Despite all the really bad known consequences of smoking, there’s one aspect of the act of smoking that may actually be beneficial. It’s been shown that it takes about 1-2 minutes for nicotine to go through the bloodstream and reach your brain which gives you that "relaxed" feeling. But what most smokers will tell you is that they feel better after the first 1-2 deep inhalations. Plus, since nicotine is a stimulant, how can it make you feel more relaxed?
I sometimes joke with my patients that in the typical workplace, the only people that get regular breaks are the smokers. Modern society has gotten rid of all the natural, built-in breaks. So smokers, by going out of their stressful environments every few hours, are taking grown-up time-outs. Not only are they taking these "breaks," as they puff in the cigarette smoke, they are actually performing deep breathing exercises. They’ve associated the good feeling that they get with the physical act of smoking, which also happens to make you take some slow deep breaths. This is the concept that George Wissing describes in his fascinating book, Quit Struggle Free.
By no means am I recommending that everyone who’s stressed go out and start smoking. But by using these concepts, you can get the same benefits of smoking without inhaling the toxic chemicals from cigarets. There are various resources for learning deep-breathing exercises, or take a yoga class.