If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking, then you know it’s not easy. No matter how much you’ve heard about the dangers of inhaling nicotine, the urge to light up can overwhelm your resolve. You’re not the only one. According to the US Surgeon General, although 70 percent of smokers want to quit, only 35 percent try and a paltry 5 percent succeed.
A highly addictive habit—both physically and psychologically—cigarette smoking affects your heart, lungs, hormonal system, and brain, as well as your emotions and your stress level. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t quit, t’ai chi may provide the mind-body awareness you need to kick the habit for good.
How to stop smoking: dealing with cravings
A craving is a strong, distracting urge to smoke. Cravings are strongest when you first quit.
What Causes Cravings
When you first quit smoking, your body will go through nicotine withdrawal. You may feel tired, moody, and have headaches. In the past, you may have coped with these feelings by smoking a cigarette.
Places and activities can trigger cravings. If you used to smoke after meals or when you talked on the phone, these things might make you crave a cigarette.
How to Manage Cravings
You can expect to have cravings for a few weeks after you quit. The first 3 days will probably be the worst. As more time passes, your cravings should get less intense.
Thinking about how to resist cravings ahead of time can help you overcome them.
The slow, graceful “dance” of t’ai chi, invented (according to legend) in the 16th century by a Chinese martial artist, has often been described as a moving meditation. Connecting the breath with a sequence of slow, deliberate movements or “forms,” which often get their names from birds or animals, helps circulate and manipulate qi (pronounced “chee”). According to Chinese medicine, this vital energy must flow unimpeded throughout the body for a person to experience optimal health.
How could t’ai chi help you quit smoking?
If you use smoking to calm your nerves, t’ai chi provides a more healthful alternative.
T’ai chi also engages the whole person in the exercises, so you don’t have time to notice that you want a cigarette: Your mind concentrates completely on the flow and balance of the body; the breathing synchronizes the harmonious action of the arms and legs and allows qi to circulate throughout the system.
Regulating the breath and the movements may engage the parasympathetic nervous system to promote deep relaxation and calm the sympathetic nervous system to keep stress at bay.
A host of withdrawal symptoms—depression, dizziness, frustration, irritability, nervousness, trouble concentrating, and insomnia—often cause smokers to light up again. A regular t’ai chi practice can lessen those symptoms.