Fighting cravings is one of the hardest parts of fighting any addiction. It’s a pull that defies logic or reason and feels inescapable. Learning to tolerate cravings is one of the most important skills to learn during recovery. One thing that might help is simply taking some deep breaths. Smokers who have quit often find that deep breathing is an important element in quitting. When you go out for a cigarette, you are satisfying a nicotine craving but you are also doing something so obvious that hardly anyone notices: Breathing deeply. Breathing deeply calms you down. You have stretch receptors in your lungs and when you take a deep breath, these send a signal to your brain stem to suppress the sympathetic nervous system, or the “fight of flight” system. As a result, taking a deep breath calms you down. A smoke break is essentially going outside periodically to spend a few minutes taking slow deep breaths. It has a calming effect despite nicotine being a stimulant. When you quit smoking, not only do you have to endure withdrawal from nicotine, you also no longer spend a few minutes at regular intervals taking slow deep breaths. Ex-smokers who realize this and make a special effort to take breathing breaks often find they are more relaxed and have more energy. What’s more, the carbon monoxide leaves the blood after about two days. After that, they’re breathing in more oxygen and that oxygen actually makes it to their cells, rather than being pushed out by carbon monoxide. You don’t have to be an ex-smoker for deep breathing to help with cravings. If you make a habit of taking regular breathing breaks–say, a few minutes every hour or so–it can help reduce the accumulation of stress throughout the day. Stress tends to compound. You’ve probably noticed how small things really get on your nerves when you’re already too busy or recently had some kind of conflict. Deep breathing helps deflate that stress a bit, which will help keep cravings at bay. If you do find yourself struck by a craving, breathing can help there too. A craving is, itself, a kind of stress. You feel like you need something you can’t have, which makes you feel agitated. Taking a few slow deep breaths will help reduce the intensity of cravings. It will also take your mind off it to some extent, especially if you count your breaths, or count the pace of your breaths. A popular counting scheme is 4-7-8: four seconds in, hold for seven seconds, breathe out for eight seconds. Your heart rate actually slows a bit on the exhale, so having a longer exhale than inhale will help you relax more.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. Our expert staff includes masters and PhD level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Call us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.