Meditation May Help Smokers Quit
Mindfulness meditation is one form of behavioral training that may help in developing self control for those trying to quit smoking. In a review of addiction research published in Trends and Cognitive Sciences, researchers found that willpower is one of the most important elements a person needs to be able to quit smoking - possibly more important than the intention to quit. They also added that brainscan studies show smokers have decreased activity in the regions of the brain associated with self-control. They believe increasing self-control may help defend against the “unconscious influences” that push a person to keep smoking.
One meditation study cited in the review was conducted by Texas Tech University and the University of Oregon. This included 60 undergraduate students, 27 who were smokers and 33 who were non-smokers, who all participated in a mindfulness meditation training. Prior to the training, all received a brain scan, and believed they were learning meditation techniques to reduce stress and improve brain function. Once enrolled, half of the students were taught meditation to be aware of one’s experiences, and the other half were taught relaxation techniques.
At the end of the two weeks, and after a total of 5 hours of classes, students were given a questionnaire, brain scan, and their smoking activity was measured via carbon monoxide levels. Although the students reported smoking the same number of cigarettes before and after the training, smokers in the meditation classes showed a 60 percent drop in their lunch carbon monoxide levels within the 2 weeks following the study.
Experts stress that these mindfulness techniques might not work the best for everybody. Still, researchers are continuing to study how drug addiction and repeated drug use affects the ability to self-regulate, create and achieve goals and affects behavior.