"Just think about something else" - L1

Retraining the conscious mind

"Just think about something else" - L1

FreedomNicotine
Joined: 06 Dec 2008, 16:58

15 Dec 2008, 13:22 #1


"Just think about something else"

Sometimes you will encounter a person who says they are constantly thinking about smoking or some other form of nicotine delivery, or sometimes you yourself feel that you fit into this category of individual. Generally when a person says they are constantly thinking about using, people around them offer the advice that they should try to think about something else.

First, there is an inaccuracy about what the ex-user is saying. He or she is not constantly thinking about smoking or using oral nicotine, rather, he or she is fixating on "one cigarette," "one puff" or "one hit." It's hard to think about something else because only having "one" seems like such a wonderful concept. They are often reminiscing about one of the best cigarettes or oral uses, or more accurately, about the sensation around one of the best fixes they ever had. It may be one they experienced 20 years earlier but that is the one they are focused on. 

So what about thinking about something else? Well, it's hard to think of something else that can deliver such pleasure as this magic memory. Even if they successfully think of something else and overcome that urge, they walk away from the moment with a sense of longing or sadness with what they have just been deprived of again.

So, what is an ex-user to do? Change the tactic. Instead of trying (often unsuccessfully) to think of something else, acknowledge the desire. Don't tell yourself you don't want one, you do and you know it. But remember there is a catch. To take the one you have to have all the others with it. And with the others, you have to take all the problems that go with "them." The smell, the expense, the embarrassment, social ostracization, the total loss of control, and the health implications. The health effects are the most serious of the implications considering they often lead to slowly being crippled and can lead to death. 

This is what to focus on when the thought of "one" creeps into consciousness, the package deal associated with smoking or other forms of delivery. Think about the hundreds of nicotine fixes that have to go with that first one. Think about the thousands upon thousands that will go with it until they cripple or kill you. These are not exaggerated numbers. Do the math yourself; calculate how many times you would have used nicotine in your lifetime and figure out how many more uses would occur if you didn't quit. 

I am not saying to look at your particular nicotine delivery devices negatively, just look at them exactly as they really were. If you pull the whole spectrum of costs into focus, you will be able to walk away from the "urge" with the attitude that you are glad you are not doing that anymore. You won't feel deprived, you will feel grateful. The more you remember using the less you will think about wanting to. In a sense forcing yourself to remember will help you forget. Not forget using but the fantasy, the appeal of a nicotine fix.  If nicotine was not worth it while you were using, you can bet it is not worth it as an ex-user with freedom to lose now, as well as all the other implications that always went with using.

In summing up, I will say that not using will never seem as good as the fantasy of using. But using was never that good either. The fantasy is "one" with no side effects, and no loss of control. The reality though is a dirty, disgusting, and deadly addiction. See them for what they are and you will stop wanting them as much. 

Again, it can't be said too often, you are fighting for your health and very possibly your life.  To win this fight is no more complicated than just keeping your commitment enforced to never use nicotine again!

Joel


Note: Joel's original post at FFT was dated 8/31/02 and addressed smoking. The above version has been modified to speak to all forms of nicotine delivery.
Last edited by FreedomNicotine on 06 Aug 2010, 12:22, edited 8 times in total.
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Joe J free
Joined: 18 Jan 2009, 06:57

08 Nov 2009, 18:02 #2

From the lead post:

.........So, what is an ex-user to do? Change the tactic. Instead of trying (often unsuccessfully) of something else, acknowledge the desire. Don't tell yourself you don't want one, you do and you know it. But remember there is a catch. To take the one you have to have all the others with it. And with the others, you have to take all the problems that go with "them." The smell, the expense, the embarrassment, social ostracization, the total loss of control, and the health implications. The health effects are the most serious of the implications considering they often lead to slowly being crippled and can lead to death.

This is what to focus on when the thought of "one" creeps into consciousness, the package deal associated with smoking or other forms of delivery. Think about the hundreds of nicotine fixes that have to go with that first one. Think about the thousands upon thousands that will go with it until they cripple or kill you. These are not exaggerated numbers. Do the math yourself; calculate how many times you would have used nicotine in your lifetime and figure out how many more uses would occur if you didn't quit.

I am not saying to look at your particular nicotine delivery devices negatively, just look at them exactly as they really were. If you pull the whole spectrum of costs into focus, you will be able to walk away from the "urge" with the attitude that you are glad you are not doing that anymore. You won't feel deprived, you will feel grateful. The more you remember using the less you will think about wanting to. In a sense forcing yourself to remember will help you forget. Not forget using but the fantasy, the appeal of a nicotine fix. If nicotine was not worth it while you were using, you can bet it is not worth it as an ex-user with freedom to lose now, as well as all the other implications that always went with using.

In summing up, I will say that not using will never seem as good as the fantasy of using. But using was never that good either. The fantasy is "one" with no side effects, and no loss of control. The reality though is a dirty, disgusting, and deadly addiction. See them for what they are and you will stop wanting them as much.

Again, it can't be said too often, you are fighting for your health and very possibly your life. To win this fight is no more complicated than just keeping your commitment enforced to never use nicotine again!

Joel
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JohnPolito
Joined: 11 Nov 2008, 19:22

06 Aug 2010, 11:42 #3

I Suppress, Therefore I Smoke:
Effects of Thought Suppression
on Smoking Behavior

Journal:   Psychological Science, July 26, 2010. [Epub ahead of print]

Study Authors:  Erskine JA, Georgiou GJ, Kvavilashvili L.

Abstract

Thought suppression is a method frequently employed by individuals who are trying to control their thoughts and behaviors. Although this strategy is known to actually increase unwanted thoughts, it is unclear whether thought suppression also results in behavioral rebound.

The study presented in this article investigated the effects of suppressing thoughts of smoking in everyday life on the number of cigarettes subsequently smoked. Study participants recorded their daily cigarette intake and stress levels over a 3-week period. In Week 1 and Week 3, participants monitored intake and stress. During Week 2, in addition to monitoring intake and stress, participants in the experimental groups either suppressed or expressed smoking thoughts, whereas the control group continued monitoring.

Our results showed a clear behavioral rebound: The suppression group smoked significantly more in Week 3 than the expression or control group did. Moreover, the tendency to suppress thoughts (measured by the White Bear Suppression Inventory) was positively related to the number of attempts to quit smoking. The implications of our findings for smoking cessation are discussed.

PubMed Abstract Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20660892

Image
Study Quotes:
Numerous studies demonstrate that suppressing negative or even neutral thoughts can have a rebound effect. Therefore, a person who suppresses a thought may end up thinking about the suppressed thought more frequently than if he or she had not attempted suppression (Wegner, Schneider, Carter, & White, 1987). Despite considerable evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of thought suppression in achieving mental control, and the almost ubiquitous negative effects associated with the technique, thought suppression remains a widely used self-control strategy (Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000).

Furthermore, people often use thought suppression in an attempt to control their behavior (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). For example, people attempting to stop smoking are likely to avoid thinking about smoking. However, this strategy actually increases thoughts of smoking, making the process of quitting more difficult. Salkovskis and Reynolds (1994) conducted a study in which participants attempting to reduce or give up smoking suppressed or monitored their thoughts of smoking.

So what does the leading U.S. government quit smoking
website  advise quitters in regard to thinking about smoking?

"Instead of smoking:

Think about something else. "
Yep, once again U.S. health officials actually go
against science in advising smokers on how to quit Image
Last edited by JohnPolito on 06 Aug 2010, 11:57, edited 2 times in total.
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boudoir
Joined: 17 May 2010, 16:25

06 Aug 2010, 16:41 #4

Very nice study indeed!

I just checked what the Irish officials recommend.. the HSE (Health Service Executive) has a booklet on their website which can be downloaded and is supposed to aid anyone who wants to quit smoking. On page 9 it says under the heading 'Dealing with Cravings': Distract yourself. Move away from the situation.

To be honest, except for alcohol use which should really be done very carefully at the early stages of a quit, it is much better to actually move into the situation. If you manage to hang in there without smoking, you will have managed to have extinguished another use cue. If you move away from the situation, you will have to face it some other time again. If you don't feel strong enough at that very moment, it might be better to move away but... it will come back someday. Every use cue needs to be taken down. It's like rewiring your brain.

Quit Date: 1st May 2010
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JohnPolito
Joined: 11 Nov 2008, 19:22

06 Aug 2010, 19:38 #5

Exactly Bou!  We sometimes have members question why management needs to review links and these are two prime examples.   Would we really want our new members being referred to sites telling them that "planning" is key to quitting, that they need to wait until their birthday, World No Tobacco Day, New Years or some other important date to quit?    Again, this advice is contrary to all recent studies which suggest that unplanned attempts are at least twice as likely to succeed as planned ones.  Why?  I submit that the above graph suggests a strong likelihood of elevated anxiety not only when told to try to not think about smoking but when constantly reminded that quitting day is fast approaching.   What's worse, needing up to 3 days to reach peak withdrawal or adding to it days, weeks or in some cases months of apprehension, concern and/or anxiety while waiting for day 1 to arrive?  

In regard to the above study, I wrote the authors this morning forwarding them Joel's above article.  I asked them to  consider another study, but this time work with quitters where in one study arm quitters are told to cope by trying not to think about quitting and the other arm is given contrary advice similar to what's in Joel's article, while documenting both subjective stress levels and relapse.   While I'd hope such direct evidence would motivate governments to rethink their quitting advice I'm not holding my breath. 

Why?  It's been more than a year since the second study found that unplanned attempts were twice as likely to succeed (2006 UK study and 2009 US study ) and today the US government continues to advise all smokers/quitters visiting its primary quitting site to:
DO NOT FOLLOW THE BELOW ADVICE AS IT IS WRONG
Set a Quit Date Think about choosing a special day:
  • Your birthday or wedding anniversary
  • New Year's Day
  • Independence Day
  • World No Tobacco Day (May 31)
  • The Great American Smokeout (the third Thursday of each November)
  Image 
Why is government quitting advice contrary to the evidence?  I don't know.  What I do know is that it is wrong to  teach quitters to  "create some new habits," to hideout in places where smoking isn't allowed, to listen to a different radio station, to take a different route home, to stop "watching your favorite TV show, sitting in your favorite chair or having a drink before dinner," to adopt substitutes for smoking including exercise, holding something like a pencil, paper clip, or marble, or putting cinnamon sticks, lollipops, hard candy, sugarfree gum, or carrot sticks into your mouth, and to see  smoking once as just a "small setback," that "one slip up does not make you a failure."
DO NOT FOLLOW THE ABOVE ADVICE AS IT IS WRONG

It is my hope that some how, some way that Joel's lessons eventually are given a chance on the world health stage, that instead of turning our backs on cold turkey quitters that health officials will someday soon want to motivate, teach and support successful cold turkey quitting!

John
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Johnnie
Joined: 17 Aug 2010, 16:35

07 Dec 2010, 14:01 #6

boudoir wrote: Very nice study indeed!

I just checked what the Irish officials recommend.. the HSE (Health Service Executive) has a booklet on their website which can be downloaded and is supposed to aid anyone who wants to quit smoking. On page 9 it says under the heading 'Dealing with Cravings': Distract yourself. Move away from the situation.

To be honest, except for alcohol use which should really be done very carefully at the early stages of a quit, it is much better to actually move into the situation. If you manage to hang in there without smoking, you will have managed to have extinguished another use cue. If you move away from the situation, you will have to face it some other time again. If you don't feel strong enough at that very moment, it might be better to move away but... it will come back someday. Every use cue needs to be taken down. It's like rewiring your brain.

Thanks, Bou.  I think this is the neatest summary I've seen of the site philosophy on this point.  Halfway through my fourth month, I find myself charging into more and more situations I'd been eager to avoid.  And it's making all the difference.
Gratefully Gold

I escaped from the prison of smoking on August 14, 2010.  
[font]The best revenge is quitting well![/font] 
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Joel Spitzer
Joined: 13 Nov 2008, 14:04

12 Sep 2012, 12:29 #8

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