Many smokers report that one of the toughest obstacles in kicking the habit is getting used to not holding a cigarette. The absence of something in the hand seems to create a restlessness that amplifies the temptation to light up. While several alternatives for keeping the hands busy, such as walking the dog or doing Sudoku, are well known, another little-known option is juggling.
While my primary goal in teaching juggling is to get people excited about fitness, I never dreamed it could actually help someone quit smoking. So I was thrilled to hear smokers I have taught tell me it has helped them beat their cigarette cravings and, in some cases, even quit smoking.
I’ll never forget when one of my students called me up and said he had an idea that might seem crazy, but he wanted to see what I thought. He suggested that I might want to offer my DVDs and classes to smokers, because he believed learning to juggle is what enabled him to quit within two weeks (he learned from one of my DVDs). He had no idea that others had mentioned this to me before. I told him he was definitely not crazy, and thanked him for the feedback. He had been smoking for over ten years, and without even intending to quit, learning to juggle did the trick for him.
Although I have never smoked myself, I can see how juggling might help kick the habit:
- Juggling keeps the hands occupied, and it’s easy to grab juggling balls or oranges when the craving for a cigarette strikes.
- When learning to juggle it’s difficult to think of anything else, including a desire to smoke. Many students who smoke tell me how they went home after class, juggled all night and later realized that, much to their surprise, hours had passed and they hadn’t had a cigarette. They are so focused and absorbed in it that they forget about the urge to smoke. Their focus is directed away from cigarette cravings to to the goal of learning to juggle.
- There is an addictive nature to juggling; usually when my classes come to a close, most of the people continue to juggle and simply do not want to stop.
As addictive as it might be, juggling is a much healthier habit than smoking. It’s an aerobic workout that burns as many calories as walking and even exercises the brain. According to a study published in the online open-access journal PLoS One, juggling actually increased gray matter in the brain in one week. And the fact that juggling burns 280 calories an hour means it will also help combat the weight gain that many experience when trying to quit.
To make it easier to fight cravings, it’s important to keep your juggling balls, scarves, or even small oranges in plain sight. This way, when the temptation to smoke strikes, you can quickly grab the oranges or balls and start juggling. I would imagine that even the few seconds it might take to find something to juggle might enable the craving to take over.
So if you smoke, next time you have three oranges handy, check out my demo on how to juggle with three balls and give it a try. I hope juggling helps you cut down and eventually quit smoking!