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How Neuroscience Can Help You Stop Smoking

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe. - Michio Kaku


Why is it so hard to stop smoking?


It’s not like smoking is as deadly and as addictive as cocaine or opioids. Also, we all know that grandma who’s been smoking all her life without a single illness. So, why even try to stop? It must be another government propaganda, right?

...Right!?


Well, the truth is just like your height and looks. It depends on your genes. Among smokers, a “variation in a gene residing on chromosome 15 (of a person's 23 pairs of chromosomes) links to a heightened risk of developing lung cancer”. While there are other variables, your gene plays a critical role in your probability of developing lung cancer AND your smoking habit.

Here are the stats

  • In the United States, smoking causes 1 in 5 deaths.

  • If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen.

Now that you got the basic back drop, let’s get into the main question.

How do you stop smoking?

If you’re genetically predisposed to more likely to smoke, how can we apply brain hacks to make the process easier for you?

1. Meditation: 20 Minutes of Mindfulness


We all know what mindfulness meditation is. And this seemingly miraculous technique strikes again. In a study published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that smokers trained with a form of mindfulness meditation known as Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) curtailed their smoking by 60 percent.”

Main points

  • A 5-day, 20-minute session of mindfulness curtailed smoking by 60 percent

  • Addiction to smoking involves a set of brain areas related to self-control, such as, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), left lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), and others.

  • However, the control group that received a basic relaxation regimen showed no reduction.

  • Based on the study’s randomized control design, mindfulness meditation focused on smoking could work. Try it for yourself


Start with these


2. 1% Better Than Yesterday


Hacking the mind is great, but how do you act without procrastinating? Here’s a quick brain hack. Don’t try quitting today. It usually doesn’t work. Because you’ll most likely push the D-day to tomorrow. Instead, try being 1% better than yesterday.

  • If you smoked 6 cigarettes yesterday, smoke 5 today (not 1%, but you get the gist)

  • You don’t have to be 1000% better, just 1%

  • Gradually decrease in numbers and/or time

The reason for this gradual approach is not due to your laziness, but because smokers’ brains experience similar to that of drug withdrawals, according to neuroscience. These withdrawals include lack of oxygen flow in the brain, which could lead to weakness, fogy brain, and even depression. No wonder some say smoking increases clarity. So... should you keep smoking? (NO!)


3. More Oxygen and Blood Flow


The link between smoking and powerfully addictive drugs (cocaine, opiates etc...) are striking. As I’ve stated above, some smokers think nicotine helps them be sharper and quick with the mind. According to research, “smoking initially increases brain activity”. However, the same research suggests that “the brain tissue quickly adapts, and the effect would disappear”. And the brain's oxygen uptake and blood flow decrease by up to 17% immediately after smoking 💉. So, smoking is equivalent to taking sugar for boost of energy but with detrimental effects to your genes and respiratory systems. On the other hand, you can mimic the effects of smoking with something else. This is why consuming sweets or getting addicted to exercise tricks your brain into thinking that you might be doing the same thing.

  • Mimic the oxygen uptake and blood flow in the brain with chocolate, soda, or anything other than nicotine

  • Use it as a reward mechanism too

  • Try incorporating exercise to increase blood flow to your brain

  • Once the cravings return, use the above rewards to satisfy them



Mindfulness – 1% Better Than Yesterday – More Oxygen and Blood Flow


The brain is constantly adapting

-Maryanne Wolf


Here’s the recap

  • Practice mindfulness 20 minutes a day, for 5 days. See what happens

  • Be 1% better than yesterday instead of quitting right away

  • Increase oxygen and blood flow in the brain through alternative methods

  • Reward yourself with similar stimulants, but healthier


With the above life-changing, but simple brain hacks, you’ll be able to start building a great life. If you need more help with breaking bad habits, join our FREE neuroscience social app, braintingle. It’ll keep you updated with free brain hacks and recommend real-life solutions.


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