Change the Habit Loop

Blog Post created by NDC_Team on Oct 9, 2019

Your brain has a built in reward based learning system that is geared towards immediate gratification.  Since nicotine is fast acting, individuals that use tobacco get stuck in a habit loop that is difficult to interrupt. As most of us know too well, the immediate reward from the tobacco trumps the knowledge of the long term consequences of smoking.


A tool that I use to help patients break the habit of using tobacco is mindfulness. Mindfulness works because it teaches you to be more accepting of unwanted thoughts and behaviors.


The first step of mindfulness begins with starting to pay attention to your smoking.  What do you notice when you smoke?  For example, some of my patients describe the burning sensation of the smoke down their throat and into the lungs; some will notice the taste.  Paying attention and being present in your experience instead of unconsciously smoking while talking on the phone or driving helps you learn skills to help manage your cravings.


Avoiding a craving without mindfulness will make it much more difficult to break free from tobacco.  Instead be aware, acknowledge and accept the craving to smoke and allow the thoughts and feelings to come and go. Each time you ride out a craving it gets weaker. Think about the things that you value about not smoking and use that to motivate your decision to quit and to help get through the cravings. Mindfulness could be the key you need to break the loop between habit and behavior.


Heather Kraling-Coons, MA

NDC Counselor/CTTS