Kicking the habit

It’s that time again. The beginning of a new year, and people start thinking about the changes they want to make, the kind of people they want to be.  The problem with most New Year’s resolutions, I think, is that we doom them to failure from the very start.  The whole thing is such a cliché that by the time January is over even the best intentions are forgotten.

A lot of resolutions have to do with breaking bad habits and addictions.  Smoking, drugs, compulsive eating, etc.  These things are hard to overcome because we aren’t just talking about a physical thing; there are strong chemical and emotional ties to be broken as well, and without the proper support, it can be very difficult.

Take smoking for example.  Nobody needs to be told that smoking is bad for you – they even print it on the boxes these days – so I’m not going to waste a lot of time detailing the reasons.  Instead, let’s look at the psychological side of quitting. Exposure to nicotine actually alters the pathways of certain hormones in the brain.  After a awhile, the brain confuses the signals, so if you experience something pleasurable that would normally trigger a rush of endorphins without nicotine being present in the bloodstream, the brain thinks “well this can’t be right,” and orders you to have a cigarette.  This is one of the reasons why the age the individual starts smoking at is a factor in quitting.  The younger a person is when they start, the more confused the brain chemistry is.

The physical withdrawal symptoms only last a few weeks.  In fact, for most people it is three weeks or slightly less.  This can be facilitated by the use of cleansing herbs that help the body get rid of toxins.  There are many herbal combinations in health food stores that work in this way.  Another herb that is often used when quitting smoking is lobelia.  Lobelia has some tobacco-like effects on the body, stimulating certain hormones and elevating heart rate, which can help wean the body off of cigarettes.  Lobelia can have some side effects, and should not be taken for extended periods of time, so it is good to consult with an herbalist first.

Cravings after this three-week period of time are usually psychological or emotional in nature.  Bach Flower Essences can be helpful in balancing out this part of the equation.  One I like to use is Walnut, which is a “link-breaker”.  It is great for breaking addictions, and making major life changes.  Another is Crab Apple, which is for detoxification and cleansing, as well as self-image.  There are many other Essences as well that could be used, depending on the personality of the individual trying to quit.

According to Nicotine Anonymous, the very first step to quitting is to admit that “I have an addiction, and I am powerless over tobacco” (by the way, if you go on Google and look up ‘quitting smoking’ 5,140,000 entries come up!).  The Tobacco industry spends a lot of money promoting the image that people “choose” to smoke, that it is a right that you have.  When something is perceived as a ‘choice’, than there isn’t any great urgency to do anything about it.  Choices are positive things!  ‘Addiction’, meanwhile, has a very different set of connotations behind it.  Realizing that this is an addiction and not simply a lifestyle choice helps people shake it for good.

Personal support is also a huge factor.  People who try to quit on their own are much more likely to relapse then people who work with a health care provider, or who join a group.

The key to success with any resolution is perseverance, but there are certainly things you can do to make it easier!  Looking at the whole picture, without ignoring the mental and emotional parts, is so important.  It is in the best interests of everyone around you that you are a non-smoker by this time next year.  So, do you have what it takes?

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