Giving up smoking is not easy, but if you plan ahead, find ways to stay motivated and get all the help you need, you too can kick the habit…
Find your motivation
What is your reason for quitting? A strong reason to quit will help you to stay motivated and give you a greater chance of success. Are you concerned you will get lung cancer, heart disease or suffer other serious health problems because of smoking? Do you worry that you are damaging the health of your loved ones as they are forced to breathe in your second hand smoke? Do you want to look and feel younger – smoking is one of the biggest skin agers. Choose your reason and remind yourself of it every time you feel the urge to light up. Making a list of reasons and looking at it regularly can help.
Make a plan
Don’t just finish a cigarette and decide to stop. Make a plan to quit. Decide a date and pledge to stop on that date. Let loved ones, friends and work colleagues know you are stopping and that you are serious. Make sure any smokers know not to offer you cigarettes and think about how you will deal with difficult trigger situations. If you need to avoid certain social situations through the worst of your cravings, do so.
You don’t have to go cold turkey
Stopping smoking is not easy. Nicotine withdrawal may give you headaches and affect your mood. Resisting the craving for just one drag is tough. Prescription medication or nicotine replacement therapies can help reduce the craving. Try nicotine gum, patches or lozenges. If you feel the need to hold something in your hand, there are various substitutes, including e-cigarettes. Talk to your doctor for more advice.
Don’t let drink be your downfall
If the temptation to light up every time you have a glass of wine is too much to resist, you may have to stop drinking for a while. Some people do find that changing their drink helps. So, if wine and a cigarette was your habit, and you don’t want to give up alcohol completely, try switching to a G&T or something else instead. Similarly, if you always reach for the ciggies every time you have a coffee, try drinking tea instead.
Watch your diet
There’s a reason your after dinner cigarette may be your favourite. A US study found some foods, including meat, make cigarettes taste better, while others, including cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste bad. Stick to the foods that don’t enhance the flavour of cigarettes.
Stay busy, be active
Staying active and exercising helps in two ways. Firstly, just by being busy you are less likely to be thinking about and craving cigarettes. Also, scientific studies have suggested that exercise – even if it is just a five minute walk or simple stretching – reduces craving, possibly by helping the brain produce anti-craving chemicals.
Don’t quit being a quitter
Most people try several times before they give up smoking for good. So, if you do light up, don’t see it as a reason to give up quitting. Think about why you caved in – what was your emotional state, where were you, were there any common triggers present. Look at this as an opportunity to understand your smoking habit better and to strengthen your resolve to stop. If necessary, set a new date to stop and start the process again.
Therapy can help
Seeing a therapist can help you to understand your cravings and stay motivated. Some people find stop smoking support groups help. Or try hypnotherapy, which has a high success rate with people who really want to stop. Read more about smoking and hypnotherapy…
Carrots not sticks
Aside from all the obvious health benefits of quitting smoking, there are considerable financial savings to be made. Work out how much money you are saving and use some of it to give yourself a reward. Decide what your reward will be and how long you have to stay off the ciggies to ‘earn’ it.
Remember the health benefits
You may have been smoking for years, but the health benefits of stopping are almost instant. After just 20 minutes your heart rate returns to normal. Only one day without smoking sees the carbon monoxide levels in your blood fall back to normal. After two to three weeks, your risk of heart attack is lowered, and over the longer term your chances of getting lung and other cancers decrease.