical and/or mental space to sit quietly.
- Sit on a chair or on a cushion on the floor or, if this is uncomfortable, lie down. Keep your back as straight as you can.
- Close your eyes and relax your eyelids.
- Locate the sensation in your body. Is it a sensation in your stomach or your throat? Is it a feeling of wanting to do something with your hands? Is it a feeling of discomfort? Whatever it is, determine where the sensation is located within your body.
- Without judgment, watch the sensation. Be aware of it the way you would be aware of the itch of a mosquito bite or the pain of a sprained ankle.
- Allow it to be there, without trying to get rid of it or to understand where it is coming from, and without getting frustrated by it.
- Simply allow the sensation or thought to be there, and watch it. There is no need to do anything with it other than be aware that it is there, and observe it in your mind.
- As soon as you become aware of a thought, simply let it go and continue to observe the sensation.
- After 60 seconds or so, when the sensation has gone or eased to such an extent that it is difficult to even locate, continue with your day.
As you get better at practising mindfulness, you will find fewer thoughts come up as you sit with and watch the sensation. Just do the best you can to observe the sensation, rather than think about it.
The process will still work even if some thoughts pop into your mind. The most important thing is being able to sit with the sensation and allowing it to be there without reacting to it in any way.