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    Alternatives for Giving Up Cigarettes

    Have you tried unconventional approaches to stop smoking?

    Hypnosis: Heightened Awareness continued...

    These individuals are taught to relax and enter an attentive, receptive state. "Then," says Carmody, "they're given suggestions for focusing on and strengthening their reasons for quitting smoking, and picturing themselves as nonsmokers effectively overcoming and reducing the experience of urges or cravings to smoke." The UCSF participants are being asked to practice the self-hypnosis technique at least once or twice a day, as well as use it as needed to successfully manage situations where they may experience a desire to smoke.

    A unique component of the UCSF study is that it is not relying solely on patient self-reports of successful quitting. "Our patients who say they have quit provide a saliva sample, which is analyzed for the presence of cotinine," a chemical byproduct of nicotine, says Carmody.

    A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

    If you can mobilize vivid images in your mind at the drop of a cigarette ash, guided imagery may be a technique worth trying. Using this method, individuals enter a state of relaxation and then create mental pictures that help tap into their unconscious mind and reprogram the nervous system to resist the temptation to smoke.

    "Guided imagery is most helpful in preparing people to quit smoking," says Bresler. It can help them get ready on the inside, clearing away internal conflicts and obstacles that can block the path to quitting.

    Bresler notes that many people are attracted to smoking by Madison Avenue's imagery that has convinced them that they can feel cool, macho, or seductive if they smoke. Guided imagery, he says, taps into a person's own imagination and helps them create other images that can counter the purported appeal of smoking, showing instead that it is a toxic poison that you're inhaling. "The key is to break the habit, break the addiction, and recognize that you don't need a cigarette to feel cool," he says.

    Part of guided imagery's power is its ability to instill strength and resolve to toss those cigarettes aside. "It is a means of learning to relax, talking to your creative self, and mobilizing and growing your determination and will to make changes that are important to your well-being," says Bresler.

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