My life completely changed when I finally managed to give up cigarettes. I remember coughing in the morning, stinking of smoke all day, and hating myself for being a smoker. But it all changed for me. And it can change for you too.
Today, I work as a meditation teacher. And I have taught many people to quit smoking with meditation. Below, I will share one of my meditations. And I’ll discuss why meditation is so very effective for stopping addictions and cravings.
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Meditation To Quit Smoking
- Sit comfortably with good posture, preferably on a meditation chair. Place your feet shoulder-distance apart. Make sure your knees are directly above your ankles.
- Your spine should be straight but relaxed. Roll your shoulders back then let them relax. Gently lower your chin a little to elongate your neck.
- [OPTIONAL] Place your hands in Gyan Mudra. To do this, touch the pads of your index fingers and thumbs together and keep them there. Now place your hands on your thighs with the palms facing upwards.
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Deep breathing promotes parasympathetic nervous system activity, reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, reduces amygdala activity, and balances cortisol. Basically, it helps you to relax.
- Focus your mind on the spot just below the middle of your nose. Observe your breath passing through this space. Focus on the sensation of the breath moving here.
- Take 10 breaths while you focus on this spot.
- Now increase your awareness so you are aware of your breath moving through your nostrils, into your nose and mouth, to the back of your throat. Take ten mindful breaths here.
- Now expand your awareness once more so you are aware of the entire breathing process. Continue to breathe while focusing on the entire breathing process.
- Because you are deep breathing you will begin to feel relaxed. When this happens, meditate on the feeling of relaxation. How does it feel to be relaxed? What kind of energy is relaxation? Meditate on that.
- When thoughts and feelings enter your mind, observe them calmly and label them. Say to yourself, “This is just a thought” or “This is just a feeling”.
- Describe the nature of the thoughts or feelings. For instance, say, “This is a mental image” or “This is a sensation of sadness in my chest” or “This is a craving.” and so on. This will make you less reactive to thoughts, feelings, and cravings. Plus, it will help you to stay relaxed throughout the day (and remember, relaxation is crucial for smoking cessation).
- If you are meditating at a time when you usually smoke, you will naturally feel some unwanted emotions like anxiety and stress. HelpGuide.org states that it is imperative to find healthy ways to handle these feelings. To do this we will practice Buddhist Vipassana (Insight Meditation).
- Observe when you experience thoughts and emotions. Imagine taking a step back (in your mind) from that emotion or thought. Now observe the thoughts mindfully (with conscious awareness and without judgment). This will reduce your reactivity to those thoughts and emotions. Learning to cope with these thoughts and emotions now will also help you get through nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Continue until you have taken 108 breaths. Open your eyes.
- Continue tomorrow and the next day
- Continue to use meditation after you quit smoking. WebMD says that finding ways to unwind is vital to staying on the right track.
More Recommended Meditations
- Metta Meditation (Loving Kindness, as taught by Sharon Salzberg and Matthieu Ricard),
- Zazen and Kinhin (Zen and Zen Walking, for which you might like to read the works of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh),
- Gratitude Meditation (I recommend Tara Brach),
- Tai Chi (Paul Lam has some great videos on Youtube).
- There are also guided meditations to quit smoking (I’ve shared one below). Options include Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and Synctuition. But bear in mind that research from Harvard Medical School shows that meditation apps are not as effective as traditional meditation.
Science on meditation and smoking
Now here’s the good news.
Meditation is incredibly helpful for quitting smoking. Why? Mostly because it empowers you to get through the cravings without caving-in.
The Mayo Clinic states that “[cravings] may be intense, but they will probably pass within five to 10 minutes whether or not you smoke a cigarette.” Meditation helps you get through those cravings.
It easier than you think
A study published by the National Academy of Sciences found significant benefits of mindfulness for smokers.
Researchers from the University of Oregon and Texas Tech University gave participants lessons in Integrative Body-Mind Training. The results showed that cigarette smoking reduced by 60% even when test subjects didn’t want to quit.
Importantly, the participants were not trying to quit smoking. They were interested in reducing stress and improving their performance.
MedicalNewsToday says that you don’t always need to try to overcome an addiction in order to do it.
Sometimes, just relaxing is enough
Indeed, HelpGuide says that smokers turn to cigarettes “as a way to boost outlook, relieve stress, and unwind.”
Therefore, reducing stress and unwinding helps us kick the habit.
Meditation stops cravings
Experts at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse says, “Exercises aimed at increasing self-control, such as mindfulness meditation, can decrease the unconscious influences that motivate a person to smoke.”
This is vital. A lot of smoking triggers are subconsious. But meditation makes us more aware. And thereby, it empowers us to say no to our triggers.
Some of the best exercises for increasing self-control are Integrative Body-Mind Training exerxises, which help with stress and relaxation while also heightening the body mind connection.
Also try Integrated Body Mind Training
- Mindfulness meditation
- Relaxation exercises
- Nature exposure
- Physical exercises like tai chi and qigong
- Other exercises that improve communication between body and mind
Research shows that IBMT exercises, including mindfulness meditation, are very helpful when attempting to quit smoking.
Before undergoing Integrative Body Mind Training, smokers have reduced activity in the cingulate cortex (ACC), left lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) and other areas. This indicates reduced self-control.
After two weeks of IBMT, this brain activity improves. This means that smokers have more self control.
There are more benefits of meditation for smokers too.
For starters, meditation reduces activity in the amygdala, meaning less stress (and therefore less smoking triggers). Plus, it increases activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, meaning more self control.
Finally, it increases self-awareness, so we are more able to change behaviours.
And of course, you can also quit drinking with meditation too.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison