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NHS Guide to Healthy Living 2008

A Smoke Free Life - Break the Habit!

"Quitting smoking is easy, I've done it a thousand times", joked Mark Twain, but over 12 million people in the UK have succeeded in giving up smoking for good.

Those who haven't quit yet can't be oblivious to the health and financial benefits, so what's stopping them from giving up? For many, who have tried using willpower, nicotine products or even prescription drugs, it's the fear of failure that keeps them hooked.

Less than five per cent of quit attempts succeed using just willpower, according to research. The majority who return to smoking, resort to a lifetime of cigarettes because they have failed so many times before and believe they are unable to stop.

It's usually at this point, having heard about someone who has successfully quit using hypnosis that many smokers turn to hypnotherapy as a last resort.
Hypnosis can't work miracles if you don't want to stop in the first place but providing a person really wants to quit, it helps to remove the desire to smoke and strengthens determination and willpower.

Any hypnotherapy is four times as effective as willpower alone and more than three times more effective than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as patches and chewing gum. A recent scientific study of anti-smoking techniques, presented to the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians last October, compared four ways of quitting in 67 hospitalised patients.

After six months, 50 per cent of those who had hypnosis were still not smoking, as were those who received hypnotherapy plus NRT. Only 25 per cent of those who went cold turkey remained successful, while only 16 per cent of those who received NRT alone continued not to smoke. The researchers noted that adding NRT did not aid the success of hypnotherapy.

Hypnosis was the most effective way of stopping smoking in the volunteers, who had failed to quit with a previous method but were still motivated to stop because of health problems.

Nicotine is an addictive drug found naturally in tobacco. Over time, smokers become physically and emotionally dependent on the stimulant. When they try to cut back or quit, the lack of nicotine leads to withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal is physical and mental. Physically, the body reacts to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is challenged to relinquish a habit, which calls for a major change in behaviour. Studies show that smokers must overcome the physical and psychological dependence to quit for good. Hypnosis can help enormously with both of these.

The subconscious mind works on autopilot and has been building our habits from early in life. It forms 90 per cent of the mind and it is where our emotions, imagination and memories are stored. The way we touch-type, put on our shoes and brush our teeth are subconscious actions that do not need conscious thought.

In the remaining 10 per cent lies our conscious mind where our awareness, logic, reasoning and short-term memory are located. It can only process around six pieces of information a second, unlike our subconscious that deals with two million fragments of information every second.

When learning to drive we have to remember many things at once - when to change gear, look in the mirror and signal - but with constant repetition, the brain downloads this information to our subconscious mind until there comes a point when we don't have to think about each manoeuvre. It has become an automatic habitual behaviour.

Smoking is the same. It's a deeply ingrained mental habit, which through repetition becomes an unconscious habit. Hypnotherapy reprogrammes the subconscious so that such deep-seated behaviour patterns are abolished or altered and replaced with a new, positive mental attitude. After hypnosis, a person's subconscious mind affirms they are now a non-smoker and will remain so for the rest of their life.
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