Drugs and nicotine patches aren’t the only way to go—you may do better with hypnosis or acupuncture.
Quitting smoking is hard. Everyone who’s tried knows it. A recent article in Psychology Today estimates that most of those who have tried to quit have relapsed within a year. There are all sorts of patches and drugs to help, but many people don’t have success with them. Some—like Chantix, for example—have been linked with an increased risk of aggression and suicidal thoughts and actions.
Obviously, we need more options. Many smokers try 7-10 times before finally succeeding. Nowhere else does the old adage “try and try again” seem to apply! Here are several natural and even “weird” ways that may help you ditch the cigarettes for good.
One Note Before You Start
One thing that may help you to know before you try another method of quitting is that the first week is different than the rest. In a study published in 2010, researchers concluded that the first week of quitting will be difficult in ways that will change during the rest of the weeks. In other words, a quitting method that may work the first week may not work as well after that.
That first week, the brain will associate everything with nicotine and the urge to smoke, doing anything it can to get you to cave. Getting up in the morning, taking a break at work, and even seeing a picture of a flower on the wall is likely to remind you that you want to smoke. Researchers have found that the brain steps up these associations during withdrawal, interfering with your normal thinking process, so this is when you need the strongest assistance and support in resisting these impulses. Since more than half of smokers relapse in the first week, focusing your efforts here may get you over the hump.
After that first week, things change. That doesn’t necessarily mean they become easier, however—just different. What researchers discovered is that the first week is all about your brain and its attempts to lead you back to nicotine. After that, it’s more about your personality and other psychological factors. So if you find the method that worked for you in the first week is no longer working the 2nd week, don’t be afraid to change!
Natural and Weird Options to Help you Quit
Here are some other methods of quitting that may help—some that have research behind them, and some that have just shown to work for some folks. The best answer may be to combine one or more together, such as acupuncture with herbal remedies.
- Hypnotism: This one is supported by some studies, and not by others. Those helped by the method never look back. A 2007 study, for example, found that hospitalized patients who smoked were more likely to quit when they used hypnotherapy than when they tried other methods like nicotine replacement therapy or cold turkey. Another study in 2008 combined hypnosis with nicotine replacement patches and found success.
- Acupuncture: As recently as this year (2012), a research review of 14 international studies concluded that acupuncture and hypnosis help people kick the habit. Researchers found that some studies showed that smokers subjected to acupuncture were more than three times as likely to be tobacco-free six months to a year later.
- Herbs: Some herbs are thought to create a similar effect on the brain as nicotine, but without the addictive properties. Lobelia does this and also acts as a relaxant, but be careful not to take too much, as it can make you feel sick. Passionflower, valerian, kava, chamomile, lavender, and peppermint may help you relax, while ginger root can relieve the nausea associated with nicotine withdrawal. Ginseng can counteract stress. In one small study, a combination of St. John’s wort and smoking cessation counseling boosted quit rates by 37.5 percent.
- Eat healthy: Researchers at Duke University found that red meat, coffee, fizzy drinks, and alcohol made smokers crave a cigarette, while fruits, veggies, and milk made cigarettes taste bad. Loading up on a healthy diet while you’re trying to quit may help reduce cravings. Dr. Sajeela Maini, president of the Tobacco Control Foundation of India, has stated that apples, cucumbers, oranges, grapes, pomegranates, and coconut water help reduce the urge to smoke.
- Detox: Some people say that flushing the nicotine out of your system can help ease cravings. Try drinking plenty of water, consuming more dandelion root and greens, as well as garlic, onions, apples, and other foods that support liver function, such as those found here.
- Work out: Research from Brown University found that women who exercised vigorously improved their quit rates and had a longer string of no-relapse days than non-exercisers. Another study at the University of Exeter found that exercise triggers changes in brain activity—smokers who cycled at a moderate pace had fewer cravings than those who didn’t.
- Tai chi: Researchers from the University of Miami found that participants who took tai chi classes for one hour, three times a week, were better able to quit. In fact, 60 percent of participants had stopped smoking after 12 weeks.
- EFT: The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can help you deal with the doubts, cravings, triggers, and stresses that come up while you’re trying to quit. Also called “Tapping,” EFT is a tool you can use when you start feeling a craving coming on. You use positive affirmations along with acupuncture points to help you relax and to encourage the behavior in yourself that you want. Check out the Tapping Solution for more information.
- Talk: Talking to your doctor about quitting was found in a U.K. study to increase your odds of quitting. Talking to yourself in positive ways (“I can do this”) has also been found to help.
- Post new pictures: Surrounding yourself with negative images associated with smoking has been found to be a powerful motivator for quitting. The more repulsive the image, the better, according to research. Think images of a tracheotomy, diseased lungs, or a mouth with cancerous lesions.
- Massage: A small study from the University of Miami found that a two-minute ear or hand massage every day helped smokers to light up less. Another study published in the journal Addiction found that smoking and anxiety disorders are linked, and massage has been found to lessen anxiety.
- Meditation: Some studies indicate that medication can help smokers quit. One small study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that more than half of participants stopped smoking after eight group sessions teaching medication, and daily practice with a CD.
- Play hard to get: Many smokers have found success by burying their cigarettes or otherwise making them hard to get at. If you have to go out and dig into the dirt every time you want a smoke, it may help you get by cravings.
- Make a bet or a dare: If you’re the type who responds to peer pressure, get your friends involved. Make a bet that you can do it, with a nice, juicy reward at the end. Or agree to pay your friends a hefty amount if you fail.
- Use a timer: Research has found that nicotine cessation causes time distortion in smokers. That means a craving that lasts 3 minutes may seem to last up to an hour. When you feel the craving coming on, set your timer. Give yourself five minutes before giving in. During that time, distract yourself with other activities, gum, licorice chews—anything to get your mind off the craving.
- Breathe: Another coping mechanism for cravings is to stop and measure your breaths. Practice slow, deep breathing while singing a song or making a list in your head. Some smokers say their ABCs while relating each letter with a favorite person, food, or place. “A is for apple, B is for banana bread,” etc. Hopefully by the time you reach Z your craving will have let up.
- Baking soda: Here’s a weird one that may just work for you. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with one 8-ounce glass of water and drink it, twice a day for the first week, and once a day for every week after until you no longer want to smoke.
- Aromatherapy: Most all smokers say you have to replace your cigarette habit with something else. Usually something that stimulates your senses is a good idea—that’s one reason why some smokers gain weight, because they replace the cigarette with food. Try aromatherapy instead, and find your favorite scents. Candles that smell nice, bath salts, lotions, and other good-smelling things can help. Some smokers take lavender with them and sniff it every time they have a craving.
- Find something else to play with: You need something to do with your hands, so keep something nearby that feels good, like a soft scarf, a tennis ball, a Rubik’s cube, or a bean-bag stuffed animal, and play with that when you have cravings. You can also try sucking on a lemon or lime to give your mouth something to do.
- Start a savings fund: If you’re motivated by saving money (and who isn’t?), try putting the money you’re saving on cigarettes every day in cash in a glass jar or other visible place where you can measure your progress. Plan what you will do with that money after 4-6 weeks.
Do you have other ideas for how to quit smoking? Please share them!
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Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., “Why Quitting Smoking Without Help is So Hard,” Psychology Today, October 16, 2012, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201210/why-quitting-smoking-without-help-is-so-hard.
Jane Powell, Lynne Dawkins, Robert West, John Powell and Alan Pickering (2010). Relapse to smoking during unaided cessation: clinical, cognitive and motivational predictors, Psychopharmacology.
American College of Chest Physicians (2007, October 24). Hypnotherapy For Smoking Cessation Sees Strong Results. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 7, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2007/10/071022124741.htm.
Lindsay Chura, “Can Hypnosis Snuff Out a Smoker’s Cigarette Habit?” US News and World Report, June 23, 2008, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/respiratory-disorders/articles/2008/06/23/can-hypnosis-snuff-out-a-smokers-cigarette-habit.
Amy Norton, “Want to quit smoking? Try acupuncture or hypnosis,” Reuters, May 6, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/07/us-smoking-acupuncture-idUSBRE84601X20120507.
Akshat Chopra, “Quit smoking, the natural way,” Times of India, June 25, 2012, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-06-25/delhi/32408538_1_passive-smoking-hookah-tobacco-atlas.
“Can Massage Therapy Help Smokers Put Down the Cigarettes?” Massage Magazine, November 5, 2010, http://www.massagemag.com/News/massage-news.php?id=9924&catid=1&title=can-massage-therapy-help-smokers-put-down-the-cigarettes.