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May
12

Stress Buster

One of the things I hear a lot from smokers in my Toronto (Ontario, Canada) hypnosis quit smoking clinic is “I smoke to relax”. If smoking really was relaxing then the more you smoked the more relaxed you’d be and chain smokers would be the most relaxed people on the planet. Do you know anyone who chain smokes and is really relaxed? I certainly don’t.

The fact is that nicotine is a powerful stimulant, and the minute it enters your bloodstream, your heart beat speeds up 10 to 15 beats a minute in an attempt to get rid of the poison you’ve just inhaled. If you take your blood pressure just just after a cigarette you will notice a sharp increase. So, the truth is it’s impossible to smoke and relax.

So where does the feeling of relaxation come from? Part of it is conditioning, over the years you’ve been conditioned (aka “hypnotized”) to associate smoking with relaxing. After all don’t you smoke when taking a break and doing many other relaxing things? The other part is how you breathe when you smoke. If you inhale deeply when you smoke, you are probably breathing in a way which promotes relaxation. So why not just learn to breathe that way without the cigarettes? That way when you quit smoking you can keep the relaxation after you stop.

Here’s how to breathe so that it slows down the pace of your whole body and promote physical relaxation. Take a deep breath using your belly muscles and let your stomach expand as far as possible as you inhale. Fill your lungs as completely as possible and let your stomach expand as though it were being filled like a balloon. If you want put your hand on your abdomen so you get some tactile feedback.

Now slowly exhale and feel your stomach return to its normal position and pause comfortably at the end of the breath until you feel ready to take the next deep breath. Don’t force it, take your time and allow your body to slow down. You can do this for as long or a short a time as you like, but doing this for the 4 or 5 minutes that you would normally smoke a cigarette should significantly quiet your whole body and leave you felling very relaxed.

Unless you are driving or doing something that requires your attention, you can achieve even greater relaxation by closing your eyes and letting your mind focus on a restful scene or anything else which gives you a peaceful feeling. For some people repeating a word or “mantra” like “relax” can also help quiet the mind during deep breathing.

The beauty is that you can do this almost anytime or anywhere and in many places where smoking is not permitted. Over time this type of breathing will likely become a habit (like smoking was), but this new habit that will improve your health and sense of well being.

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