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Want to Break Free from Smoking? Try T’ai Chi!

If you are a smoker, here is a good reason to quit: research published in The Lancet by Oxford University scientists found that the number of smokers who died during a 12-year period was a whopping three times that of never-smokers.

Smokers died at 65 years of age, on average, and lost about 10 years of their life. However, the research also found that smokers can have those years back, if they quit early enough.

The problem is that smoking is one of the hardest habits to give up: about 90 percent of those who try fail, according to estimates. Fortunately, some things can increase the chances of success. Among these, says health and wellness expert, Gordon Edlin, are positive changes in other aspects of life. “For example,” he adds, “many people who take up meditation, t’ai chi ch’uan, jogging or other physical activity lose the desire to smoke and stop.”

Now, if we look at t’ai chi ch’uan specifically, we’ll find that scientific evidence supports this idea. A US team of researchers of the University of Florida recently studied smokers attending t’ai chi ch’uan classes, who successfully gave up their habit. It turned out that these smokers considered t’ai chi ch’uan the “primary reason for quitting smoking.”

Eye opener

Intrigued by the result, the team set off to understand why something regarded as a gentle form of martial art is so powerful when it comes to helping people stop smoking. They looked at the results from studies previously carried out on the topic, and concluded that, as a form of meditation, t’ai chi ch’uan increases awareness of the smoking habit and its dangers, making it easier to make, and fulfil, the decision to quit.

What this means is that the meditation component of t’ai chi ch’uan acts as an eye opener, and a call to action. It helps smokers recognize the devastating effects that smoking has on them and their families, which, in turn, gives them the determination to do something about it.

Gives you willpower

And not only that. Giving up smoking is for most people a long journey, involving several difficult steps. For example, most smoking cessation plans focus on deciding on a quit date; gradually reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day; seeking professional and family support; identifying activities that can replace smoking; and finding ways to avoid situations that could trigger cravings, such as hanging out with people who smoke. Through meditation, t’ai chi ch’uan enhances a smoker’s ability and willingness to embark on this journey – and stay on it.

Dr. Peter Gryffin co-authored the University of Florida study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.  He says: “T’ai chi, as a dynamic form of meditation, can be an effective method for enhancing mindfulness and awareness for breaking cycles of addiction and habit… [and] may be a particularly appealing adjunct to smoking cessation programs, especially in light of its many ancillary health benefits.”

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