A quote I keep running into when I work with individuals is “what consumes your mind controls your life.”
This quote I find rings true in many situations including smoking. If we are constantly focusing on something we want to avoid whether it be smoking, eating, drinking, and etc. we are hyper aware of our thoughts regarding those things and tend to obsess. The thoughts continue to grow until you do something about it, right? This becomes a pattern that gets repeated; thoughts and feelings arise then we activate a behavior to reduce the uncomfortableness.
For many of us, the thoughts trickle in--- we start to focus on having that one cigarette, piece of cake, or a drink; we try to do something else to distract, then anticipation or anxiety builds as we try to “not” think about it, anxiety and anticipation still climbing ---- the thought/desire/anxiety reach a MAX….. And then what happens, “Crap I can’t take another second,” give me that dang cigarette, cake, beer, and etc. Then a sense of relief, the battle is over (for the time being).
This brings me to my next point “riding or surfing the wave.” It’s an idea that our thoughts, feelings, and even cravings have a peak then they dissipate. When I work with people, I try to help them sit on top of the wave, and hang out for a bit to lessen the impact over time. How one might ask? By practicing the power of mindfulness (being aware instead of on autopilot) and deep breathing, one can master the wave. Sounds simple I know, disclaimer it takes practice and patience, but each time you sit on top of that wave without diving in, the peak gets smaller and shorter. A client of the NDC once said to me, “The craving will go away whether I smoke or not, so I choose to not.”
I’m not saying “distract” go read, watch tv, drink water, etc. as running away from a thought or feeling may not always work. Instead try to be curious about these thoughts and feelings as it can bring a deeper meaning to the craving and more information that will allow you to “master the wave.”
A starting activity is one we use here at Mayo Clinic:
- R Recognize what is happening – Notice the emotion/thought/feeling in the present, it can help to name it e.g. “I am feeling _____”
- A Allow life to be just as it is – Allow doesn’t mean we have to like what is happening but we are open to softening the resistance to what is happening
- I Investigate inner experience – Asking questions like “ what happened to lead to this” “what do I really need in this moment?”
- N Non-Identification – Realization that your being is not fused to your emotion or thoughts- you are just there in the middle
While you do this: Use a non-judgmental approach to yourself and your thoughts/experiences.