Outsmart Your Brain To Stop Smoking

Cigarettes sitting in a white ashtray on a white sofaIf you’ve ever tried to quit smoking, you know how tough it can be. And you’re not alone – 70% of smokers want to stop, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Quitting smoking is the single most important thing anyone can do to improve their health and decrease their risk of dying,” says Lloyd I. Sederer, M.D., medical director of the New York State Office of Mental Health.

But as former smokers know, fighting the urge to smoke can require almost superhuman mental strength.

According to the U.S. Public Health Service, while medications and nicotine-replacement therapies can help reduce urges and ease temporary withdrawal symptoms, they can’t stop a smoker from lighting up again weeks, months or even years after quitting.

But it doesn’t have to be that hard — there are also psychological tricks that reduce cigarette cravings and overcome the desire to light up.

“Smokers need to realize that the wiring in their brains has changed,” says Saria Carter Saccocio, M.D., chief medical officer of Danville Regional Medical Center in Virginia. “Medication is one part of it, but the mental piece plays into it as well. When we have a craving, our brain’s trying to get us to do something we don’t want to do. Cigarettes trick smokers’ brains into thinking those cigarettes are essential.”