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How to Help a Loved One Quit Smoking

Smoker_400Change isn’t magic. It takes thought, planning, work, and reasons to do something different. Help make it worth it for your loved one to ditch cigarettes by creating an environment that rewards positive behavior (not smoking). From Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.

Willpower gets a lot of play in popular culture when it comes to change, but joy takes people much, much further. People are unlikely to persist in a change that does not have its own pleasures. Research has underscored the importance of building a happy life as critical to reducing substance use or other problematic behaviors.

Consider Max. There were few things he liked doing more than sitting on the back porch smoking after his wife, Charmaine, and their three kids were in bed. He bristled when Charmaine insisted that this was driving a wedge between them, as she couldn’t stand the smell and worried about his health. Charmaine knew, because Max had said as much, that his late nights were about quiet, solitude, and freedom to do what he liked. She and her CMC therapist brainstormed ways to discourage Max from smoking and encourage their spending time together, while also preserving time for Max to be by himself.

Max jumped on his wife’s idea that she take charge of the kids three mornings a week, giving him uninterrupted time to write computer code— another favorite solitary pursuit. He started going to bed at the same time as Charmaine the previous nights in order to wake up early for coding (he realized later that the nicotine had been wrecking his sleep). For his part of the bargain, Max agreed to do something Charmaine wanted to do, after the kids went to bed, two evenings a week. He discovered that he liked the TV series Friday Night Lights as much as she did, and they enjoyed dissecting it together afterward. Or sometimes they would just sit in the same room and read. Within six months, his smoking was down to once a week, a change made possible by the inherent joy, for Max, of writing computer programs and feeling closer to his wife than he had in years.


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