Smokers are bombarded night and day, with adverts and messages showing us the countless health risks of smoking. Despite this, a recent Australian study for the Department of Health and Ageing, demonstrates that for the majority of smokers, health risk was not a major detractor.
This being due to a here and now mentality and many smokers not having experienced the major health concerns advertised. Many smokers also believed the health concerns were exaggerated and therefore not a positive motivation to quit smoking. Link to Study.
The study came to the following conclusions.
- Smokers recognize that smoking is a widely disapproved practice and an abnormal behaviour, with many in the older age brackets feeling ostracized.
- Many smokers feel inconvenienced by their habit, especially with the extensive no smoking laws present in society.
- Majority of smokers recognize the increasing financial cost of smoking and are regularly making changes in their life to ensure they can continue smoking.
- Majority of smokers still feel that the positives of smoking outweigh the negatives.
- The majority of smokers cited that the feelings of pleasure and reward were the most positive reasons to continue smoking.
- Many smokers believe smoking is a strong counter to stress.
- Many smokers see smoking as an intrinsic part of their daily life.
It is pretty clear, the physical feelings of pleasure and reward experienced by smokers are so positive, that it overpowers just about every motivation they can conceive, to stop.
They have what I consider to be, a “positive” motivation to smoke. I believe positive motivation is simply having an unsatisfied need to gain something that enhances and improves your life, mentally or physically.
Where as a negative motivation, would be having a need to remove something valuable from your life.
To help prevent the junkie mindset holding them to their addiction, smokers have a need to counter the positive motivations to smoke, with equally positive motivations to quit.
Where exactly, can we find that kind of positive motivation?
Let’s start by looking at motivation in general. It helps to have an understanding of how it actually works. After all, if we can see why we are motivated to do the things we do, it should be easier to identify the things that are likely going to motivate us in future.
For the purpose of this exercise I am going to draw on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory for motivation.
Abraham Maslow, the famous American professor of psychology, proposed that human beings are motivated by a hierarchy of needs ranging from our most physical needs through to the more advanced psychological needs of a conscious and self aware being.
The second important aspect of this theory is the notion that a biological being must first satisfy the lowest order of needs before spending energy attaining the next, until it peaks at self actualization.
Later, I will explore how this notion can be observed and demonstrated in smokers and how it can help smokers find very real, very physical and very positive motivations to stop smoking.
For the moment, let’s continue looking at motivation in general, in particular our physical motivations.
Hunger, thirst, tiredness and sexual desire are all physical causes for motivation. When we hunger, we are motivated to find and eat food. When we thirst, we are motivated to find and drink water. When we tire, we are motivated to sleep.
When we are sexually aroused we are motivated to perform sexual activities.
It is our unsatisfied needs that influence our desires and motivate us to take action, usually towards a positive end.
- When we eat, we get the energy and nutrients we need to live.
- When we drink, we hydrate our bodies and increase our ability to absorb nutrients.
- When we sleep, we maintain a healthy state of mind.
When these physical needs are met, the motivation to act on those needs disappear.
Let’s delve a little deeper.
Dopamine is released by the pleasure and reward centre of the brain when you eat, drink and have sex. When you experience that satisfactory feeling after eating, drinking or having sex, you are experiencing a dopamine “high”.
In short, dopamine is the brains physical way of rewarding us when we fulfil our unsatisfied, biological needs. The most basic needs required for survival.
Cigarette smokers experience dopamine “highs” in the extreme. This is because nicotine stimulates the reward centre of the brain into releasing dopamine every time you have a smoke. As soon as nicotine levels start to decrease, the brains need for nicotine increases.
When a smoker satisfies that need by having a cigarette, the brain reinforces the behaviour by providing the pleasurable hit of dopamine. Smokers are in an almost permanent survival mode.
If you are a heavy smoker, you will likely notice the feeling of hunger closely resembles nicotine cravings. For heavy smokers, the notion of quitting smokes can be likened to quitting food.
Given that smokers are almost constantly motivated to fulfil a powerful need to smoke, smokers, according to Maslow’s theory must be far less successful at fulfilling their more advanced, psychological needs. Let’s consider it.
Level Two Needs – Safety.
- Do smokers succeed in maximizing a healthy life? No.
- Do smokers succeed in minimizing ailments? No.
- Do smokers succeed in minimizing family health issues? No.
- Do smokers succeed in maximizing their finances? No.
Level Three Needs – Relationships
- Does smoking limit a persons ability to achieve meaningful friendships? Yes.
- Does smoking negatively impact family relationships? Yes.
- Does smoking negatively impact sexual intimacy? Yes.
Level Four Needs – Esteem
- Do smokers often have low self-esteem? Yes.
- Do smokers often have issues with confidence? Yes.
- Do smokers find it more difficult to gain the respect of others? Yes
Level Five Needs – Self Actualization.
- Do smokers often block out or ignore the impact smoking is having on their health? Yes.
- Does smoking interfere with problem solving? Yes.
- Does smoking bring into question, a persons morality? Yes.
When you stop smoking, the pathways in your brain that lead to excessive dopamine highs, will begin to break down and over time your brain will regulate dopamine in a more stable manner.
You will get greater levels of pleasure from your senses as they won’t be drowned out by a constant need for nicotine. You will appreciate and enjoy the flavours of good food and drink more.
You will get more pleasure from participating in physical activity. You will enjoy sex more and likely enjoy more sex. You will sleep better and be less tired.
Once your brain overcomes the addiction to nicotine and is back into a regular and balanced state of satisfaction, you will not miss being a smoker. Instead you will begin to focus on the more advanced needs you have.
You will feel a great deal of pleasure and reward through enjoying better health.
You will be able to participate in stimulating activities, physically and mentally, that you couldn’t when you smoked.
You will discover a big improvement in your finances and your ability to manage your finances.
You will be able to enjoy doing things you previously couldn’t afford to do.
Your relationships will dramatically improve and you will discover whole new relationships.
Your self esteem will dramatically increase.
Your confidence will sky rocket.
You will confront life’s challenges with a high level of effectiveness.
You will gain enormous respect from others.
You will attain a high level of self discipline.
You will begin to achieve the things you have always wanted to achieve.
The most positive reason to stop smoking, is not to avoid death, it is to start living.