What smokers can learn from meditating monks

A recent study from University of Kentucky finds that people struggling with cigarette addiction may use mindfulness meditation to increase self-control and decrease stress.

It is well known that smoking increases the risk for several health conditions, such as cancer, heart attack or stroke. Despite knowing about these dangers, many smokers find it hard to quit. The reasons for such addictive behaviour include low self-control amongst other things.

Buddhist monk cartoon character sitting in meditation in an orange robe.

Mindfulness is described as attending to the present moment in a non-judgemental way. Previous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can improve self-control, increase positive whereas decrease negative emotions and stress.

In this study, the researchers divided 27 smokers and 33 non-smokers randomly into two groups each. In both conditions, smokers and non-smokers, one group would practice a mindfulness meditation technique and the other a relaxation training for two weeks (5h total training time) to see how these techniques would influence smoking behaviour and self-control.

The research showed that the smoking amount, was reduced by 60% in the meditation group. The relaxation group showed no difference.

Using brain imaging techniques, the researchers showed that smokers had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), important brain regions for self-control. After two weeks of intervention, the meditation group showed significant increase in activity of the target regions, whereas the relaxation group did not show any difference.

This research has demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can do more than helping monks reach enlightenment. It can help smokers quit their addiction and live a healthier life.

Written by: C. Münstermann

Picture from: https://www.freevector.com/vector/buddhist-monk


Tang, Y. Y., Tang, R., & Posner, M. I. (2013). Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America110(34), 13971–13975. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1311887110

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