Stop smoking

   1. There is only one requirement for freeing yourself of this nasty habit: 100% motivation. If you REALLY want to do it, you can. If you're wishy-washy about it, you'll have trouble.

   2. Language is magic. You are NOT "giving up" but quitting or stopping. The thing you'll stop using is NOT a ciggy or a smoke or any such innocuous friend, but has a name reminding you of a reason why you decided to stop: "an adult dummy" (pacifier to Americans), cancer stick, coffin nail, a dollar.

   3. Set a date for your Quitting Day. It's good to allow yourself 3 or 4 weeks to prepare.

   Design a ritual you'll carry out on that day. This will include putting all smoking-related stuff in the rubbish, as well as positive, uplifting actions.

   You have two kinds of people in your life: supporters and saboteurs. Invite supporters to your Quitting Day, and tell them about it in advance. Keep your determination to stop a secret from saboteurs. Let them notice without being told AFTER your Quitting Day.

   4. Write out a negatives list: all the many reasons why you want to tell nicotine to nick off. This will be your tool for maintaining your motivation during those difficult 2 or 3 weeks while your body is detoxified (this is literally true: while the poison leaves you). As part of your Quitting Day, print out beautiful copies of your negatives list. Have one with you in your purse/wallet/pocket. Put copies up around the house.

   5. You also need to generate a positives list: all the rewards the habit has used to keep itself going. Research shows that the average smoker has between 12 and 20 reinforcers for smoking. Examples are: an excuse for a time out; ritual marking the end of some event (a job completed, coming home, getting out of bed); an invariable part of having a beer, cup of tea, whatever; something to fiddle with; hand to mouth. Lighting up may be associated with certain emotions (different for different people).

   The purpose of this list is to reduce the need to use willpower. Struggling with a problem gives it power. If you're facing a brick wall, one way to get to the other side is to use a battering ram. However, finding a door and walking through it is easier. So, once you have found all the rewards smoking has given you until now, you work out how to keep getting those rewards, but without the cigarette. You can then smile instead of struggling.

   You can probably list some of your reinforcers without too much trouble, but finding all of them needs detective work. One way of doing this is through a diary like this:
setting trigger thought action





   Make an entry every time you notice an urge to light up, or have actually found yourself smoking without even being aware of doing it.

    Setting: answers to some of the questions a journalist might ask, except for "why." That one is not relevant, but where, who with, when, doing what etc. may be. Use your intuition regarding what to record.

    Trigger is something that happened: something you did, or someone else did or said, even a thought or memory.

    Thought is your inner response to the trigger, like "That sucks," "Thank God it's done," or "Now for a beer." You want the thought that's immediately before, and associated with, having the urge for a cigarette.

    Action is whether in fact you have lit up a cigarette or not. You just put a Y or N in that column.

   After a week or so of keeping this diary, you'll see patterns. You might notice for example that on Sundays you have a quarter as many urges as on other days, or that you only smoke six times a day while at work, but every half an hour while awake at other times, or that you have a very strong urge to light up every time something annoys you.

   The next step is to design replacement activities. A few examples:

   6. Money monitoring. Your diary will give you an easy count of how much you smoke in a week. Actually, it will give you an underestimate, because when you are on observer of something you don't want to do, you'll automatically do less of it. Still, you can work out the cost of smoking.

   Choose a reward that's worth between 6 and 12 weeks of 0 use. Make it something that'll last, to remind you of your achievement every time you see it.

   One young couple had their two little children taken off them because of their alcohol and marijuana use. They worked on stopping both of these. They started up a trust account for each kid. He put his substance savings in one, she in the other, and they could race each other.

   A man used his cigarette savings for a super-duper fishing rod and reel.

   A fellow who was building his house could buy an ordinary door for $300, a carved one for $1300. He saved for the carved door from his alcohol use.

   So, at the start of a week you put your weekly tobacco spending on the top of a page. Assign a cost to each smoke. At the end of the week, count up the Ys in the diary, and subtract from your sum. However, don't go below zero even if your usage has increased.

   From now on, your only punishment for smoking is that you have deferred the buying of your reward by the cost of one cigarette. This is important, because feeling weak and guilty leads to a vicious circle that keeps you down. The ONLY punishment for a smoke is the delay in buying your reward.

   7. It's at this stage I use hypnosis. The diary will have indentified key situations where a change will have impact. For some, it's when seeing someone else smoking. For others, it's when a packet is available to be bought. For one man, it was 2 hours to the second after the last cigarette. At that time, an automatic thought or image can make all the difference. I ask my client what would help them through that moment. It could be a visual image, like a coffin engulfed in fire. For others, it's words such as "I'm not doing this any more." Whatever my client designs, I implant as a post-hypnotic suggestion.

   Actually, while hypnosis makes it automatic and therefore more effective, you can achieve the same in other ways. You establish a new habit of seeing that image or hearing that thought in the critical situation. For example, each time you see packets of cigarettes in a shop, deliberately say to yourself, "I am free of YOU!" or whatever your chosen reminder is. After awhile, this will become an automatic habit.

   8. The next thing is urge control. The reason people find urges irresistible is that they fight them. That gives them energy, which is why I avoid relying on willpower. Here is an analogy to explain it. You're in the surf, and a huge wave comes at you. If you stand there trying to resist it, it'll knock you over. That's willpower. If you turn around and start running in the water, it'll catch you and knock you over. That's avoidance. But if you dive in at the right time, you can rise to the surface and ride it. That's accepting the urge, and simply observing it.

   Another image for the same idea is, you visualise a beautiful, clear mountain stream. Put a packet of cigarettes on it and watch it slowly float along. As it sits there, of course water soaks into it, and so it gradually sinks deeper and deeper. In about 5 minutes, just as it's ready to float out of sight, it actually sinks.

   9. Finally, there is relapse prevention. Sooner or later -- in 6 months or 6 years -- you'll slip and have a smoke. What you tell yourself then determines if this is a relapse or a temporary slip.

   Relapse: "Oh no! I am useless! I knew I couldn't do it. 6 years wasted! God I hate myself!" Self-bashing on and on.

   Temporary slip: "I knew this'd happen sooner or later. Everybody has a slip. OK, I've beaten 30 a day and been free of it for 6 years. I can beat one once."

   10. YOU CAN DO IT.


   You will find information to get you motivated to quit at It lists what happens to your body as you free yourself of the poison. has an excellent brief essay on the timeline of health benefits from stopping a smoking addiction.