Cigarette smoking claims over 78,000 lives per year in the UK, and is one of the nation’s leading causes of preventable death. Quitting can significantly reduce your risk of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, adding years to your life. However, breaking the addiction is notoriously difficult, with many people making 30 failed quit attempts before succeeding! Hypnotherapy is one of the most effective methods for helping people on this journey. In this blog, we’ll explore how it can help you overcome nicotine addiction and change your life by becoming smoke-free.

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A smiling woman quitting smoking.

Understanding Smoking Addiction

Smoking addiction is quite complex and involves both physiological and psychological factors. Nicotine is the primary addictive chemical in tobacco, and acts on the brain to trigger the release of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters. Over time, the brain starts to depend on nicotine to maintain these elevated dopamine levels, which leads to cravings and withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to quit. 

On a physiological level, nicotine addiction impacts the body in various ways. Nicotine acts as a stimulant, increasing heart rate and constricting blood vessels. It also impairs immune function and decreases insulin production. Long-term smoking can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. The carcinogens in cigarette smoke damage lung tissue, causing inflammation and reducing the lungs' ability to clear out toxins. 

There are also psychological and behavioural components to smoking addiction. The hand-to-mouth habit can be ingrained over years of regular smoking, making it more difficult to quit as the body struggles to replace the habit with something else. Smokers also tend to develop triggers that prompt cravings and the desire to smoke: like feeling stressed, drinking coffee or being around other smokers. However, the nicotine hit you get from smoking only provides temporary relief from bad moods, boredom or anxiety and, in the long run, you end up developing a dependence on smoking to deal with these emotions and moods. 

Hypnotherapy and Smoking

You may already have some idea of what hypnotherapy is and what it involves. However, depending on the desired outcome of having hypnotherapy - whether it’s to help with phobias, reduce anxiety, or help with smoking addiction - the process differs slightly. 

Hypnotherapy is a technique that uses the power of suggestion and focused attention to induce a state of deep relaxation and heightened suggestibility. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t involve mind control or any loss of consciousness. Instead, it aims to tap into the subconscious mind to access deep-rooted beliefs and behaviours, like smoking habits. 

During a session, the hypnotherapist will first try to uncover the root psychological causes behind the smoking addiction. For example, an individual may turn to cigarettes because they feel stressed. Once the root cause is brought to light, the hypnotherapist can begin replacing this unhealthy thought pattern of “I’m feeling stressed, therefore I need to smoke to relax myself” with more positive thoughts. 

Visualisation is a common tool used in hypnotherapy. In this case, the individual would be encouraged to picture themselves as a non-smoker, happily going about their daily life without cigarettes. The hypnotherapist might then have them imagine turning down a cigarette from a friend or coping with a stressful situation without feeling the need to smoke. These mental rehearsals can be quite effective, as they encourage the individual to consider a new smoking-free identity and lifestyle and see how it can translate into real life. 

Hypnotic suggestions can also be used to limit cravings and withdrawal symptoms. For example, they can be guided to imagine their cravings for cigarettes as the current in a stream, coming, going and passing by without the need to focus on it. 

Benefits of Using Hypnotherapy for Quitting Smoking

Making the decision to quit smoking isn’t an easy one, and it’s a journey that requires commitment and discipline. However, considering using hypnotherapy to help with smoking addiction is definitely a step in the right direction. 

Here are some benefits of using hypnotherapy for quitting smoking:

Reduced withdrawal symptoms

One of the most significant challenges of quitting smoking is dealing with the withdrawal symptoms. These can be anything from irritability and anxiety, to intense cravings for nicotine. However, hypnosis has shown promise in lessening these symptoms by targeting the subconscious mind. During hypnosis, therapists can also suggest alternative coping strategies to deal with stress and cravings, minimising the discomfort that’s associated with nicotine withdrawal. 

Changing the mindset and associations with smoking

Hypnotherapy is great at addressing the psychological aspects of smoking by reshaping the mindset and challenging ingrained associations with smoking. Therapists will usually try to work with the individual to identify the thoughts that are linked to smoking triggers and aim to modify them. This process allows the person to view cigarettes differently, which then breaks the emotional connection that fuels the habit.

Better chances of long-term success

Some methods focus solely on nicotine replacement, but hypnotherapy addresses the addiction both physically and psychologically, creating a multilayered defence against relapse with better long-term quit rates. Various studies have shown that smokers who used hypnotherapy were twice as likely to remain smoke-free after just 2 years compared to those who tried to stop smoking on their own. 

A cigarette being broken in half.

Overcoming Relapses and Staying Smoke-free

Even with the support of hypnotherapy, becoming smoke-free can still be challenging, and relapses can still happen. Being able to recognise your triggers and the situations that lure you towards smoking is the key to preventing setbacks. Hypnotherapy is able to equip you with the necessary tools to identify and understand these triggers, so you can anticipate these moments and work through them more easily. Whether it’s stress, social situations or difficult moods, being aware of the triggers is the first step towards overcoming them.

During your hypnotherapy sessions, you’ll essentially be laying the foundations of your journey to quit smoking. However, continuing to implement the strategies you learn during your sessions is the difference between having long-term success or relapsing after a few months. This might involve finding different coping mechanisms for stress (instead of reaching for a cigarette), like meditating or doing mindfulness exercises. Additionally, having a daily routine where you practise your newly-learnt positive habits reinforces them so that they actually do become natural habits. Some people find it helpful to keep track of their progress and celebrate milestones (e.g. “1 week without smoking!”). Just ensure that the goals you set for yourself are realistic and achievable. If you know cutting out all cigarettes isn’t going to be attainable for you, you could set yourself the goal of reducing the number of cigarettes from 10 per day to 5 at first. Weaning off them completely can be a longer-term goal. If your goals aren’t achievable, the motivation is unlikely to last as well, triggering a potential relapse. 

Remember to also seek additional support when you need it - recognising the need for support is always a sign of strength, rather than weakness, and the journey of becoming smoke-free doesn’t have to be completed alone. In fact, having a network of support from either family, friends and even your therapist can make a significant difference. 

By reshaping mindsets and disrupting ingrained habits, hypnotherapy empowers individuals to achieve long-term success. For those who are interested in helping others quit smoking, our accredited Smoking Cessation Hypnotherapy Practitioner Course provides in-depth training for just £29 (save £118!), and shows you how to incorporate hypnotherapy techniques into smoking cessation plans.

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