Mindful tobacco reduction
Mindfulness is one of those “buzz words” right now; many people are trying more mindfulness techniques in an attempt to reduce stress, anxiety, be better at living in the moment and increase focus. Mindfulness also has its place in tobacco reduction and can be a tool used for those who are trying to cut down or quit smoking.
One of the first things we do when we are supporting our clients through a quit attempt is ask them what they like about smoking. Most people aren’t expecting to be asked this, but overwhelmingly we hear comments like “it relaxes me,” or “it’s my best friend.” Many of our quit smoking techniques centre around this notion. Once we understand what you like about tobacco, we can work together to make a plan.
The other thing to think about is when/why you’re smoking. What other things are you typically doing during that time? We suggest tracking your cigarettes for a few days or a week. Use a phone app or carry around a blank piece of paper and track the time of every cigarette, the situation and your mood. While you might think you know all your smoking patterns, we find that clients often have a few surprises after tracking for a few days.
After this reflection, use the information you’ve collected to start making some changes, even if they are just small. Many of the techniques we suggest aim to make smoking less comfortable and less enjoyable. This is where mindfulness comes in. As a first step, separate smoking from all other activities. Take a look at your tracker. What situations do you find yourself typically using tobacco in? This might mean no more smoking while you put your feet up with a good reality show after work. Have your cigarette and then watch your program. Same idea with drinking coffee, driving, talking on the phone or texting. Once we separate smoking from other activities, we not only make smoking less enjoyable, we cut out “mindless smoking.” We are forced to concentrate on what we are doing and then move on to the next moment and the next activity.
Other steps in mindful tobacco reduction include: changing brands of cigarettes, moving all smoking to outside your home and vehicle, and avoiding smoking in social situations. We also encourage you to be mindful with rewarding yourself for the great work you are doing for your health. Think of meaningful rewards that you can purposefully give yourself regularly to reinforce the good work you are doing.
If you are looking for support, we can help! Visit www.albertaquits.ca for more great tips and information on our group and telephone support.
Megan Heroux is an Alberta Health Services health promotion facilitator and can be reached at Megan.Heroux@ahs.ca