Riding the Wave, Surfing the Urge: Study Suggests Mindfulness May Help with Cigarette Cravings

A new study published in this month's edition of Mindfulness highlights the potential utility of mindfulness for coping with cigarette cravings among smokers.  This study compared the effectiveness of urge surfing, a brief mindfulness-based strategy developed by Alan Marlatt, to an alternate suppression-based strategy for coping with cigarette cravings. Participants in this study were randomly assigned to use one of the two coping strategies to manage their cravings during an experimental exposure to cues associated with cigarette smoking. Seven days later, participants returned to complete a follow-up assessment.

Results from this study indicated that participants in both groups experienced a significant reduction in their
amount of smoking when they returned for the follow-up assessment, as compared to their amount of smoking prior to learning their respective coping strategy. Participants in both groups also reported an increase in their self-efficacy for coping with smoking urges at the 7-day follow-up assessment. However, only those participants taught to use the urge surfing technique demonstrated the incremental benefit of reduced levels of negative affect and depressive symptoms at the follow-up assessment.

These findings indicate that while both the mindfulness and suppression strategies may be associated with improvements on smoking related outcomes, mindfulness was unique for its beneficial impact on reported emotional functioning over the course of the study.

These findings also provide preliminary support for the use of mindfulness-based strategies for coping with smoking urges, as these strategies appear to provide some additional benefits not obtained when coping with smoking cravings through suppression.

Rogojanski, J., Vettese, L. C., & Antony, M. M. (2011). Coping with cigarette cravings: Comparison of suppression versus mindfulness-based strategies. Mindfulness, 2, 14-26.

About the Author

Jenny Rogojanski, M.A.

Jenny is a Psychologist in the Mental Health and Addictions Program at St. Michael's Hospital. Dr. Jenny Rogojanski obtained her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Ryerson University and completed her predoctoral internship training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. After her doctorate, she completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre