The decision to stop smoking is not an easy one. For those who’ve never smoked, it may be hard to understand. They might assume that all you need to do is stop buying cigarettes and smoking them. If only it were as simple as that. The body of a smoker is dependent on nicotine.
Nicotine withdrawal is difficult to manage. The nicotine has served as an additional energy booster in your life. It releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These ‘feel-good’ substances are why you feel a bit happier about things when you’ve smoked a cigarette. They help you with the clarity of thought and memorization of facts. As soon as you stop feeding your body nicotine, the levels of serotonin and dopamine drop. This leads to fatigue, irritability, and even extreme anger. The effects and the onset of withdrawal are felt almost immediately.
Nicotine is an addictive drug, just like heroin and cocaine. Its immediate effects might not be as threatening as these drugs. But its long-term effects can also be potentially fatal. And like drugs such as heroin and cocaine, nicotine is hard to quit. In fact, a lot of people need more than one attempt to get it right.
They might go long periods without smoking and then succumb to the habit again. Then it’s back to square one, and they have to start all over again with the process of quitting and withdrawal. For those who are thinking about quitting or have tried it unsuccessfully, here are some tips to help you achieve your goal:
Be willing to quit
Quitting because it’s what everyone around you expects you to do is a recipe for disaster. If you’ve been guilt-tripped into stopping, it may be hard for you to stay the course and see it through. Motivation from others is not enough to keep you going when the withdrawal symptoms kick in. Most people who have quit for someone or something else report that they are unable to keep it up after they’ve stopped. Eventually, they succumb to temptation and start smoking again. When you decide to quit smoking, it needs to be because you want to do it. It is the only way to get through the withdrawal.
If you are not willing to quit, success is not likely. It’s a very stressful experience, and if you’re not fully motivated, it will be even more so. If you’re thinking about giving up smoking, start off by doing some serious introspection about your motivations. If you feel you’re doing it for someone else, look at ways to make it about quitting for yourself. Draw up a list of the pros and cons of stopping smoking.
Claim your quit date
Once you’ve identified the pros and cons of stopping smoking, do some research into what happens in your body when you quit. It’s best to be prepared and understand what is to come if you stop smoking. If you’ve found more pros than cons for giving up nicotine, you can make a final decision that this is what you want. Knowing what lies ahead means you won’t find yourself burdened with unexpected ‘surprises’ along the way. Now, you need to start planning for when you are going to stop smoking.
It must be a conscious decision. Planning is necessary. Quitting nicotine is a huge change and change should not be undertaken lightly. Think about your timing. It may not be wise to quit smoking in the middle of a stressful project at work. You’re likely to lose your temper and say some things you can’t take back when the withdrawal kicks in. If you postpone it to a less stressful time, you can get through it with some mild irritation, but still be on speaking terms with your colleagues. Set a date on which you mean to stop. Undertake all the necessary preparations. Then stick to your date, no matter what. If you set a date and keep putting it off, you’re not ready to quit.
Identify your nicotine replacement therapy
Quitting cold turkey can make the withdrawal symptoms unbearable. Some people manage just fine. For others, it becomes a living nightmare. They wind up throwing in the towel before the withdrawal phase is even over. If you’re determined to try to quit cold turkey, you should feel free to try it. But you must have a Plan B in place in case it becomes too much for you. If you know you’re not going to manage cold turkey, don’t even try it. Those who are on their second, third or fourth attempt will see if it’s viable for them or not. Also if it’s your first-time quitting, you know yourself best.
You need to consider some nicotine replacement therapy to get you through the first critical phase after you’ve stopped smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy doubles your chance of quitting successfully. You have various options to consider. Speak to your doctor. There are nicotine gums, patches, lozenges, and sprays that you can use. Be prepared for the fact that the one you choose initially may not work. You have to be flexible. If, for instance, the spray doesn’t work, don’t give up. Try the gum instead.
Be prepared for cravings
Nicotine replacement therapy is not going to remove your craving for nicotine entirely completely. You will still have times when you feel like smoking. You might catch a whiff of it on the street. You’ll identify the person who’s smoking. Then, it will take all the willpower you have not walk over and grabbed that cigarette out of their hand. It’s important to know that these cravings are temporary, and they will pass. Have something to do when a desire occurs. Have a mantra that you repeat to yourself.
Practice deep breathing techniques and consciously put your mind over matter. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. If you like music, play something that inspires you until you feel the craving pass. If necessary, use your nicotine replacement therapy to make sure you don’t give in and have a cigarette. These cravings are just about the worst experience when you quit smoking, but millions of people have overcome them. And so can you. Some people continue to experience the odd craving long after they stop smoking, but you’ll learn to manage these.
Practice hand to mouth technique
The hand to mouth technique may well be your saving grace. The movement of your hand to your mouth for smoking is deeply buried in your sub-conscious. In itself, this movement has a calming, reassuring feeling for you. That’s where the hand to mouth technique can help. You do it by forming a fist with the hand you would have held a cigarette in. Raise that fist to your mouth and place the closed thumb and forefinger against your lips. Inhale deeply and then exhale deeply.
Tighten your fist so that you have to work harder to inhale and exhale successfully. This is calming and can re-center you when you’re having a crisis of confidence. You might think it looks a little strange and wonders what the people around you would make of it. If you feel self-conscious, find yourself a private space and use the technique. But if you’re in a public space and you know you need to do it, go for it. Rather feel a little embarrassed by a bit of staring than give in and smoke again. You know what you’ve gone through so far. Do you want to have to start all over again?
Write down what you can do with healthier lungs
One of the most important things to keep in mind when you quit smoking is the long-term effects. The lungs are the organs that are most affected by smoking. You’ve seen the pictures of what smoking can do to your lungs. Did you know that in most instances, it is reversible? Your lungs are resilient organs. If you do them this favor, they’ll return it in spades. When you smoke, you struggle to breathe when exercising. You might find yourself wanting to exercise but being unable to do so.
You feel a lack of energy because your lungs are struggling to supply enough oxygen to your body. Simple things such as playing with your kids or grandkids may become overwhelming. A smoker’s cough is a sign that your lungs are struggling to perform their functions. If you overtax your lungs by doing too much exercise, you become short of breath. You might find it difficult to breathe or catch your breath. Think about what a pair of healthy lungs can do for you if you manage to stop smoking. Healthy lungs can improve your quality of life and give you back your ability to do things you haven’t been able to do in years.
Surround yourself with support
Involve your friends, family, and colleagues in your decision to quit smoking. They can help you remain accountable and stay on the straight and narrow. Support and encouragement are very important when you stop smoking. You need to have someone to turn to when it gets hard, and you’re scared you can’t do it. Everyone who quits smoking feels like that at some stage when they stop. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. What would be a crying shame is if you didn’t reach out to someone and let them support you. Support during this time can make the difference between success and failure.
It might be a good idea to tell your smoking friends that you might not be hanging out with them as much for the next while. Give yourself a fighting chance. If you’re constantly in the presence of people who are smoking, it makes the temptation worse. Once the worst is over, you can be around smokers again, and it probably won’t affect you at all. The best thing ever would be to have a ‘quit buddy.’ That’s someone who’s stopping smoking at the same time as you. Because you’re going through the same thing at the same time, you can support each other.
Be a supportive partner
If your partner smokes and you’d love for them to quit, have that conversation with them. But bear in mind how you approach it. If you come on too strong and turn it into a lecture, you’re unlikely to get through. Starting the conversation off with pictures of lungs damaged by smoking won’t get you very far either. Your opening gambit needs to come from a place of love and concern. Give your partner space to digest what you’ve said and thought it over. Remember that if they aren’t going to quit willingly, it’s unlikely to succeed. Ask them if they want to discuss it with you more.
Always put it out there that you’re doing this out of concern and care for them. Keep the lines of communication open, and you allow your partner to mull things over. It’s possible your partner may take what you say on board and make the decision to quit for themselves. Once your partner has quit, be prepared for the crabbiness that follows during withdrawal. Be patient and let them show you what they need from you. Some people want their partners around all the time; others retreat into themselves for a bit. Make it clear you’re there to support them in whatever way you can.
Establish a healthier eating routine
One of the worst things you can do when you quit smoking is turning to unhealthy food to help you. If you’re going to use sweets and chips to replace the nicotine, you’ll pile on the pounds. This is something that scares many people that are considering quitting. They worry that if they stop, they’ll get fat. This will happen, but only if you let it. If you’re replacing a cigarette with a fork, you can pick up weight. The only way to avoid it is to keep healthy foods such as raw fruits and vegetables around.
If you snack on those, you’ll be okay. But the best thing possible is not to replace smoking with eating. Try to think of other things to do to replace smoking. Go walking. Meditate and clear your mind. Play a game with your children. Quitting smoking and replacing the nicotine with food will make you fat if you don’t plan. Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand. If you’re at work and you haven’t prepared healthy snacks, you’ll find yourself wading through a box of donuts!
Remind yourself that your looks will improve
Smoking ages you. It’s as simple as that. If you compare the skin of a smoker with a non-smoker, you can see it. Smoking exacerbates the skin’s aging process. This leads to the early onset of wrinkles and lines. When you stop smoking the accelerated aging effect will stop immediately. You won’t be able to reverse the damage already done, but at least you’ll prevent it from getting worse. When you smoke, you, your breath, and your clothes all smell like cigarette smoke.
Smoking dulls the sense of smell so much that you probably don’t notice it. But those around you who don’t smoke will. It can be an overwhelmingly powerful smell that is not pleasant to be around. Once you become aware of it, you’ll wonder how you ever let yourself smell like that! Smoking yellows your teeth. This can be reversed if you consult a dentist or oral hygienist for a professional cleaning. The improved blood flow that comes about as the result of quitting smoking will have benefits for your appearance too. Your hair and nails will show the effects. You’ll also feel more energy. This can improve your libido which is often suppressed by smoking.
Within a short period, after you quit smoking, you’ll start to feel more energetic. Now is the time to capitalize on that and get active. Start off slow. Don’t expect to be able to run a marathon within two weeks of quitting. Be realistic about what you can or can’t do. As your doctor for advice. If you can, join a gym and consult a personal trainer. They can help you determine an exercise program that suits your needs. The exercise you undertake will get your heart rate up. This pumps more blood through your system.
As you’ll be breathing easier, your lungs will allow you to push yourself harder and further. Increased blood circulation helps with converting the food you eat into energy. This can help you lose weight. Improved blood flow to the muscles allows them to strengthen. Find a physical activity that you enjoy doing. It may be walking, running, or cycling. Set yourself a goal to participate in an event as a celebration of quitting. Train and remind yourself daily that quitting smoking is what’s allowing you to achieve this.
Find something to keep yourself busy
While nicotine replacement therapy will reduce your craving for a cigarette, it cannot help you break the habit. If you’ve always taken a smoke break during your lunchtime, you’ll suddenly find that lunch drags where it used to fly by. It used to be that you barely had time to have a cigarette, drink some coffee, eat your food, and use the bathroom. Now you have time on your hands; you need to find a way to fill it. As stated earlier, if you fill that time with food, you’re likely to gain weight.
So, it’s important to find something else to do. A lot of people who quit find activities such as knitting keep their hands busy. This helps to break the habit. Have a stress ball to keep your hands occupied so that you don’t give in. Do crossword puzzles to keep your brain busy. A hobby is therapeutic when you’re trying to stop smoking. But so is taking a walk and appreciating the beauty around you. Find different ways to spend your time. Keeping your hands and mind occupied is a surefire way to break that bad habit.
Plan what to do with the money you’ll be saving
Think about how much money smoking has cost you on a weekly or monthly basis. Instead of absorbing that money into your budget, put it aside and save it. You’ll soon be able to work out how much money you’ve spent on cigarettes in all the time you smoked. It will shock you. Now that you’re saving this money start thinking about something you’d like to do or buy to reward yourself.
Make it something special that you’ll need to save up a while to achieve. It’s a great way to keep yourself motivated when you’re going through a tough time. Write it down as a goal. Work out what it will cost. At the end of each week or month, work out how much closer you are to achieving this objective. While you are the one who has quit, think about including the loved ones who have supported you in the reward. It’s unlikely you’ll succeed without their caring, so make a plan to show them how grateful you are. They’re going to have to put up with a lot from you, and they deserve to know you appreciate it.
Define yourself as a non-smoker
This is a technique to keep in mind once you’ve stopped. There are times when you feel stressed out when you’ll think about smoking. You might smell it and get hit by a craving. You’ll think to yourself, “Nothing would be better than a cigarette right now.” Allowing those thoughts to plant a seed in your mind can be dangerous. You might start questioning your decision to stop smoking. This can lead you into the temptation of starting again. Think of yourself as a ‘non-smoker.’ Say to yourself, “But why would I want to smoke? I don’t smoke.” Remind yourself that you are a new person with a new perspective.
See yourself as someone who doesn’t rely on cigarettes. Be able to remind yourself of what you do now when you’re feeling a bit stressed and anxious. Return to the habits and hobbies you’ve formed until the craving passes. This is a time to rely on the non-smokers around you to keep you reminded of all the benefits you’re reaping from stopping smoking. If need be, write them down and keep the list handy. In that way, when you’re tempted, you can remind yourself why you became a non-smoker.
Think of the benefits for those around you
When you smoke, you don’t smoke alone. Your second-hand smoke affects the people around you. Passive smoking is when someone who doesn’t smoke inhales the smoke of those around them. It can cause long-term health problems as much as smoking does. Studies show that passive smoking can result in lung diseases such as cancer. You might think that because you smoke outside the house, your children are not inhaling second-hand smoke. That’s not true. When you hug them, they breathe in the smoke from your closes. This exposes them to nicotine.
Even when you smoke outside at a family barbecue, everyone around you is breathing in your second-hand smoke. You may be quitting for yourself, but you’re also stopping for those around you. When you’re having a craving and are tempted to give in, think about the people around you. Think about how your quitting smoking will benefit them. This can be a great motivator and keep you on the path. It’s hard but thinks about this: if you stop smoking now, your children might never even start. Children often start smoking because it’s a learned behavior.
Avoid alcohol and other triggers
Certain situations may trigger a craving to smoke. You’ll have found that drinking alcohol made you smoke more cigarettes than you normally would. Going to places where smoking is allowed indoors also triggered additional smoking. It’s easy when you don’t have to go and stand outside in the cold to smoke. Being in any social setting where smoking was taking place would increase your nicotine intake. You’re not going to be able to avoid all your triggers forever. You will be in settings where people smoke.
You will drink alcohol. You will still go and hand out with your friends at work when they’re on a smoke break. The key is how you deal with the triggers. At first, you may want to avoid your triggers as much as you can. To do that, you need to be able to identify your triggers. Put pen to paper and write a list of what makes you want to smoke. If you go into a situation that you know is going to trigger a need to smoke, be prepared for it. Be focused on the benefits of quitting and maintain your willpower.
Keep your eye on the prize. In other words, don’t ever let yourself forget why you’re quitting smoking. Even though there may be days when you feel awful, remind yourself of what your objectives are. You may feel physically ill when you stop smoking. Your emotions may go off the scale, and you’ll have mood swings. Each of these is natural responses.You need to handle these dark periods with a silver lining approach. The long-term silver lining is regaining your health and well-being. The short-term silver lining is every minute, hour, day, week, and month you manage to resist the urge.
Celebrate your successes. They keep you motivated and help you to keep a positive outlook. If you dwell on the negatives, you’re likely to give up. You won’t be able to see the good that is going to come from stopping. Then you’re going to wonder why you’re putting yourself and your body through this. Keep a journal. For each day that you’ve remained smoke-free, write down a message of positive encouragement to yourself. Find the good in each day that has come from the fact that you no longer smoke.
Enjoy the freedom
Nicotine is an addictive substance. It becomes your master. It dictates when you do things. You get to a point where you can’t do certain things without smoking first. Some people can’t start their day without a cigarette. Others report being unable to sleep without having a cigarette right before bed. After a few hours without a cigarette, your master reminds you that it’s time for a fix. You start thinking about how good it’s going to feel. Soon, you can think of nothing else. Then you go and have a cigarette. Your master has managed to get you to serve it again.
When you stop smoking, you break the shackles, and your habit no longer dictates what you do and when you do it. It is very liberating. It’s important to see quitting smoking as emancipation, not a punishment. When you find yourself deciding what the last thing you do before bedtime is, you’ll realize that nicotine no longer rules your life. The freedom to spend your money on other things and to spend your time doing other things is a great feeling. Keep your eye on this prize when times are tough. It’s worth it in the end.