No matter how much we may try and avoid the uncomfortable truth, smoking is unequivocally bad for us. It makes us unfit, causes health problems, gives our hands, breath and clothes an “interesting” fragrance and causes what doctors call “smoker’s face.”
It shortens our life considerably. Male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life, respectively, which is an awful lot, and the effects on quality of life are as detrimental in many cases, if not more so.
So why do we do it? As any smoker will tell you; tobacco is powerfully addictive.
Addiction changes your brain function so that you find it easy to justify the addiction. In fact, researchers in the 1970s found that those of us with a dependency will often develop a cognitive distortion to do just that – such as clinging on to the fact that someone we heard about smoked and lived to 100. In our minds, that becomes the likely outcome for us too, even though ALL of the evidence suggests otherwise.
It’s a fantastic bit of neurological jiggery-pokery and, given how incredibly addictive cigarettes are for most people, it’s no wonder we find it hard to kick the habit. Smoking is considered to be one of the stickiest addictions of all. Many recovering addicts find themselves maintaining (or switching to) the fag habit even when they lose the others.
Ironically though, it has been shown to increase our stress levels. We feel more relaxed when we smoke, but the net effect throughout the day is actually more significant stress and anxiety. The reason for this is that a wee puff provides relief from the stress and anxiety our mind and body feel as a result of the nicotine depletion we experience during the rest of the day.
And remarkably, smoking only one cigarette a day leads to a risk of heart disease that is halfway between a smoker and a non-smoker.
Part of the problem is that smoking plant materials such as tobacco will cause a build-up of carbon monoxide which prevents the blood from carrying oxygen around the body and to the brain. This naturally has many detrimental consequences for your health.
I gave up smoking a month after taking the meditation course with Will. I had tried about ten times and I never managed to keep it up. It has now been 15 months and I don't miss it at all. Meditation gave me the space and stress relief I need to be able to say no in moments of weakness when I would have usually caved. Meditation had also helped with my anxiety. I used to worry about everything and although I will always have it in my make-up (I think) I am able to cope a lot better with general anxiety and worry. It enables me to think clearly, break things down and be more pragmatic about life.
Tim, Music Supervisor, London
How can Vedic meditation help?
One of the fastest acting qualities of Vedic meditation is the reduction in stress. This immediately reduces the cravings for cigarettes and other such crutches that help us get through our day.
This technique is also renowned for reducing anxiety, which can also be at the heart of the need to puff. What is less well known but just as evident is its impact on all forms of compulsive tendency, which moderate considerably when you practise this technique.
Another reason why people like to smoke is that it gives them something to distract themselves with when feeling restless, particularly when other people are around. It can help mask our lack of confidence and self-esteem. But the need to divert ourselves is much reduced when we meditate. As we become much more comfortable and confident in ourselves, we find that we can navigate our way through all of life’s circumstances without feeling the need or desire to hide behind a mask.
Vedic meditation also oxygenates the brain and does so by opening up your blood vessels, which is a far healthier process than oxygenating your brain through constricting your blood vessels as smoking does.
This means that Vedic meditation can replace smoking as a way of feeding your brain oxygen.
The net result is a level of brain functionality, which increases, rather than being suppressed by the nicotine fix. It also helps your body functionality improve.
For example, Vedic meditation is remarkably good for reducing cardiovascular issues that may have built up as a result of smoking. The meditation helps open up your veins, arteries and capillaries (a phenomena known as peripheral vasodilatation), it calms your heart rate by an average of 5BPM and has been shown to result in an overall 87% reduction in cardiovascular disorders in those at risk.
Vedic meditation is also good for helping heal the lungs after years of the inhibiting effects brought about by smoking. In the largest study ever carried out on meditation, it led to a 73% reduction in respiratory disorders amongst practitioners.
And most importantly of all, Vedic meditation helps to free us from the addictive state of consciousness that underlies all addiction.
So instead of merely kicking one habit, and possibly projecting your addictive personality onto another, repeated practise helps liberate us from all addictive tendencies.
Indeed, famed radio DJ Howard Stern found that within one month of learning he spontaneously ended his 70 cigarettes a day habit.
I'd been a smoker for 30 years or so and tried giving up a few times, but had never been successful beyond more than a couple of weeks. This time I have succeeded and I believe meditating has played a very big part in helping me get there. Most importantly I believed I could succeed. I had a clear mental image of myself as a non-smoker and found I was able to easily talk myself out of cravings. I'm now a non-smoker and I thank meditation (and Will) for helping me get there.
What's the proof?
Many people, like Howard Stern, find themselves spontaneously quitting in the first few weeks and months of meditating. A two-year study of 324 adult smokers found that 81% of meditators reduced their intake of cigarettes and 51% quit entirely, which was far in excess of the control group. A subsequent study showed almost identical results.
Harvard trained psychologist, Charles Alexander, reviewed 19 studies over a 22-year period. In 17 of the studies, there were significant reductions in the use of cigarettes, alcohol and recreational drugs amongst all age groups, ethnicities and demographics when they practised Vedic meditation. The longer people meditated, the better the outcomes.
Vedic meditation has been shown to be extremely useful at reducing stress, with the stress hormone cortisol diminishing by an average 33%.
And when it comes to the tendency to overthink and over-worry about things, Vedic meditation has been shown to be 250% more effective at reducing anxiety than any other technique.