Help! The tea lady is quitting!

The boss has gone cold turkey (again). Just the odd chowdown on some Nicorette to see him through the sticky patches.

He's remarkably cheerful, though, which is more than you can say for our office tea lady person. She comes across at regular intervals to cadge gum off the boss, and she's scolding everyone who'll stand still long enough to listen. The boss told her he'd been a non-smoker for 10 days, which really put her on the warpath. We could hear her all the way down the passage.

I am, or was, one of those irritating smokers who could take it or leave it, and never get hooked. For all the right reasons I don't smoke at all any more, but I can say, hand on heart, that I enjoyed almost every drag of every cigarette I ever smoked. If I didn't actively want it, I didn't have it.

Maybe that's the secret to life generally: mindfulness. Do you really want all four fingers of the KitKat, or is your craving satisfied sooner? Do you really want another glass of wine, or are you just tidying up, finishing the bottle? Do you really need to finish the food on your plate – does your tummy tell you it needs it – or are you just eating it because it's there?

Most smokers I know light up routinely, because that's what they do. Answer the phone, light a cigarette. Make a cup of coffee, light a cigarette. If you're a smoker and it's starting to bug you, perhaps that's a good place to start: keep your cigarettes somewhere inconvenient, and in the journey you have to take to fetch them every time, do a self-check: do I really want this? If you do, go ahead. If not – well, have a glass of water since you're up (in fact one formerly committed but now ex-smoker said water was a great quitting tool: he made himself drink a glass of water before every cigarette, and realised that he had been so mindless in the way he smoked that he even answered thirst by smoking.)

Most of us eat the same way. We don't concentrate on the food on the plate: we watch TV, or talk, or glance over the newspaper. We don't assess whether the urge that drives us to the fridge is hunger or thirst. One of our readers put this wonderful post up in our Weight Loss forum: it really says it all.

That's my resolution for this week: to practise mindfulness as I go through the day; to actively engage with the things I choose to do.

And to stay out of the tea lady person's way.

(Heather Parker, Health24, July 2010)

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