Using Visual Imagery on Your Nicotine Freedom Day (Quit Day)

by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.

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We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful of what we pretend to be.
-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The soul never thinks without a picture.
-Aristotle

Much research has shown that using our "mind's eye" through visual imagery is an effective way to improve our behavior. For example, athletes are trained to use their mind's eye to picture themselves successfully reaching their goals. More specifically, a diver will be taught to recreate in his/Her mind the entire dive sequence of actions. This type of rehearsal actually improves performance, particularly when it involves attention to different body sensations. These sensations include what a person may see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and the motion they may feel in their bodies.

So, we ask you to do the same in order to successfully become, and stay nicotine free. Use your mind's eyes to imagine yourself waking up feeling strong and confident on your Nicotine Freedom Day, the day you stop using tobacco in any form. Use all of your senses to create the experience of placing your feet on the floor from your bed, standing up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc. Taking two minutes to do this every day before your Freedom Day will increase your strength and confidence. Then, imagine other scenes.

Imagine yourself asking to sit in the non-smoking section of a restaurant, refusing someone's offer to give you a cigarette or "dip" oftobacco.

Imagine yourself standing in front of someone you are trying to impress. He or she lights up a cigarette. You smell the smoke. You want to ask for a cigarette, but your mind keeps reminding you of your quitting plan. You force yourself to think a strength-building thought like, "I'm a non-smoker." You take a slow, even breath. The craving passes like a wave through you, and you congratulate yourself for another success. You walk away feeling proud of yourself.

If this technique works for olympic athletes, make it work for you in your own time of need. Use everything you can and spend a few minutes creating a picture that will inspire you!

5/29/98

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Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D. is the founding Director of the Nicotine Recovery Institute. She is the designer of the Nicotine Freedom System, and specializes in the treatment of nicotine-related disorders. Such disorders include underlying depression and anxiety. She has worked extensively with smokers and tobacco chewers in hospital, industrial, and private settings, and is available for individualized consultation and program design. Her program and materials have been developed after completion of her doctoral dissertation in smoking cessation, and following a decade of work with thousands of smokers.

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