A recent study claims that mindfulness meditation could help smokers cut down their tobacco intake and could even encourage them to quit altogether. In fact, results showed that those who underwent training in meditative techniques smoked less one month later. Mindfulness meditation focuses the mind on the here and now, helps relaxation and encourages the person to just go with the flow of their thoughts and physical sensations. It's designed to help people to relax, concentrate on the current moment and, essentially, go with the flow of thoughts and sensations and encouragingly has been linked to a number of health benefits from cold and flu relief; hot flushes and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), not to mention healthy changes within the brain itself.
Before we all reach for the saffron robes and incense burner, I should point out that the survey was based on a sample of just five smokers who provided feedback following their experience, so the results could be merely coincidental. Researchers however remain upbeat. Study co-author, Michael Posner, who is professor emeritus at the University of Oregon no less, maintains that the effect of meditation depends upon the brain-state the participant is in at the time.
This latest study involved two groups of smokers; one group underwent two weeks’ training in mindfulness meditation whilst the remainder were trained in relaxation techniques. At the end of the two week period, smokers were given breath tests to gauge how much they’d been smoking. The relaxation group showed no change whereas the mindfulness meditation group showed a reduction of 60% in their smoking. Four weeks after the study, five of the smokers in the mindfulness meditation group confirmed that they were still smoking less.
Interestingly, none of the participants knew that the study they were taking part in was actually devised to measure their smoking habits pre and post training. Other studies suggest that meditation improves connectivity within the brain and that the areas of the brain linked to self-control become more active, making it easier to say no to that cigarette craving. Meditation also reduces stress and researchers reckon that this may be another reason for its success in helping smokers quit. Meditation, unlike drug therapy, has no known major side effects and, once the initial training has been paid for, is free!
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