Cigarette smoking is a personal choice. However, if you are considering stopping smoking, you may already realize that quitting requires more than willpower or scaring yourself with statistics of why smoking is bad.
Conventional smoking cessation systems often don’t work in the long term because they do not address the real reasons that people smoke. Listed below are five often unidentified reasons that people smoke. These reasons might surprise you.
Before you engage in your stop smoking process, take some time and identify the important underlying motivations of why you choose to smoke. By understanding those real reasons, you can generate a personalized stop smoking plan that incorporates new strategies of coping and dealing with life.
1. Smoking Is A Lifestyle Coping Tool
For many people, smoking is a reliable lifestyle coping tool. Although every person’s specific reasons to smoke are unique, they all share a common theme. Smoking is used as a way to suppress uncomfortable feelings, and smoking is used to alleviate stress, calm nerves, and relax. No wonder that when you are deprived of smoking, your mind and body are unsettled for a little while.
Below is a list of some positive intentions often associated with smoking. Knowing why you smoke is one of the first steps towards quitting. Check any and all that apply to you.
___ Coping with anger, stress, anxiety, tiredness, or sadness
___ Smoking is pleasant and relaxing
___ Smoking is stimulating
___ Acceptance – being part of a group
___ As a way to socialize
___ Provides support when things go wrong
___ A way to look confident and in control
___ Keeps weight down
___ Rebellion – defining self as different or unique from a group
___ A reminder to breathe
___ Something to do with your mouth and hands
___ Shutting out stimuli from the outside world
___ Shutting out emotions from the inside world
___ Something to do just for you and nobody else
___ A way to shift gears or changes states
___ An way to feel confident
___ A way to shut off distressing feelings
___ A way to deal with stress or anxiety
___ A way to get attention
___ Marking the beginning or the end of something
2. Smoking Tranquilizer
The habit of cigarette smoking is often used to tranquilize emotional issues like anxiety, stress, or low self-esteem. In addition, smoking provides comfort to people with conditions of chronic pain and depression. Smokers with emotional stress or chronic pain often turn to smoking as an attempt to treat their pain. For instance, they may use it to reduce anxiety, provide a sense of calmness and energy, and elevate their mood.
Some evidence does suggest that nicotine has some pain-relief benefits. Nicotine releases brain chemicals which soothe pain, heighten positive emotions, and creating a sense of reward. However, any benefit from smoking only eases the pain for a few minutes. Cigarettes contain many other chemicals shown to worsen healing ability of bone, tooth, and cartilage.
The mental association between smoking and pain relief can make quitting quite difficult, as can the increased short-term discomfort that quitting smoking adds to a person already suffering with chronic pain, depression, or emotional distress. What are effective ways for people with chronic pain – whether physical or emotional – to make the decision to quit smoking? First, evidence shows that in people who suffer chronic pain, smokers have more pain than nonsmokers do. Also, accept that smoking cessation may indeed make you feel worse in the short run, but may be key to regaining enough vitality to live fully with pain.
3. The Feel Good Syndrome
Smoking is a way to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions such as sadness, grief, and anxiety. It can hide apprehensions, fears, and pain. This is accomplished partly through the chemical effects of nicotine on the brain.
When smoking, the release of brain chemicals makes smokers feel like they are coping and dealing with life and stressful emotional situations. Nicotine brings up a level of good feelings. Cigarette smokers are aware when nicotine levels and good feelings begin to decrease, and light up quickly enough to stay in their personal comfort zone. However, they may not realize that avoiding their feelings is not the same as taking positive steps to create a life of greater potential and meaning.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that people suffering from nicotine withdrawal have increased aggression, anxiety, hostility, and anger. However, perhaps these emotional responses are due not to withdrawal, but due to an increased awareness of unresolved emotions. If smoking dulls emotions, logically quitting smoking allows awareness of those emotions to bubble up to the surface. If emotional issues aren’t resolved, a smoker may feel overwhelmed and eventually turn back to cigarettes to deal with the uncomfortable feelings.
4. Smoking Makes You Feel Calm and Alive
Smokers often say that lighting up a cigarette can calm their nerves, satisfy their cravings, and help them feel energized. Indeed, nicotine in tobacco joins on to receptors in your brain that release “feel good” chemicals that can make you feel calm and energized all at once. Smoking acts as a drug, inducing a feeling of well-being with each puff. But, it’s a phony sense of well-being that never produces a permanent satisfying or fulfilling result. Smoking lures you into believing that you can escape some underlying truth or reality. However, smoking doesn’t allow you to actually transform your day-to-day life and live connected to your deeper hopes and dreams.
Instead, when you smoke, the carbon monoxide in the smoke bonds to your red blood cells, taking up the spaces where oxygen needs to bond. This makes you less able to take in the deep, oxygen-filled breath needed to bring you life, to active new energy, to allow health and healing, and bring creative insight into your problems and issues.
5. You Are In The Midst Of Transition
If you previously quit smoking, and then resumed the habit once again, consider the idea that perhaps you are in the midst of some “growing pains.” Perhaps you were feeling dissatisfied with some aspect of your life and contemplating making change. However, developing spiritually, emotionally, and physically brings with it the experience of discomfort. Old beliefs rise up, creating sensations of hurt, pain, sadness, anxiety, and uneasiness. You were feeling dissatisfied, restless, ready to change, but then felt the fear that change often ignites.
Smoking provides an escape from those uncomfortable feelings. However, smoking also brings an abrupt halt to personal transformation and the evolution of self. Although painful, these feelings are necessary in your personal development. Learning to accept feelings in a new way can help lead you out of disempowering or limiting beliefs, and into a life filled with greater happiness, satisfaction, contentment, or purpose. When you stop smoking and start breathing – conscious, deep, smoke-free, oxygen-filled breaths – your evolution will start up once again.
Why Do You Smoke?
If you smoke, then you do so because the act of smoking is personally meaningful to you. Therefore, if you are considering quitting, take some time and explore the reasons underlying your decision to smoke. Become interested, observe yourself, and get curious. Allow yourself an opportunity to turn into a smoking journalist, ready to uncover an intriguing mystery. Before lighting up your next cigarette, ask yourself:
a. What positive functions do I believe smoking provides me?
b. How will smoking help or change the situation?
c. What situations make me smoke the most?
d. What emotions or feelings am I trying to avoid or deny?
e. If I didn’t smoke right now, what would I feel? How would I handle that feeling?
f. What would I do with the energy that is freed up from smoking cessation?
The most important factor in stopping smoking is a genuine desire to stop smoking. You were not a born smoker; it’s something you learned to do. Learning new ways of coping with stress is possible, as is learning new ways to relax and raise confidence levels. Use the reasons presented above as clues to uncover the underlying reasons why you smoke. Then, in addition to making a firm decision to stop smoking, also make a firm plan to address your underlying needs. You’re not only kicking the habit, you’re also creating a new balance with your body, mind, and self!