Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Luckily, there are many tools to assist you in your goal of quitting smoking. Acupuncture is one of the most helpful tools and is very effective in helping break the addiction cycle.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into certain points on the body. These needles stimulate the flow of qi (chee) energy throughout the body, helping to regulate the body’s natural systems. Many people are afraid of needles but acupuncture needles are extremely thin–usually the thickness of a strand of hair–and the insertion is barely noticed. The needles are inserted very superficially in the skin and retained in the body while the patient rests. Acupuncture works by helping to regulate the body’s natural energy flow, to reduce the cravings of nicotine withdrawal, to calm the mind and ease anxieties, and to strengthen and benefit the lungs and clear phlegm, tar and nicotine residue out of the lungs.
Often people smoke to deal with stuck energy in the body that shows itself as feelings of anxiety, tension, anger or grief. Smoking a cigarette draws warm air deeply into the lungs and the nicotine hits our blood stream, then works its way into our brain allowing us to momentarily feel relaxation and release from these emotions. Acupuncture helps by regulating this stuck energy and moving it along in the same way that deep breaths or a few moments of quiet meditation will do.
Smoking allows us to feel relaxed quickly, but this is a false benefit as the side effects of smoking are more detrimental then the feelings of anxiety we endure. It is understood in Chinese medicine that the emotion related to the lungs is grief. This heavy, sad, stuck energy of grief is alleviated by the movement of the lungs as we take a drag off a cigarette. It is important to find other ways to move this stuck qi. You can start by noticing and observing what you are really feeling when you have a craving for a cigarette. Are you actually sad or stressed out? Spend some time analyzing what the root of the emotion is.
Acupuncture, particularly ear or ‘auricular acupuncture’, will help reduce the cravings for nicotine by stimulating receptors in our brains that nicotine usually binds to and create a break from the cravings. Ear acupuncture can be done by any acupuncturist or you can buy ‘ear seeds’ which are little morning glory seeds on medical tape which are stuck on particular points on the ear. You can research auricular acupuncture charts online or see if your community offers an addiction clinic. These clinics are often free and offer a short acupuncture session or the application of ear seeds to deal with a variety of addictions.
One of the most powerful benefits of an acupuncture session is the way it calms your mind and eases anxiety. People often smoke to mask feelings they don’t wish to feel or face. Acupuncture helps to safely move these feelings out of the body. People comment that they have more restful sleep, fall asleep easier and sleep longer after acupuncture.
Finally, acupuncture helps to physically remove tar and nicotine residue from the body. This allows the lungs to feel lighter, the voice less gravely, helps stop coughing and improves digestion. There are helpful herbal formulas that your acupuncturist can prescribe for helping heal the lungs and refrain from smoking. One formula that all smokers, ex-smokers and those working on quitting should take is called ‘Yang Yin Qing Fei’. This formula is a perfect balance of herbs to clear out the lungs and stop coughing while moistening the dryness of the lungs and sore throats that many smokers experience.
Ultimately the true, heart felt desire to quit smoking is the most important predictor in successfully quitting. Like other addictions, the first step is to admit you have a problem that you wish to change and then take one day at a time. I often ask my patients why they wish to quit smoking. This may seem like a silly question but if the patient responds that they truly wish to make a change in their life and quit this habit, the results are far better than someone who replies that they wish to quit smoking because their ‘wife wants them to’. Or because their ‘doctor told them to quit’. Or because smoking is ‘too expensive’. These are all good reasons to stop smoking but ultimately it comes back to the patient’s personal desire for change in their life.
This personal desire to improve their health and quit the habit is a powerful force that is already moving the patient in the direction that they wish to go. Ask yourself why you want to quit. Maybe even make a list of the reasons and post it where you will see it. Remind yourself daily why you are making this choice. All the acupuncture, nicotine gum and hypnosis treatments in the world will not help you quit smoking unless you have truly decided and reconciled yourself to this decision. Even if you have truly dedicated yourself to stopping smoking you may have the occasional ‘slip up’ where you smoke again. Be gentle with yourself; this is a process that will take some time. Think of yourself as a ‘practicing non-smoker’ rather than thinking you will quit cold turkey and never smoke again. Avoid having unreasonable expectations of yourself.
Some studies have shown that people desire a cigarette even 25 years after smoking! Rather than feel that quitting is impossible, consider cutting back and slowly changing your life and patterns so that one day smoking no longer fits into your life or image of yourself. Addictions occur because of an evolutionary feedback loop for survival. When humans have a pleasant experience our brains record this positive feedback and send us looking for more of this pleasant experience. People who are addicted to smoking do not have weaker self control than other people; in fact, they may have a more strongly functioning memory feedback loop. Acupuncture can help stop this addictive feedback cycle and help you to create a new, positive sensory feedback cycle for your brain.
Best wishes for a smoke-free life!