What is the No. 1 thing that can help stop you smoking? (It’s not what you think!)

discarded cigaretteWe all know that there are a plethora of solutions and approaches to smoking cessation – from smoke aversion to nicotine replacement, from hypnosis to acupuncture.  Naturally the scientific world, Government health organisations and charities are very keen to study the various approaches and pin down exactly which ones are the most effective.

There are a host of studies, and the outcomes vary slightly from one to another. Hypnosis, which is my favoured approach, (although I combine it with cognitive behavioural therapy and neurolinguistic programming) comes out quite well overall, usually significantly higher than nicotine replacement for example.

But I have to admit that there is something that consistently out-performs all the other techniques!

Even this one isn’t a magic bullet, but it’s the closest thing there is and I would love to be able to administer it as part of my therapy, but I don’t think I’d ever get away with it.

So what is it?

What is the one thing that can really help you make that decision to quit and then follow through.

What is the one thing that can help make you turn your life around?

Well, I’ll tell you.

But you won’t like it.

Well I’m sorry to say that having a heart attack is the absolute, bottom line in smoking cessation. For example one analysis published by Viswesvaran & Schmidt (1992) looked at 633 studies covering 72,000 subjects, found that in a group of just over 4,500 cardiac arrest patients, 42% were apparently successful in stopping smoking!

So basically if I could give everybody who walks into my therapy room an immediate heart attack, they would just be able to stop right there and then. I could pat them on the back, give them a few leaflets and send them on the way (obviously after the paramedics have finished with them).  Nearly half of them shouldn’t need to see me again? Should they?

What is almost as striking as the high success rate, is the fact that over 50% of these patients who have experienced this rather dramatic wake-up call to the dangers of smoking still continue to smoke! It just goes to show how strong a hold this unhealthy, expensive and physically unattractive habit has on many people. When someone says they are ‘dying for a cigarette’, they’re not joking!

So given that even heart failure has a high failure rate, even if the notion of giving clients a heart attack were morally defensible, I would rather stick to my own methods. The same survey puts hypnosis as next down the list of effective therapies and I’m content with that.

What it does reinforce for me is that whatever approach you choose, you have to want to stop. That is the one thing I insist on with my clients if I am to help them and give them the support and tools they need to end the habit once and for all.  Hypnosis is not a magic button.  If you don’t have a strong desire to stop smoking, no amount of hypnotic trance work will make you a permanent non-smoker.

So don’t come to me unless you really want to stop that habit for good.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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