Can Alternative Therapies Help You to Quit Smoking?
If you’ve quit smoking successfully, the chances are you’ve used complementary wellness methods to help you do it. Many a successful quitter has gotten through the pangs of cigarette withdrawal using techniques such as hypnosis, acupuncture, or meditation, as these therapies address all the areas in which smoking affects your wellbeing and develop a healthy balance between your physical and mental wellness. There are many doctors who recommend alternative approaches, but they do also encourage patients to try them in conjunction with other quitting methods such as the patch or nicotine gum.
Amit Sood, MD, director of research for the Mayo Clinics complementary and integrative medicine programme, asserts, ‘People shouldn’t think that alternative modalities will help alone; they should be combined with other treatment. Smoking is a serious problem and should be treated like a real chronic disease.’ While it’s difficult to measure the success of alternative approaches to quitting smoking in a clinical setting, you cannot doubt the popularity of alternative medicine overall, with regards to smoking cessation or not. In the US, a 2002 government survey estimated that 36% of Americans had used some form of complementary or alternative therapy within the previous 12 months – clearly, something was working for them! Let’s take a look at some of the alternative therapies that may help you to quit smoking, once and for all:
1. Hypnosis: This therapy can relax your mind so that you identify the things that subconsciously trigger you to smoke. Alan B. Densky, a certified hypnotherapist who specializes in smoking cessation, explains, ‘Hypnosis is nothing more than the alpha state—a state of mind that we pass through as we fall asleep at night, go deep into a memory, or as we watch television.’ A hypnotherapist will take your case history of past attempts at quitting, and then induce you into a state of relaxation—often through the methods of guided meditation or visualization. Your hypnotherapist will then ask begin a conversation to explore what might motivate the patient to quit. According to the preliminary results from a small 2007 study of smokers hospitalized with cardiopulmonary diseases, hypnotherapy increases your chances of quitting in six months than if you choose nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) alone.
2. Acupuncture: A technique derived from traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate certain points on your body. When it comes to smoking, acupuncturists generally insert the needles on and around your ears, feet and top of the head in order to reduce your cravings and ease the withdrawal symptoms throughout the body. However, it’s important note that the needle placement varies depending on who you are, and the acupuncturist will evaluate you to determine your physical weaknesses. Through a reading of your pulse and the colour of your tongue, your acupuncturist can work out which needle points to address. While acupuncture is the most extensively studied among the alternative therapies used to quit smoking, you need to bear in mind that the research is mixed here too and the best results come from a combination of acupuncture and education.
3. Meditation: Not only does meditation soothe your wellbeing and refocus your thoughts, but a 2002 study showed that it releases dopamine in your brain, which is a similar process to how nicotine triggers that relaxing feeling. ‘There is an element of neurobiology behind it,’ says Dr. Sood, adding that meditation can also be a way to replace the stress-relieving qualities of cigarettes. Try breathing in and out slowly through your nose while sitting in a comfortable seat. Do this for five minutes, simply refocusing your thoughts back to your breathing whenever your mind wanders. Gradually work up to 20 minutes of mindful breathing a day.