On my Facebook page, a member of the Get-it-Done Guy community asked: how do I quit smoking without losing my mind?

How to quit smoking is a huge topic. I’ll answer in a couple of seconds, in the hopes I can at least point you to some good resources. If I were going to quit smoking, based on everything I’ve been exposed to, here are the tools I’d use. I don’t know if this will work—I’ve never smoked—but this is what I do whenever I’m trying to change a physical habit.

I’ve used these techniques around eating, when I discovered that my diet as a 19-year-old somehow didn’t look or feel as good once I was past adolescence. I also use these techniques to overcome my resistance to exercise and pushing myself at the gym.

There are three areas I concentrated on: dealing with the physical sensations, dealing with my beliefs and mental habits, and dealing with the actual behavioral triggers to eating.

Physical sensations. I would eat until I felt stuffed, instead of eating until I stopped feeling hungry. I used self-hypnosis and gave myself a lot of suggestions like, “as soon as my body is no longer hungry, let me feel full.” And “with every bite I take once I’m no longer hungry, let me feel fuller and fuller.” For the gym, I used hypnosis so sore muscles now feel good to me and immediately make me think of how studly I’m becoming. *grunt*

For smoking, I would pay close attention to the physical sensations of wanting a cigarette and use hypnosis to make those same sensations triggers for feeling like taking a deep breath, or feeling good about how I was quitting smoking.

Beliefs that trigger me. When contemplating going to the gym, my first thought would be, “that’s so much work!! It will be so unpleasant!” I would also think, “I just don’t have the genetics to be able to get a really good-looking body.”

The most effective thing I’ve found to identify and deal with beliefs that trigger or get in the way of physical behaviors is The Work of Byron Katie. You can buy her book, Loving What Is, or download the entire important pieces of the book for free at http://www.thework.com.

Though Katie markets The Work as self-help, I even use it for very concrete things like physical preparation for singing. I used to have trouble hitting certain high notes and noticed that right before I sang the note, I thought, “This is a high note. I’ll have to reach for it,” and that thought triggered the tension in my throat. I did The Work on that thought and suddenly became calm and clear in my singing.

For smoking, I would write down every belief I could find about smoking and do The Work on them. For example, “I look cool when I smoke,” “I need to smoke to calm down,” “Smoking feels good,” “Smoking will help me feel better,” etc.

Behavioral triggers. When you start to do an unwanted behavior, you can change the very action of the behavior into a reminder to do something else. For example, if I give in to my desire for Oreo ice cream cake, I arrange for the sight of it approaching my mouth to trigger a reminder that looking like a stud-muffin is way more important to me than eating a second piece of Oreo ice cream cake.

For behavior triggers, I use the “swish pattern” from NLP (neurolinguistic-programming), as discussed in the book Using Your Brain—For a Change by Richard Bandler.

For smoking, I would use the swish pattern to shift from the image of my hand approaching my mouth with a cigarette or lighter to a reminder of how great I’ll look, feel, and smell(!) when I no longer want or need cigarettes.

I hope this helps.

How to quit smoking without going nuts

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