Don’t Worry, Be Happy – By Stopping Smoking

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 3, 2010


Although the detrimental medical effects of smoking are well known, experts often question whether smoking cessation will have a positive or negative effect on an individual’s mood.

The concern (or perception) is that many people smoke to relieve anxiety and depression.

In a new study, researchers tracked the symptoms of depression in people who were trying to quit and found that they were never happier than when they were being successful abstaining from smoking, for however long that was.

Based on their results, the authors of the article, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research , recommend that smokers embrace quitting as a step toward improving mental as well as physical health.

In fact, according to corresponding author Christopher Kahler, Ph.D., quitting is not, as some smokers may fear, a grim psychological sacrifice to be made for the sake of longevity.

“The assumption has often been that people might smoke because it has antidepressant properties and that if they quit it might unmask a depressive episode,” said Kahler.

“What’s surprising is that at the time when you measure smokers’ mood, even if they’ve only succeeded for a little while, they are already reporting less symptoms of depression.”

Kahler and colleagues from Brown, The Miriam Hospital, and the University of Southern California studied a group of 236 men and women seeking to quit smoking, who also happened to be heavy social drinkers.

They received nicotine patches and counseling on quitting and then agreed to a quit date; some also were given specific advice to reduce drinking.

Participants took a standardized test of symptoms of depression a week before the quit date and then two, eight, 16, and 28 weeks after that date.

All but 29 participants exhibited one of four different quitting behaviors: 99 subjects never abstained; 44 were only abstinent at the two-week assessment; 33 managed to remain smoke-free at the two- and eight-week checkups; 33 managed to stay off cigarettes for the entire study length.

The most illustrative — and somewhat tragic — subjects were the ones who only quit temporarily. Their moods were clearly brightest at the checkups when they were abstinent. After going back to smoking, their mood darkened, in some cases to higher levels of sadness than before.

The strong correlation in time between increased happiness and abstinence is a tell-tale sign that the two go hand-in-hand, said Kahler, of Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS).

Subjects who never quit remained the unhappiest of all throughout the study. The ones who quit and stuck with abstinence were the happiest to begin with and remained at the same strong level of happiness throughout.

Kahler said he is confident the results can be generalized to most people, even though the smokers in this study also drank at relatively high levels. One reason is that the results correlate well with a study he did in 2002 of smokers who all had had past episodes of depression but who did not necessarily drink. Another is that the changes in happiness measured in this study did not correlate in time with a reduction in drinking, only with a reduction — and resumption — of smoking.

Looking at the data, Kahler said, it is difficult to believe that smoking serves as an effective way to medicate negative feelings and depression, even if some people report using tobacco for that reason. In fact, he said, the opposite seems more likely — that quitting smoking eases depressive symptoms.

“If they quit smoking their depressive symptoms go down and if they relapse, their mood goes back to where they were,” he said. “An effective antidepressant should look like that.”

Source: Brown University

Technorati Tags: ,,

Mindfulness Meditation Increases Well-Being In Adolescent Boys

Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation

‘Mindfulness’, the process of learning to become more aware of our ongoing experiences, increases well-being in adolescent boys, a new study reports. Researchers from the University of Cambridge analyzed 155 boys from two independent UK schools, Tonbridge and Hampton, before and after a four-week crash course in mindfulness.

After the trial period, the 14 and 15 year-old boys were found to have increased well-being, defined as the combination of feeling good (including positive emotions such as happiness, contentment, interest and affection) and functioning well.

Professor Felicia Huppert of the Well-being Institute at the University of Cambridge said: “More and more we are realizing the importance of supporting the overall mental health of children. Our study demonstrates that this type of training improves well-being in adolescents and that the more they practice, the greater the benefits. Importantly, many of the students genuinely enjoyed the exercises and said they intended to continue them – a good sign that many children would be receptive to this type of intervention.

“Another significant aspect of this study is that adolescents who suffered from higher levels of anxiety were the ones who benefited most from the training.”

For the experiment, students in six classes were trained in mindful awareness – mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention. It means consciously bringing awareness to our experience, in the present moment, without making judgments about it*. Students in the five control classes attended their normal religious studies lessons.

The training consisted of four 40 minute classes, one per week, which presented the principles and practice of mindfulness. The classes covered the concepts of awareness and acceptance, and taught the schoolboys such things as how to practice bodily awareness by noticing where they were in contact with their chairs or the floor, paying attention to their breathing, and noticing all the sensations involved in walking.

The students were also asked to practice outside the classroom and were encouraged to listen to a CD or mp3 file for eight minutes a day. These exercises are intended to improve concentration and reduce stress.

All participants completed a short series of online questionnaires before and after the mindfulness project. The questionnaires measured the effect of the training on changes in mindful awareness, resilience (the ability to modify responses to changing situations) and psychological well-being.

The researchers found that although it was a short program, the students who participated in the mindfulness training had increased levels of well-being which were proportional to the amount of time the students spent practicing their new skills.

Professor Huppert continued: “We believe that the effects of mindfulness training can enhance well-being in a number of ways. If you practice being in the present, you can increase positive feelings by savoring pleasurable on-going experiences. Additionally, calming the mind and observing experiences with curiosity and acceptance not only reduces stress but helps with attention control and emotion regulation – skills which are valuable both inside and outside the classroom.”

The success of this initial study has recently led to the creation of an exciting 8 week mindfulness curriculum for schools in both the state and private sectors. This new curriculum, which includes games and video clips, should have even greater benefits.

Material adapted from University of Cambridge.
*As described in the Mental Health Foundation Report ‘Be Mindful’ 2010.
Originally Posted by: The Behavioral Medicine Report at:  http://www.bmedreport.com/archives/16844