Meditation to quit smoking

The positive effect of meditation on our physical and mental health is becoming more and more evident and accepted even by the scientific community. This article resumes recent findings showing how a meditation technique called Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) can help people to quit smoking in a very rapid, efficient and non-invasive way.

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How to quit smoking: meditation and its effects on self-control

This technique produces the desired effects in only a few hours of practice.

Author: Agnese Mariotti

“Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) is a meditation technique that in randomized controlled studies proved to be effective in reducing stress and improving self-control, attention, and social behavior. This technique works rapidly, producing the desired effects in only a few hours of practice during one or two weeks, differently from other meditation methods that require much longer times – even years – to achieve results.

Interestingly, the effects of IBMT are accompanied by changes in the activity of specific brain areas, an observation that provides potential scientific support and explanation to its effects.

As described by its developer, Yi-Yuang Tang, director of Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute, IBMT aims to achieve a state of restful alertness and an attitude of openness to experiences, which lead to high self-awareness as well as to awareness of, and balance with the environment.

IBMT does not focus directly on thought control, which poses a difficult challenge in particular in stressed individuals, but nonetheless achieves it through a variety of techniques including body relaxation and mental imagery, practiced in the presence of a guiding instructor.

In a study published in PNAS, Y.-Y. Tang and colleagues report that IBMT reduces smoke consumption.

The scientists recruited people interested in stress reduction and treated them according to two techniques, IBMT or Relaxation Training (RT).

RT involves different methods of relaxation compared to IBMT, like for example concentration on specific muscles, and on feelings such as those of localized warmth and relaxation.

The IBMT and RT groups included 33 and 27 people respectively, of which 15 smokers in the IBMT group and 12 smokers in the RT one, each reporting an average consumption of 10 cigarettes per day.

The two groups underwent treatment for a total of 5 hours during two weeks. At the end of the trial, stress was significantly reduced in both groups, indicating that both techniques were successful in their main goal. In addition, IBMT also reduced smoking of 60%, while RT had no effect on it.

The scientists also found that IBMT effects were accompanied by changes in brain activity, with increased activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and decreased activity in the cerebellum and in the posterior cingulate cortex. Interestingly, PFC is an area known to regulate self-control and addiction, whose activity was previously shown to be low in smokers.

No such changes were measured in the RT group.

The authors also report that the effects of IBMT on smoke reduction seem to last at least for a few weeks after the end of the treatment. In addition, they do not seem to depend on the intention of quitting smoke: in fact also participants who reported no intention of quitting reduced their tobacco use, suggesting that IBMT may act on unconscious processes.

The researchers conclude that by improving self-control through the stimulation of specific brain regions, IBMT may help not only to reduce smoking but importantly also to cure stress-related and mental conditions, as well as addiction problems in general, including drug addiction and abuse.

Definitely further studies are necessary to validate the preventive and therapeutic effects of IBMT. If confirmed, the next challenge will be the acceptance by the medical and scientific community of this non-invasive, low-cost technique, at odds with western medicine practices.”


Tang YY, Tang R, & Posner MI (2013). Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (34), 13971-5 PMID: 23918376.

Y.-Y. Tang, Y. Ma, J. Wang, Y. Fan, S. Feng, Q. Lu, Q. Yu, D. Sui, M. Rothbart, M. Fang, and M. Posner (2013). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA.

Y.-Y. Tang, Q. Lu, X. Geng, E.A. Stein, Y. Yang, and M. Posner (2010). Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulated. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 107: 15649 (2010).