Simply put, addiction starts with a "reward-based learning process... called positive and negative reinforcement, and basically goes like this - we see some food that looks good, our brain says, "Calories! ... Survival!" We eat the food, we taste it -- it tastes good. And especially with sugar, our bodies send a signal to our brain that says, "Remember what you're eating and where you found it." We lay down this context-dependent memory and learn to repeat the process next time. See food, eat food, feel good, repeat. Trigger, behavior, reward."
Smoking is the same. As Judson Brewer (psychiatrist and addiction expert) puts it: "Maybe in our teenage years, we were a nerd at school, and we see those rebel kids outside smoking and we think, "Hey, I want to be cool." So we start smoking. The Marlboro Man wasn't a dork, and that was no accident. See cool, smoke to be cool, feel good. Repeat. Trigger, behavior, reward.
And each time we do this, we learn to repeat the process and it becomes a habit. So later, feeling stressed out triggers that urge to smoke a cigarette or to eat something sweet.
Now, with these same brain processes, we've gone from learning to survive to literally killing ourselves with these habits. Obesity and smoking are among the leading preventable causes of morbidity and mortality in the world." But mindfulness can help. We can do this by being curious to it. In the study, "we dropped the bit about forcing and instead focused on being curious. In fact, we even told them to smoke. What? Yeah, we said, "Go ahead and smoke, just be really curious about what it's like when you do."
And what did they notice? Well here's an example from one of our smokers. She said, "Mindful smoking: smells like stinky cheese and tastes like chemicals, YUCK!"
Now, she knew, cognitively that smoking was bad for her, that's why she joined our program. What she discovered just by being curiously aware when she smoked was that smoking tastes like shit. Now, she moved from knowledge to wisdom. She moved from knowing in her head that smoking was bad for her to knowing it in her bones, and the spell of smoking was broken. She started to become disenchanted with her behavior."
Listen to the whole TED talk by Dr. Judson Brewer here. and also check out our article on Urge Surfing here. Don't forget to share with your loved ones who may benefit from this.