Misconception on Smoking and Relaxation
How many times have you watched a smoker inhale and slip into what seems like total relaxation? Many smokers claim that they smoke for relaxation. In truth, the nicotine euphoria is short-lived. Meanwhile, the impact of the cigarette is many chemicals and toxins are injecting greater stress on the body's systems - with harmful effects that will last long past the short relief. The nicotine from a cigarette pushes dopamine into the smoker's bloodstream, which triggers the release of serotonin, the "feel good" chemical in the brain. However, this feeling of relaxation is purely chemical reaction and does not give the smoker any enduring relief - or the tools necessary to cope more effectively with stressful situations.
In fact, part of the relaxing effect of smoking a cigarette results from deep breathing. Try inhaling as if you had a cigarette in your mouth. Hold that breathe briefly and slowly exhale. Such deep breathing pumps up to 20 percent more oxygen to the brain. This type of deep breathing exercise is used in yoga and meditation as a relaxation technique - without the cigarette, of course.
Meanwhile, inhaling the tobacco pushes chemicals, pollutants, and toxins into the body, putting stress on various organs and systems. Carbon monoxide and nicotine reduce the flow of oxygen to your brain and other organs. Nicotine also causes your blood vessels and arteries to constrict, which forces your heart to work harder to pump the same amount of blood through your body. In addition, the tar another chemicals from each cigarette plug up your veins, creating even more blockage and restricting blood flow. As a result, a smoker's heart beats about 35,000 times more per day than that of a non-smoker. And the smoker's blood pressure can be expected to rise 10 or 20 points higher from the extra effort.
Nicotine also takes its toll on the insulin levels. When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine blocks the release of insulin, which suppresses the appetite (another reason why smokers who try to quit suddenly feel the urge to eat more frequently and then blame weight gain on smoking cessation). Once the nicotine has subsided, the insulin is re-released. The stop-start cycle continues every time the smoker has cigarette. This process exerts a heavy toll on the pancreas, which controls insulin flow, and can force this organ to work 20 times harder than that of a non-smoker.
The truth is, smoking a cigarette - like drinking alcohol - can create a short boost of calm in some people, but it is neither a natural process nor a healthy one. Individuals can better cope with stress by practicing deep breathing exercises as described above, or taking a brisk walk in the fresh air. Drinking water, which hydrates the body, is another healthier way to feel good and relaxed.
For most smokers, the belief that smoking relaxes them is far stronger than the actual effect. Finding the right tools to deal with stress presents a more enduring solution than the brief escape that nicotine addiction delivers.