Anticipated addiction

Two sets of flight attendants who were smokers were enlisted in a study on tobacco addiction.

The first group flew a route within Europe that only lasted a couple of hours. The second group flew a transatlantic route from Europe to America. Both groups couldn’t smoke onboard and their craving to light up a cigarette was measured at regular intervals.

When the first group’s flight landed a couple of hours later, its flight attendants instantly reported a spike in nicotine craving. Interestingly, the second group, which at this point in their flight were still flying over the Atlantic, did not report any noticeable change in their craving levels. Given that their destination was faraway, they didn’t feel an immediate urge to light up.

This experiment indicates how a smoker’s craving is not just triggered by nicotine addiction, but on their own expectations. But that’s not all.

When my wife and I go on long runs while training for a marathon. The length of each run varies on a weekly basis. One week, after a 16 kilometer training run, we were thoroughly spent as we reached the finish. Yet the very next week, on a longer 20 kilometer run, we were still strong enough on the 16 kilometer mark to push on for another 4 kilometers. Ergo, our level of tiredness does not merely depend on the distance we’ve run, but also on how soon we anticipate to finish.

Both behaviours we wish to stop and the ones we wish to pursue depend on external factors as well as our own anticipation. This realization is empowering, for we can choose to control what we anticipate.

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