mind power

Bon­nie Sum­ner quits smok­ing af­ter seek­ing a help­ing hand in the form of hyp­nother­apy ses­sions

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - Sunday Spa -

The thrill is gone. Kate Moss may have looked cool with a fag be­tween her fin­gers 10 years ago, but now, like her ob­ses­sion with skinny jeans, it looks passé. Un­for­tu­nately, hav­ing role mod­els like Moss light­ing up proudly in pub­lic gives peo­ple a false sense of what to­bacco does. We all know about the health dan­gers of smok­ing, namely can­cer, em­phy­sema and heart dis­ease, but it is our skin that shows the vis­i­ble signs. Let’s not mis­con­strue re­al­ity: even the smooth-skinned Moss will one day look just as wrin­kled as ev­ery other smoker.

Did you know that the term “smoker’s face” was added to the med­i­cal lex­i­con in 1985? De­fined as “lines or wrin­kles on the face, deep lines on the cheeks, a sub­tle gaunt­ness of the fea­tures, and a grey skin pal­lor”, there is noth­ing beau­ti­ful about smok­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Mark Gray, a der­ma­tol­o­gist with the Skin In­sti­tute on Auck­land’s North Shore, even a puff of a cig­a­rette has a pro­found ef­fect on the skin.

“It de­prives the skin of oxy­gen so just one cig­a­rette will shut down the mi­crovas­cu­la­ture of the face, and that starv­ing of oxy­gen over long pe­ri­ods of time re­sults in poor skin re­pair mech­a­nisms, so you get a lot of wrin­kling and that sal­low colour. I know straight away ex­actly who is a smoker and who isn’t a smoker when they come in.”

But there is hope. If you are one of the nearly 24 per­cent of New Zealan­ders who smoke, then quit­ting now could still save your skin.

“It takes about a year for the skin to re­cover from the ef­fects and that’s why it’s never too late to give up smok­ing,” says Dr Gray. But, he warns, “some changes are ir­repara­ble for chronic smok­ers – par­tic­u­larly the wrin­kles”.

Un­til two weeks ago, I was a smoker. I wasn’t a pack-a-day smoker. No, I was much worse – a so­cial smoker. I didn’t even con­sider my­self to be an ad­dicted or com­mit­ted smoker.

On oc­ca­sion I had given up, even for a cou­ple of

years at one point. But the ad­dic­tion I had gained, as a 14-year-old be­hind the school sheds, stuck stub­bornly. Wak­ing up one morn­ing af­ter a night out with a few friends, a few drinks, and many cig­a­rettes, I de­cided enough was enough. I needed help, fast. But how?

I had tried the best­selling Alan Carr book How to Stop Smok­ing, which had worked for friends, but sadly didn’t have the same ef­fect on me. I didn’t want to use patches or any other chem­i­cal meth­ods, and I lacked willpower.

So af­ter do­ing some re­search on the most suc­cess­ful meth­ods of smok­ing ces­sa­tion, I de­cided on hyp­nother­apy. (Var­i­ous dif­fer­ent sci­en­tific stud­ies place the rate of suc­cess any­where be­tween 50 per­cent and 75 per­cent.)

I could sit in a chair and close my eyes, some­one would say a few words and… abra­cadabra! I would be cured. Well, some­thing like that.

Dave Gil­bert is a reg­is­tered hyp­nother­a­pist based in Auck­land. The friendly, be­spec­ta­cled English­man has been treat­ing peo­ple for ad­dic­tions and pho­bias for al­most 20 years. He also of­fers a free ini­tial con­sul­ta­tion. Hav­ing never been hyp­no­tised be­fore, I must ad­mit I was ap­pre­hen­sive, but Gil­bert put me at ease, ex­plain­ing ev­ery­thing clearly and an­swer­ing my ques­tions. By the time my first ap­point­ment rolled around (he has a five-week wait­ing list) I was more than ready.

The first ses­sion we talked a lot about the rea­sons I wanted to quit, fol­lowed by a short hyp­no­sis ses­sion in which I was asked to close my eyes and re­lax. Gil­bert then went over all the rea­sons we had dis­cussed, and recorded the hyp­no­sis ses­sion onto a CD. And to an­swer re­cur­ring ques­tions from curious friends: no, it is not weird, you are not un­con­scious, there is no loss of con­trol, you can hear ev­ery­thing and you can open your eyes and move around if you have to. Gil­bert de­scribes it as “a very re­laxed state where we’re al­ways con­scious, very much like med­i­ta­tion. When we’re in that state the sub­con­scious part of the mind pays more at­ten­tion, and this is the part that does all the au­to­matic things. And when we’re in hyp­no­sis we can use pos­i­tive sug­ges­tions and vi­su­al­i­sa­tion to help the sub­con­scious to make changes.” But, he says, you have to be com­mit­ted to quit­ting.

Af­ter leav­ing the clinic, with in­struc­tions to lis­ten to the CD each day, I felt re­laxed, but no dif­fer­ent. The first days were hard, but ev­ery time I was close to light­ing up I thought, I’ve come this far, why not try to see how much fur­ther I can go? By my sec­ond ses­sion, I didn’t feel the same long­ing for a cig­a­rette. I’m free, and my skin, health and body are thank­ing me for it. For a reg­is­tered hyp­nother­a­pist in your area, go to www.nzhrb. co.nz. For Dave Gil­bert’s web­site, go to www.hyp­nother­apy-nlp. co.nz. The one-hour ses­sions cost $150 each.

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