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Posts tagged ‘mind’

Smoking Cessation: The Science of Quitting

Happy New Year to Everyone!

We started off the year with a blizzard here in Connecticut……we’re never short of fun surprises in this state when it comes to weather!

As you may know from previous posts, I DO NOT believe you need to make resolutions on January 1st. You can make changes ANY TIME you are motivated! January 4th, August 18th, whenever! But to make changes in behavior, it helps to know what drives your behavior.

In this regard, I’d like to talk a little about SMOKING and why people become addicted to cigarettes.

On New Year’s day while watching the Honeymooners marathon, I saw some pretty depressing commercials about smoking in which actual patients allowed themselves to be filmed dying from end-stage smoking-related illness. It made me think about why so many people smoke in spite of the super well-known health dangers and social taboos connected with smoking!

It’s because your brain chemistry is altered by smoking, and your brain then compels you to keep smoking.

This is a true chemical addition, so the same tenets hold as for addiction to alcohol and drugs. This can even happen with food: Dr. Kelly Brownell at Yale did research showing that the same area of the brain lights up when a “carb craver” eats sweets as when an opiate addict uses drugs!

The main problem is that nicotine, along with other chemicals in cigarettes, cause release and delayed metabolism of the neurotransmitter DOPAMINE. Dopamine stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain. Once your brain senses a pleasure, it drives you to want it again. It says: “This is good, I want more!”

This same reward mechanism can have survival value: for example, it’s tied with sex and thereby assures we’ll procreate as a species!

Your brain starts to associate the pleasure of smoking with “people, places and things,” which become additional triggers.  For some people, the feel, smell, and sight of a cigarette and the usual rituals of obtaining, handling, lighting, and smoking the cigarette are all associated with the pleasurable effects of smoking.

Memory and habit have their own neural pathways that are reinforcers of the addiction problem. Places and times can have traditions of smoking built into them, like after sex, after meals, or driving home from a stressful day at work. These particular rituals, times, and places associated with the pleasurable effects of smoking can cause cravings and make withdrawal worse.

The brain further compels you with the negative force of withdrawal: Nicotine enters the blood in 10 seconds or so. After you finish a cigarette, within a short time you start to experience nicotine withdrawal. Your brain says: “This is really bad! This is hurting me! I want more nicotine!” and then compels you to smoke again.

On the conscious level, negative emotions can then kick in: You can beat yourself up for failing to quit.  It becomes hard to believe that you can be an ex-smoker. So, once you understand how the chemical addiction works, you can learn to outwit your brain and you can stop beating yourself up.

Remember: Most people have to try 4 or more times to quit.

Here is an awesome web site that breaks down quitting into manageable steps based on the science of addiction:  Please pass it on to any friends who smoke!

Be good to yourself in the New Year!

Dr. Nolfo

Weekly Inspirations: Engineer The Habit of Change

I was never a fan of New Year’s Eve resolutions.

Short, cold winter days are a tough time for me to get super-motivated. But in late September, when the weather starts to get cool at night, the sugar maple leaves start to turn crimson, and Macoun apples are at the farm stands, I feel inspired to clean up, clear out and make positive changes.

Maybe this is because it’s the time of year when the new school year starts. In New England, maybe it’s a helpful natural instinct that helps us rake up the leaves and get out the fall clothes. So, when we want to make a change, like losing summer pounds or quitting smoking  – what strategies can help us make the change happen and last?

I found a great blog on “engineering” successful change, by roadblocking the easy excuses and reducing the pain of the hard work you are trying to do. I’ll share some of it here, but it’s worth reading the whole of it. I am already using some of these strategies.  In my own life, I’m in the process of losing 10 pounds that sneaked up on me this year. I’m also trying to exercise more.

(See! I just used one of the Zen strategies: I  made my “goal” public, so I’ll have to let you know if I succeeded!)

Here is my favorite snippit From the blog ZenHabits:

“Engineer the habit change …Think of it from an engineer’s point of view: When negative feedback outweighs positive feedback, habit change fails. To make the habit change successful, positive feedback has to outweigh negative feedback. The solution: increase positive feedback and/or decrease negative feedback until the ratio favors the habit change. Think of it this way: if you want to take a certain path in the snow, put obstacles along all other paths so that it’s difficult to go anywhere but the path you want to take … and have the path you want to take shoveled, so that it’s easy to take that path. You can engineer your habit change so that it’s harder to quit than to do the habit. You have four options in your custom engineering solution. In each, I’ll give some ideas, but you’ll have to come up with ideas of your own to fit whatever habit you’re trying to change… 3. Increase negative feedback for not doing the habit. You want to make it hard not to do the habit. As hard as humanly possible. So to do that, you need to put all kinds of negative feedback on yourself for not doing the habit. Some ideas: If you join a forum or a real-world group or give people you know regular updates, or update your blog readers (see ideas in #1 above), you will face the embarrassment of having to tell people you didn’t do the challenge. Get a partner or coach or trainer, or your spouse, to make sure you do the habit, and to nag you if you don’t. If you’re trying to develop the reading habit, remove all other temptations. If you’re trying to exercise, get rid of the TV and Internet and make your house uncomfortable, until you do your exercise. Once you exercise, get your cable TV box or Internet modem back from your neighbor who was holding it for you. If you’re trying to quit smoking, tell your kids not to let you smoke. I’m sure you can think of many others — get creative!”

The homework assignment for all my followers out there is to read and absorb this entire article! I truly believe it puts in perspective perfectly the ways in which we can take control of our habits to help endure a healthy – and most importantly, happy, lifestyle.

As always, have a fabulous weekend!!! And stay tuned! We have lots of great things in the works for my readers, patients and clients….If you’d like to join our practice, click the “Get A Free Consultation” link above.

Remember: you DO NOT have to be from Connecticut to join our wellness program!


Dr. Emily Nolfo

3-Day Detox Program

3-Day Detox Program

So the East Coast monsoon of Spring 2013 is finally over, and if you’ve been like us – hibernating from the dreary wetness-you might find yourself feeling the need shake off all that negative energy and start fresh while basking in some of the more summer-like weather we’ll be seeing here in Connecticut in the next couple of days.

While avoiding the soak, did you gorge in refrigerated or frozen leftovers? Take a few naps or watch movies instead of doing your daily workout reps? Indulge in some pizza and wine with friends?

If you’re feeling the need for a jump start, or are just interested in trying a clean detox program for a few days, all of us here at Stony Creek Internal Medicine and Wellness can highly recommend this cleanse. Rich in healthy fats, fruits and vegetables – this easy to do, low cost detox is an EXCELLENT program that is sure to put some sunshine back into your mind and body. Similar pre-made products are pricey and not as fresh and tasty!

When I did it, I used flax seed meal rather than whole seeds because you get more of the good fats that way. I juiced the celery because the strings get caught in a blender. If you don’t have a juicer, remove the strings and slice celery before blending. Remove the thick spines of the kale also.

So give it a try and get ready to say “ADIOS!” to the remains of the long, cloudy week behind us!

If you have any medical or dietary restrictions that may inhibit your ability to complete this program, send us a message here or at – we promise we can supply you with some healthy alternatives.

Have a fantastic weekend and look for a special post next week on “What to Keep In Your Medicine Cabinet”!

Dr. Nolfo


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