A smoking addiction can easily take over your life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hypnotherapist Andrew Major shares tips to kick this bad habit

According to the Office for National Statistics, 58.4% of people who smoke cigarettes say that they want to quit. And yet 7.2 million people in the UK are still smoking.

So what’s the hold-up?

When it comes to addiction, the answer is never straightforward. A plethora of reasons, from genetics to the environment we live in, can affect the ways that we respond to stimulants, meaning that the journey to giving up the habit can vary hugely from person to person.

But, as Andrew Major – a clinical hypnotherapist – points out, making the decision to quit in the first place can be a big challenge in itself.

“Many people believe that smoking helps them relax, relieves stress, and gives them time out away from daily work or family pressures,” Andrew explains. “So, making the decision to stop smoking for good can seem like a daunting task, as it involves letting go of a crutch that smokers may believe helps them cope.”

It’s true that smoking, on the surface, can feel like it’s benefiting our mental health – calming anxious minds and relaxing our bodies. Despite this, Andrew points to studies which suggest that smoking can actually lead to poor mental health in the long term, as the cigarettes temporarily increase the feel-good hormone dopamine, encouraging the brain to switch off its own dopamine production.

“A lot of my clients say that they smoke to help them deal with stressful situations,” says Andrew. “But in fact, turning to chemical substitutes to relieve stress when you’re having a bad day actually increases the risks of depression and anxiety, because smoking affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (the system that controls our response to stress). This leads to the production of an overload of hormones like cortisol, which affects the way we regulate reactions to difficult situations and experiences.”

Of course, as well as the mental health side-effects, smoking comes with serious physical health risks. According to the NHS, smoking is the cause of 70% of lung cancers, and can also cause cancer in other parts of the body including the mouth, throat, liver, stomach, and bowel. In addition, smoking can lead to heart and lung disease, and reduce fertility in both men and women.

So, when you’re ready to stop smoking, what are the options? For some, switching to alternatives, such as nicotine patches and gum can be a good way to gently move away from cigarettes. For others, going ‘cold turkey’ and cutting them out immediately, spending more time with non-smokers, or attending support groups, can help.

In Andrew’s practice, he uses solution-focused hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques to help his clients fundamentally understand why the addiction has formed, and ultimately kick the habit for good.

“In a single two-hour session, we begin by talking to you about why and how you smoke,” Andrew explains. “Critically, we also talk about how the mind works in relation to smoking. This helps you develop a different mindset in relation to smoking, such as an understanding of how the internal conflict develops in your mind, so you can overcome the fear of stopping.”

Another important part of the process, Andrew says, is reflecting on the impact that smoking is having on you. Are you having to keep to a tight budget to pay for cigarettes? Do you suffer from nasty colds in the winter? Are you losing out on time spent with your friends and family?

With good support, and with the right goals in mind, you can take back control and kick the habit for good

A key ingredient for hypnotherapy is a positive, willing mindset. And so for Andrew, ensuring that clients are committed to the idea of quitting is essential.

“We then consolidate the discussion with the use of hypnosis to reprogram your subconscious mind, remove any conflict and fears that have held you back,” Andrew continues. “It isn’t magic, but it does help you to use your mind in a fundamentally different way, taking away your desire to smoke so you will no longer see smoking as something you like – you will see it for the danger it really is.”

Brighter things are on the horizon. Within just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop back to normal. After 12 weeks, circulation and lung function increases. A year in, the risk of coronary heart disease drops by 50%, 15 years down the line and it returns to that of a non-smoker.

Breaking any kind of addiction is never an easy feat. And yet, with good support, and with the right goals in mind, you can take back control and kick the habit for good.

Andrew's top tips to help you quit

Understand how smoking affects your overall health

Take the time to research the damage smoking causes, to boost your inner strength and determination.

Visualise the benefits

How will your life be better once you have quit? Write down a list.

Practise positivity

When we make a conscious effort to recognise the positive things in life, we build new, helpful thought patterns which help us move forward with a more positive mindset.

Andrew Major is a solution-focused clinical hypnotherapist who combines psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy techniques, based on the latest research from neuroscience. Find out more at andrewmajorhypnotherapy.co.uk

For more information on professional support visit hypnotherapy-directory.org.uk