The Psychology of Quitting Smoking

No Comments Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

easy-give-up-smoking.jpgMany experts believe smoking is only about 10% physical addiction and a whopping 90% psychological addiction. Your body will recover fairly quickly from nicotine withdrawals (the worst symptoms usually abate in three days or less), but your psychological dependency on cigarettes can be much more difficult to defeat.

One way to combat this is to do a bit of self-analysis before giving up cigarettes.

Make a list with two columns. Label column one “Why I Started Smoking” and label column two “Why I Want To Quit Smoking.”

In column one, list all the reasons you can remember as to why you started smoking in the first place. Was it peer pressure? Rebellion? Did you think it made you look cool? Did it make you feel like a grown-up? Really try to remember the exact reasons why you started smoking and write them all down.

Now look over that list. Do any of those reasons still apply in your life today? Probably not.

If you’re like most people, you will see that your reasons for becoming a smoker are no longer valid, are often just silly, and are easily outweighed by the risks to your health and your family’s well-being.

So let’s move on to column two… Why do you want to quit smoking?

This one may seem obvious, but it can be a bit tricky. You really need to take some time and think hard about this. Don’t just list the obvious health reasons. You’ve been reading the Surgeon General’s warnings for years with little effect, so you need to come up with reasons that truly have meaning for you.

The things most people write down will NOT help you quit smoking…

– I don’t want to get lung cancer.
– I don’t want to have a heart attack or a stroke.
– I’d like to live long enough to see my grandchildren grow up.

Those are all good reasons to quit smoking, certainly… but they deal in “possibilities” rather than in specifics.

Sure you MIGHT get lung cancer, you MIGHT have a heart attack or a stroke, you MIGHT die young and miss out on seeing your grandchildren grow up…

…or you MIGHT NOT! You’re not likely to break a strong psychological addiction based on what MIGHT happen. Your mind will work hard to convince you that it won’t happen to you! Instead, list health problems that you are already experiencing.

Your list should point out things in your life that you are actively unhappy about and are STRONGLY MOTIVATED to change. In order to break your psychological addiction, you need an arsenal of new thoughts and desires that are stronger than your desire to smoke!

Here are the types of things you want to put in column two…

Why Do I Want To Quit Smoking?

1. Health Reasons

– I get so out of breath when I exert myself even a little bit. Just vacuuming the house makes me pant and gasp.

– My feet are always cold. This could be due to high blood pressure and poor circulation associated with smoking.

– I have a nasty wet cough and I have to blow my nose way too often. Mucus build-up is the body’s reaction to all the toxins and chemicals in cigarette smoke and could be a precursor to serious respiratory disease. Even if I don’t get cancer, I don’t want to be one of those people who has to tote oxygen bottles around everywhere.

– I’m always tired. Could it be that my body is using up all its energy trying to eliminate the toxins and chemicals from cigarettes?

2. Vanity Reasons

– Smoking causes premature aging and drying of the skin. I don’t want to look like a wrinkled up old prune!

– My fingers, fingernails and teeth are all tobacco stained. Disgusting! How embarrassing.

– When I get on the elevator after a smoke break at work, everyone wrinkles their nose and tries to edge away from me because I reek of cigarette smoke. I feel like a pariah. It’s embarrassing to always be the big “stinker” on the elevator. I feel like I have no self-control.

– My breath is awful. Kissing me must be like kissing an ashtray. I spend a fortune on breath mints.

3. Financial Reasons

– If I save all the money I used to spend on cigarettes, I’ll have enough to take a vacation in Cancun (or some other warm tropical place) every winter!

– I could use the money to pay off my credit cards!

– I could donate money to my favorite charity or sponsor a child. My cigarette money could make the world a better place!

4. Family Reasons

– My family can stop worrying about me.

– My spouse will have to find something new to nag me about. Just kidding, honey!

– My children will be proud of me and (hopefully) they’ll never start smoking themselves, having seen firsthand what a nasty destructive habit it is.

5. Cleanliness Reasons

– The walls used to be white. Now they’re a nasty dirty-looking brown. I need to repaint… again!

– I stink, my car stinks, my house stinks, everything I own reeks of cigarette smoke. I can’t even lend a book to a non-smoking friend because they can’t stand the smell of smoke permeating the pages!

Do you see yourself in any of the items listed? You may have many more reasons of your own. Find as many compelling and emotional reasons to pursue smoking cessation as you can think of and write them all down. To quit smoking, you need YOUR reason to kick the nicotine habit.

If you can re-train your mind to think of smoking as a silly and self-destructive thing to do, then you’re almost sure to succeed. And if you need something to do with your hands… try knitting!

Categories: Uncategorized

Eating disorders may be contagious: study

2 Comments Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Eating disordersA study of U.S. high school students provides additional evidence that eating disorders may be contagious.

In a study, researchers found that binging, fasting, diet pill use and other eating disorder symptoms clustered within counties, particularly among female students.

“These findings confirm the strong social influences on female adolescents in the U.S. to be thin, sometimes using unhealthy behaviors to achieve this goal,” the researchers write in the current issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Based on their results, the researchers think it may be more effective to target eating disorder prevention efforts to counties or schools where they are more common, rather than individual students.


Categories: Addiction,Eating Disorders,Health Risk,Obesity,Teenage Girls,Teenagers

Why Voters Play Follow-the-Leader

No Comments Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

What do you think is more dangerous? Terrorists getting their hands on a biological weapon that can be smuggled into the country or another hurricane like Katrina? Which is the smarter way to keep Social Security solvent? Raise the retirement age or raise taxes? How can the current economic crisis be averted?

How do we form preferences when we do not fully understand complex issues? We fall back on heuristics, or mental shortcuts. New research suggests the most powerful of these is to find leaders with whom we feel cultural kinship — and then follow whatever they recommend.

In an intriguing set of experiments, Braman, Yale University law professor Dan Kahan and others show that people reduce complex policy matters to a question of personal values. This simplifies decisions, but it places our conclusions — and even our perception of facts — at the mercy of traits that are ultimately arbitrary.

Two presidential candidates have explicitly tried to step away from this kind of thinking: When Barack Obama says it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, or John McCain emphasizes that his political opponents have things to say that are of value, these politicians are encouraging voters to avoid turning policy debates into proxy wars about values.

“If you can generate conditions in which people are not engaged in cultural battles, they are much more likely to be relaxed and receptive to information,” Braman concluded. “Once people are on the defensive, they are very good at screening out facts that are contrary to their cultural commitments. It is a form of cognitive self-defense.” See the whole article here.

Categories: Cultural Commitments,Decision Making Process,Defensive,Leadership,Obama Values

Last Minute Valentine? You´ll Pay More!

No Comments Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Month before Valentine or night before Valentine?

When the gift-giving deadline approaches, our perspective shifts from gifts with positive outcomes — something that will knock your sweetheart off his or her feet — to gifts that will simply help us avoid a fight.

“Consumers facing an imminent decision are confronted with the negative possibility of failing to fulfill their purchasing goal,” explain Cassie Theriault (Stanford University), Jennifer L. Aaker (University of California, Berkeley), and Ginger L. Pennington (University of Chicago). “When the purchase is still far off in the future, however, consumers are likely to be fairly optimistic about succeeding and less concerned with the possibility of goal failure.”

“Given that most products can be advertised as a means to promote something positive or as a means to prevent something negative, these findings are highly relevant to advertisers and marketers in their efforts to attract consumers to their products,” the researchers explain. “This research offers further understanding of the critical role of anticipated pleasure and pain in decision making.” More details on the study available here.

Categories: Consumers,Marketing Psychology,Valentine Gift

Overeat To Obesity – Who´s To Blame?

No Comments Sunday, November 4th, 2007

WASHINGTON, DC—Science has found one likely contributor to the way that some folks eat to live and others live to eat. Researchers at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, have found that people with genetically lower dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps make behaviors and substances more rewarding, find food to be more reinforcing than people without that genotype. In short, they are more motivated to eat and they eat more.

Both obesity and the genotype associated with fewer dopamine D2 receptors predicted a significantly stronger response to food’s reinforcing power. Perhaps not surprisingly, participants with that high level of food reinforcement consumed more calories.

The reinforcing value of food, which may be influenced by dopamine genotypes, appeared to be a significantly stronger predictor of consumption than self-reported liking of the favorite food. Researchers still view reinforcement as one of several factors that motivate eating behavior, but the present study highlights the genetic contribution and role of reinforcement. More findings available here.

Categories: Eating Disorders,Obesity,Overeating

Power Of Opinion

No Comments Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Whether people are making financial decisions in the stock market or worrying about terrorism, they are likely to be influenced by what others think. And, according to a new study in this month’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), repeated exposure to one person’s viewpoint can have almost as much influence as exposure to shared opinions from multiple people.

This finding shows that hearing an opinion multiple times increases the recipient’s sense of familiarity and in some cases gives a listener a false sense that an opinion is more widespread then it actually is.
The studies found that an opinion is more likely to be assumed to be the majority opinion when multiple group members express their opinion. However, the study also showed that hearing one person express the same opinion multiple times had nearly the same effect on listener’s perception of the opinion being popular as hearing multiple people state his/her opinion.

For example, a congressman may get multiple phone calls from a small number of constituents requesting a certain policy be implemented or changed, and from those requests must decide how voters in their state feel about the issue. This study sheds light on the cognitive processes that take place that may influence such a decision.”

Categories: Opinion Manipulation Persuading

Caffeine-Dependent Who Art Thou?

No Comments Friday, August 10th, 2007

People who are dependent on caffeine tend to score higher on tests of impulsiveness and sensation-seeking than nondependent adults. The same is true of people who use more dangerous drugs than caffeine.

However, unlike other drug users, the caffeine-dependent do not score high on tests of risk-taking, according to a study published in the August issue of APA’s Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology (Vol. 13, No. 3).

The study shows that many adults struggle with a drug some consider to be harmless, says study author Heather Jones, a fifth-year clinical psychology student at the University of Maryland. Where the caffeine dependence may lead? Read more here.

Categories: Addiction,Caffeine,Coffee,Impulsiveness

Who is Minding the Mind?

2 Comments Friday, August 3rd, 2007

In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee. The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated.
On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee — and asked for a hand with the cup.
That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.

The new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses. See the full article here.

Categories: Conscious,Mind,Subconscious,Unconscious

Teenage Girls: Do Not Complain!

No Comments Monday, July 16th, 2007

Hello my friends! I´ve got an advice for you today: if having problems in your relationships or anywhere else, please don´t do what you´re used with the most – do not complain about it to your friends, do not discuss it extensively. Why so?

New research shows that extensive discussion of problems may have a negative effect on emotional adjustment in girls.

Friendships that lend themselves to ruminating about problems may actually contribute to emotional difficulties in girls, according to new research. A study in the July issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, finds that girls are more likely than boys of the same age group to develop anxiety and depression as a result of extensive conversations with friends about their problems.

Co-rumination, or excessively talking with another person about problems, including rehashing them and dwelling on the negative feelings associated with them, is thought to have both costs and benefits for people experiencing unpleasant situations.

By the way, how about boys? If interested in the results of the study – click here.

Categories: Discussion,Problems,Teenage Boys,Teenage Girls,Teenagers

Young Cancer Doctors Hit By Stress

One Comment Monday, June 18th, 2007

A quarter of young cancer specialists in the UK are suffering from stress which can lead to depression and affect their care of patients and their families, researchers have found.
In a survey of 401 oncology registrars, 102 scored above the threshold for possible psychiatric morbidity and more than one in ten showed clinically important levels of depression.

The main reasons cited include being over-stretched, keeping up-to-date with knowledge, fear of making mistakes, talking with distressed relatives, and poor senior support and team relations.

The team was established to survey all the palliative medicine, medical oncology and clinical oncology registrars in the country – 63% of the UK’s cancer specialist registrars replied- with a questionnaire and a test for short-term changes in mental health.

They found 102 with levels of psychological distress, 44 had scores indicating depression and 15 expressed suicidal ideas. The study also found that the effect of stress on personal/family life was the dominant predictor of depression, which tallied with studies of other specialties. If interested in more details, please click here.

Categories: Cancer Stress Doctors Depression
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