The most natural way to quit smoking is to use the power of one’s own mind. In doing so, there are many strategies that can be employed, and one of the most effective is known as auto-hypnosis, or self-hypnosis. Auto-hypnosis is a methodology in which a person uses suggestion to change the pattern of thinking within the subconscious – which is responsible for the craving – in order to alter their behavior.
What are hypnosis and suggestion, and how do they relate to each other?
Hypnosis works by creating a state of focused awareness. This could, for example, be on a candle, a shiny watch or the voice of the hypnotist. Suggestion is when a person directs a person’s cognition by using words. This can be themselves, as is the case with this method. Suggestion is far more powerful when performed on a person who is in a state of hypnosis. This is because elements of the subconscious mind screen incoming sensory impressions and stop unwanted ones from arising into conscious awareness. Performing this task is essential to prevent a person from being overwhelmed by sensory input, so it’s generally a good thing, but it does make it more difficult to change established behavioral patterns.
How to make yourself suggestible
The most important thing is to put yourself in a state of relaxation. The easiest way to do this is to find a large, soft chair or to simply lie down in bed. Make yourself consciously aware of your lower legs and feet, and tense and relax them several times. Do this until you feel them becoming loose, and then move on to the upper legs. Repeat the process for the hands and lower arms, then the stomach, then the upper arms and shoulders, and finally the neck and head. Keep doing this for ten minutes.
The second step is to bring in the state of hypnotic induction, or hyperfocus. It helps if you have a lit candle nearby (although obviously you don’t want to worry yourself about burning your house down). If you have a laptop with an interesting, rapidly-changing screensaver you can focus on the colors and patterns of that. Do this until you get a sense that ordinary reality is fading away.
How to use suggestion to kick the habit
Once you feel that your sense of ordinary reality is no longer as powerful as it usually is, you are ready to start making suggestions. Tell yourself, in a firm but non-aggressive voice, that you are a non-smoker. Tell yourself that your previous habits of smoking were an aberration from the path of your normal life, that you started smoking by accident, that it wasn’t really you who smoked. Tell yourself that you have the strength and will to refuse the cravings and temptations, and that when they do arise you will not give in but will see them as a minor irritation that will soon pass.
The next step is to imagine some situations in which you act like a non-smoker. Imagine yourself going to a party and being offered a cigarette, and, without a second thought, you refuse with the words “Sorry, I don’t smoke.” Imagine getting bad news from a telephone call, and after you hang up you sit down and reflect rather than having a cigarette. Imagine waking up in the morning and eating a fruit salad for breakfast instead of reaching for a smoke first thing. Try to cover all the situations in which you are most likely to give in.
For some people, this method will work straight away. For those more resistant to hypnosis it could take longer. You can use it as many times as you need to until your subconscious starts altering your behavior, and then the most important thing is to never look back.
Vince McLeod is a psychologist who believes that understanding the psychology of smoking is the best way to stop smoking cigarettes.