How mindfulness training can help quit smoking

Tobacco use is also psychologically addictive, so it stands to reason that changing behavioural patterns through mindfulness training can help people quit smoking. But what exactly is mindfulness training and how can it help you?




Mindfulness - definition and use for tobacco addiction

When we are mindful, we perceive our environment and our body in the here and now and are not distracted by emotions, memories and thought processes. For many of us, this is not a normal state, as busy schedules, stressful work schedules and family, household and professional commitments often mean we are not as mindful as we could be. As a result, we do not perceive our experiences intensively and consciously. But we can do something about this, because mindfulness can be improved with mindfulness training. Nowadays, this is used in many forms of therapy, including tobacco cessation. People learn to regulate their attention, to be aware of their body and to regulate their feelings.


Mindfulness training vs. behavioural therapy - what is the difference?

In tobacco cessation, mindfulness training is used to become aware of and accept the desire to smoke. The goal is to endure one's own addictive desire without giving in to it by smoking. And what purpose does behavioural therapy serve? The German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg (dkfz) explains that behavioural therapy approaches strengthen smokers in "avoiding triggering factors, diverting attention from cravings, reinforcing positive emotional states, reducing negative moods and stress, and replacing smoking with other activities". Mindfulness training, on the other hand, focuses on keeping the attention on the current experience, in this case, craving smoking, and developing an accepting attitude towards this sensation.


Studies and evidence

The craving to smoke and actual smoking in succession are coupled with each other. Mindfulness training can put this link into perspective and weaken it. Thus, it can support smokers in quitting smoking. This is also shown by a randomised controlled clinical trial that examined the effectiveness of app-based mindfulness training. According to the study authors, people with a long-lasting desire to quit smoking could particularly benefit from such approaches.


According to the medical guideline, mindfulness-based interventions can be offered for tobacco cessation.

These are understood as a further development of cognitive-behavioural therapy, in which conventional cognitive-behavioural therapy methods are enriched with mindfulness- and acceptance-based strategies as well as metacognitive and meditative components.


Current meta-analyses show efficacy in terms of sustained tobacco abstinence, including the study by Oikonomou et al. (2017) (3), which evaluated four randomised clinical trials and included a total of 474 patients for analysis. The results showed that 25.2 per cent of the participants in the mindfulness group remained abstinent for significantly longer than four months. In the other group, which did not receive mindfulness training, this value was 13.6 per cent.


Conclusion

Since tobacco consumption is not only physically addictive, the psychological aspects should always be taken into account to achieve successful, long-lasting smoking cessation. Mindfulness training is a good option here, and its effectiveness has been scientifically confirmed. The medical guideline on tobacco cessation also points out that this method can definitely be considered.

Mindfulness training is, therefore, recommendable and supports smokers in quitting smoking in the long term.