If you actually want to quit smoking, you should strengthen self-control, a new study suggests.
According to the study, exercises aimed at increasing self-control, such as mindfulness meditation, can decrease the unconscious influences that motivates a person to smoke.
Texas Tech University and University of Oregon researchers recruited 60 undergraduate students (27 cigarette smokers and 33 non-smokers) to participate in an integrative body-mind training programme that included relaxation training techniques.
The students were split into two groups so that half received mindfulness meditation training and half received relaxation technique.
Before and at the end of two weeks, after five hours of 30-minute sessions, the students received brain scans, filled out self-report questionnaires, and received objective measure of carbon monoxide on their smoking amounts and habits.
Even though many of the students said they smoked the same number of cigarettes before and after the training, for those who received mindfulness meditation, an objective measure of carbon dioxide percentage in their lungs showed a 60 percent reduction in smoking over two weeks after the study.
"The students changed their smoking behaviour but were not aware of it," said lead study author Yi-Yuan Tang, a professor of Psychological Sciences at Texas Tech.
"When we showed the data to a participant who said they had smoked 20 cigarettes, this person checked their pocket immediately and was shocked to find 10 left," Tang added.
"If you improve the self-control network in the brain and moderate stress-reactivity, then it’s possible to reduce smoking," the researcher explained.
Mindfulness meditation is a key strategy to strengthen self-control.