Why Smokers Have the Right Idea

The place where I work has lately seemed to wage war against smoking.

Within a couple of days, they announced a new insurance policy that would require smokers to pay an additional $75 a month out of their paychecks toward their insurance.  And if that wasn’t enough, they banned smoking from the entire campus, even the furnished smoking area behind the building and beside the parking garage, complete with round tables and wire chairs.

the judgmental gnome inside my head

He’s judging you.

As a non-smoker, I had the opinion that it was probably a good thing.  “Good for them,” said the judgmental gnome inside my head, “People don’t need to be smoking anyway.  It’s a horrible lifestyle choice and probably running up my insurance costs.”

Then, on my way in to work the other day, I walked past the now unoccupied smoker’s area, now covered with “No Smoking” signs reminding those who would try to smoke how oppressed they now were.  As I walked past, again, that gnome spoke up.  “Guess those smokers will have to get used to actually having to work instead of taking 5 breaks a day.”

And just as my brain began asking what they were going to do with this perfectly furnished outdoor break spot, it hit me.  First as a joke. “Maybe all the non-smokers should come sit out here for ten minutes every other hour, just to get back at them.”

I didn’t even get into the building before I had a real revelation.  I had just heard recently that the human brain can only process for about an hour and 45 minutes before it starts to fall apart.  It works less effectively, it loses focus.  It needs a break.

Taking a ten minute break every couple of hours is actually a pretty good idea.  Everybody SHOULD be doing it.

And the smokers have been doing it all along.

Now, clearly, smoking is a bad habit, one that kills millions of people a year, but so does chronic stress.  At least smokers take a little bit of time to decompress throughout their day.

So why don’t the rest of us do it?  It shouldn’t be smoking, obviously, but maybe read a book.  Pick up a magazine.  Practice a silly skill like juggling or quarters.  Just walk around and get a little exercise.  Or just sit in a dark corner and close your eyes and listen to music.  Do any of these things for 10 minutes or so in the morning, lunch, and afternoon, and see what a difference it makes to your clarity and attitude.

The funny thing is, you’ll be suffering the first few times you’re doing it.  You won’t be able to stand not doing something.  But keep doing it.  Get used to it.  Take a little time – a little is all you need – for yourself.

I’ve talked about the connection between canker sores, the immune system, and stress before, and it’s worth repeating.  Stress is a rust that will eat away at your immune system over time if you don’t do something about it.  And a rusty immune system will show up in your mouth – as canker sores.

So take those 10 minutes for something healthy.  And invite a smoker.

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