How Smoking Tricks Your Brain into Believing It’s a Stress Reliever

a woman smoking while lying on the road

When you were a teenager, your friends maybe started smoking, and all of them wanted you to smoke with them. They make fun of you because you don’t want to smoke, and they’re generally giving you a hard time. Every day. Some kids resist, but others may cave in to peer pressure. They finally break down and start smoking. Today we are going to understand how smoking tricks your brain into believing it’s a stress reliever.

When you were a teenager your friends maybe started smoking and all of them wanted you to smoke with them They make fun of you because you don't want to smoke, and they're generally giving you a hard time.
When you were a teenager, your friends maybe started smoking, and all of them wanted you to smoke with them. They make fun of you because you don’t want to smoke, and they’re generally giving you a hard time. Photo by cottonbro studio on

When you do, here’s the process

Most people say that they smoke to release stress. Especially when they get really anxious or really wound up about something, people will run right outside and start smoking a cigarette.

What’s interesting about that is that cigarettes dramatically add to your stress level. Your blood pressure rises, your heart beats faster—your body is showing every symptom of stress, but smokers still believe that cigarettes reduce the stress level in their bodies.

What really happens is that you’re squirming and guilty. You aren’t happy with yourself. Your mind goes, “Great. I’ll go smoke a cigarette.” So, you grab the pack. You take out a cigarette, put it up to your lips… You’re getting ready to light it, but before you even take your first drag, your brain remembers: “My friends aren’t going to pound on me anymore. I can relax. I can be happy.” Neuro-chemicals are released into your body because you aren’t having a hard time anymore. It’s not the cigarette that’s doing that… it’s you!

Before you take the first puff, you’re feeling better. From then on, the smell of a cigarette, the feel of a cigarette, the look of the cigarette, and even the smoke from the cigarette tells your brain to relax. Your brain starts relaxing the body or gives you the illusion that your body’s relaxed. Bam! You think it’s a stress reliever and you continue to believe that for the rest of your life. Thus, every time you get stressed out, you want to go and you want to smoke a cigarette. Make sense?

How to change

When you’re talking about these habits that are so quickly ingrained, you really have to say “How can I change a habit, or create a new habit?”

You just have to create a positive, better, more powerful habit.

You need to identify what the old habit is that you’re replacing. I’d like to give you an example of this, just to really drive the point home and explain how this whole thing works. Let’s say you’re driving a 1986 Oldsmobile, four-door sedan and it’s leaking oil like a sieve. It’s blowing thick, black, smelly smoke out of the back. It gets about three miles to the gallon. Max speed is about 35 miles per hour and you get AM radio. Those are your wheels.

Let’s say you work as a part-time nurse. You have a low income. You’re just barely scraping by. You’re working in a hospital. You’re on call that night and somebody gets rushed into the hospital. It doesn’t matter what the situation is really, but one way or the other, you end up being responsible for saving their life, and you do it.

You saved his life, right? Your self-esteem just went higher, but still, it’s just part of your job. Right?

A couple of days goes by, and you are coming home from a 12-hour double shift. yuo’re exhausted! But when you get to your driveway, there’s a beautiful BMW, sitting out in your driveway, or whatever your dream car is.

What happens if you see that this vehicle is clearly intended for you? There’s a greeting card tucked underneath the windshield wiper with a key taped inside. It has a nice note from the person whose life you saved. They say, “Listen, without you I wouldn’t be alive today. I did a little investigating. I found out what your dream car was and I bought it for you. Thank you, so very, very much. By the way, insurance covers the rest of your life. It’s completely legal and ready to drive right now. I already cleared it with the hospital, so we’re not violating any of your employment rules.”

You pull up. You park your Oldsmobile right next to that vehicle. It’s been a long day. I mean, you are wiped out. You decide to take it for a spin tomorrow. You get up in the morning. You look out the window of your apartment and you see that, in fact, there it is. It wasn’t a dream, right?

A new habit can replace the old one

Now, which car would you drive to work? The new one, right? And the following day, which car will you drive? The new one! I think anyone would do the same thing.

Here’s why: You’re now excited. You’re pumped. You’re ready to go on driving the new car. It’s perfect. It’s all about intensity. You don’t have to think about it and you don’t give your old car a second thought. Your new, souped-up car is perfect for every situation.

Habit is like that. The only way you’ll beat an old habit is to create a new one that’s much more satisfying.

One Comment on “How Smoking Tricks Your Brain into Believing It’s a Stress Reliever”

  1. I enjoy smoking it gets me out the house regularly to go to the shop and buy them. Whereas when I was seventeen and not smoking I stayed in the house all the time and went psychotic. So I’d say it has benefits lol.