Positive self-talk

What is the purpose of doing the repetitive positive self-talk while continuing to smoke for a month before becoming a non-smoker?  If done correctly and often enough, it changes the way that we think and feel about giving up smoking.  We have been told for a really long time that “quitting smoking is a really hard thing to do” and that we will likely fail at quitting a number of times, even if we do work up the courage and grit to give it a shot.  We are also bombarded with advertising messages about the negative consequences of smoking.  Magazines, posters and TV ads showing people with cancer or emphysema or the loved ones left behind.  The repeated message is that smoking kills and its almost impossible to quit doing it.  Anybody who knows anything about psychology, or common sense, can see that going into quitting anything with this attitude is tantamount to setting ourselves up to fail.  Heck, we are warned that it is quite likely that we will fail.

Some of you might think, well that is just reverse psychology so it might push us to show those pessimists that we are tougher than that.  Which just might work, and good for you if it does.  From my perspective it was just the kind of excuse I needed to not even try and to be afraid of trying to quit.  Frankly, the negative ads left me wanting a smoke to help me feel better, smoking was my go to method for dealing with stress.

If you’ve read my story of becoming a non-smoker you know that I was a heavy, chronic smoker who had not gone a full day without smoking for a couple of decades.  Which is why it was so shocking how easy it was for me to become a non-smoker using this model.  I couldn’t believe that, other than feeling a little restless the first day I became a non-smoker, I never experienced any discomfort, withdrawal, cravings, nothing but feeling amazed at how easy a transition it had been.  After talking to many folks who had quit or tried quitting using other methods, I recognized that my experience was rather unique.  This is what prompted me to share the model with others.

As I’ve already hinted, the main reason for the positive self-talk is to get you thinking about giving up cigarettes in a different way.  A positive way.  To move your perspective from the historical one, that quitting smoking is going to be a difficult, challenging, nearly impossible feat to accomplish.  To adopting a new perspective that you are looking forward to becoming a non-smoker who can’t wait to reap the benefits of this exciting change in your life.  Doesn’t that seem like a much more attractive goal?  So after completing step 1, I encourage you to repeat those positive reasons for becoming a non-smoker over and over as many times a day as possible.  Not just repeating them, but saying them as if you really believe them and can’t wait.  You don’t have to believe it, you just have to say it like you do.  “I can’t wait to become a non-smoker so I can breath easy and smell better and save money.  It is going to be fantastic!”  Insert your reasons for quitting in that statement and really put some feeling into it.  You are trying to embed this message into your subconscious mind.  Your subconscious is where your automatic thoughts come from, based on your beliefs.  Your subconscious can not question what you tell it, it responds to what your conscious, reasoning mind feeds it.  So if you feed it positive messages, and don’t seem wishy washy about those messages it will form your new belief, that giving up cigarettes is going to be the best thing you ever did and you can’t wait to do it because it’s going to be amazing!

Since I created this model and used it twenty years ago, I have come across similar models popping up over the years.  I encourage you to check them out because they reinforce how important the change to a positive attitude is.  Another model may not require the positive self-talk, just a change in the negative beliefs about quitting that are commonly held.  If you are able to simply adopt the new belief without the repetition then great.  Mission accomplished.  Here is an example of how just a change in thinking has a big impact in automatic thought patterns.  I had a job in the school system for a couple of years and when I got the job my first concern was how I was going to manage without smoking whenever I felt like it.  What I found was when I was at work because I knew smoking was not an option it did not bother me at all to not be able to smoke during my work day.  But let me tell you, as soon as I was off school grounds I was smoking like a chain smoker.  I came to realize that this is just another instance that proves that cravings are created by our automatic thoughts.  How else can the lack of craving during those work hours be explained.  It is not likely that my body, physiologically, could turn off the craving and turn it back on at my works convenience.  Here was proof that the cravings are triggered by my thought and belief that I need a cigarette.  Cause and effect at work.  I have the automatic thought that I need a cigarette, my body responds and I crave a cigarette.  Knowing that it could be turned off was very impactful, it confirms that my beliefs and thoughts (which I can control) are what is driving the physiological need for nicotine.

I want to share something I learned while I was doing some research about the effects of nicotine on the brain and body, and why I encourage doing the positive self-talk while you are smoking for the month leading up to becoming a non-smoker.  What I discovered is that research that suggests nicotine enhances some of our cognitive functions.  Memory being the important one in this case.  My theory is that if you do the repetitive positive self-talk while you are smoking that the message will become more rapidly, and possibly more firmly, entrenched in your memory and following that will become an automatic positive thought related to becoming a non-smoker.  I would also add that doing the repetitive positive talk while smoking is also about the psychological benefit that replaces what would have most likely previously been negative thoughts about quitting.  The positive self-talk helps us to change our beliefs and language so that we look forward to becoming something new and exciting.