Visualization Knocked Out Claire's Cigarette Cravings


Claire pictured herself punching a giant cigarette.(CLAIRE CELSI)Thirteen years ago, on her 28th birthday, Claire Celsi of Des Moines, Iowa, smoked herself sick. "I puffed 10 cigarettes in one hour," she says. Afterward, she crumpled up her almost-empty pack, threw it away, and never lit up again. She found the strength for this drastic move with something decidedly healthier: visualization.

Four months before that smoky birthday, Celsi, now 41, started using a technique she had read about in Creative Visualization, a book by Shakti Gawain. First thing in the morning and whenever she caught a quiet moment, she imagined a huge cigarette wearing boxing gloves, bullying her. Next, she visualized punching back. Finally, she pictured herself growing larger than the cigarette—she was wearing the gloves, knocking it out. "The technique took only a few minutes and helped me realize that I was in control, not my cravings," she says.

By the time her birthday arrived, Celsi felt so confident that once she stubbed out her last cigarette, that was that. Shes never smoked again.

Why it worked
Some people think visualization sounds goofy, but research supports it. In a University of Akron College of Nursing study, researchers found that two years after ending the habit, twice as many of the creative-visualization users remained smoke-free, compared with those who hadnt used the technique. Proponents say it helps reduce the stress and anxiety associated with quitting, so quitters feel more confident and motivated to stop. “Whatever it was, it gave me what I needed to quit,” Celsi says. (Find out more about visualization at the Academy for Guided Imagerys Web site.)

Celsi's story was first published alongside the profiles of other quitters in the September 2007 issue of Health magazine. We called everyone in July 2008 to see how things were going—and no one had started smoking again!

What about you? Did you quit? Are you struggling with cigarettes now? Please email us at (with "Quit Smoking" in the subject line) and share your strategies and struggles. You may help someone else overcome a nicotine dependence.