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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meditation is better for you than smoking

Well, duh. Am I right? At this point, everyone knows that smoking is not healthy for you. It's worse for you and those in proximity than most things.
And yet, people do it.
Forbes, not exactly a spiritual journal, notes that some bad habits (smoking) feed on themselves, creating a cycle, while others break that cycle. In "Eat, Smoke, Meditate: Why your brain cares how you cope" Forbes assesses ways of chilling out.
Most people would agree that a lot of our unhappiness comes from the mind’s annoying chatter, which includes obsessions, worries, drifts from this stress to that stress, and our compulsive and exhausting need to anticipate the future. Not surprisingly, the goal of most adults is to get the mind to shut up, calm down, and chill out. For this reason, we turn to our diverse array of feel-good tools (cigarettes, deep breathing, and what have you). Some are healthier and more effective than others, and researchers are finally understanding why certain methods break the cycle and others exacerbate it.
The article notes the benefits of meditation, including creation of a new default mode for the brain, where it can rest.

Smoking actually creates a negative feedback loop, where you are linking stress and craving with the oh-so-good act of smoking. So whenever you experience a negative emotion, craving returns and intensifies over time, so that you are actually even less happy than before. A cigarette may quiet the mind temporarily – during the act of smoking – but in between cigarettes is where things get bad, because craving creeps in. Though we’re using craving as the example, unhappiness, self-referential thoughts, or everyday worries can all be substituted in.


Substituting a carrot stick or other behavior for your actual craving (or other form of unhappiness) is a typical method of treatment, but it doesn’t often work, because the feedback loop is still there. Addressing the process itself with other methods (like meditation), which allow you to ride out the craving/unhappiness by attending to it and accepting it, and then letting it go, has been more successful, because it actually breaks the cycle rather than masks it.