The negative health effects of smoking are well documented. Long term smoking significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s also a major contributing factor of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – a group of lung conditions that result in bronchitis and emphysema.
Smoking is so damaging to the body that the CDC estimates that smokers cut their life expectancy by at least 10 years shorter than non-smokers. Yet even if you’re aware of these facts you might find it almost impossible to resist lighting up. Why? Because nicotine – the main ingredient in cigarettes – is incredibly addictive especially when coupled with the high sugar content added to each cigarette!
As your body gets used to having nicotine, it starts to get much harder to quit. You may start to experience a host of withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. The good news is that the situation is not all doom and gloom. Here we’ll look at how to quit smoking for good.
Identify Your Triggers
The first step to quitting for good is to identify what “triggers” or what makes you want to smoke. Most people start smoking to ‘fit into a group’ or to belong in some way! The more often you smoke, the faster you create a ‘smoking habit, and it is this habit that makes quitting so hard. Think about your day: you will see that you will smoke at the same time coupled with the same actions. For example, you may smoke with your coffee in the morning! When you drive in your car! Or maybe your urge to smoke is strongest when you have a drink or when you’re feeling particularly stressed. There will be lots of situations, every smoker is unique. These situations send signals to your brain that cause you to light up each time they occur, often without you consciously thinking about smoking!
Keep a small journal with you and note down specifics to identify what’s triggering your reaction to smoke. What were you doing? What time was it? How were you feeling? Be as specific as possible when identifying your triggers. If you don’t have a notebook with you, use your phone to jot down notes.
Find Ways to Deals With Your Triggers
Now that you have identified what actions or emotions trigger your desire to light up, the next step to quit smoking is to find ways to deal with them. Here are some common triggers and examples of what to do:
- Coffee or tea: Do you get up, make a hot drink and then sit down and have a ‘smoke’ as soon as you wake up? If you drink coffee, change to tea (or viceversa) and sit or stand somewhere different (change location you drink)
- Alcohol: Many smokers tend to light up whenever they drink. If this is the case for you, try switching to a non-alcoholic drink or even pass on going to the pub altogether.
- Friends: If your friends or co-workers smoke, it can be tempting to want to join in too. Talk with them about your decision to quit. Most will be completely supportive and will not light up around you.
- Breaks: Lunch breaks are another common trigger. Instead of lighting up as soon as you step out, try going for a short walk instead.
- Stress: When times get tough, it can be tempting to immediately reach for your cigarettes. Instead, find other ways to calm down like taking deep breaths, listening to music, or reaching out to a friend.
Find a Quitting Method That Works For You
There’s more than one way to quit smoking. It’s important to note though that what works for someone else may not necessarily have the same results for you. Here are some methods to quit smoking:
- Cold turkey: Going “cold turkey” means completely quitting without any help or support. While it’s a popular method, it’s also perhaps the hardest.
- Cutting down: Another way to quit is to gradually cut down the amount you smoke. Instead of smoking 10 cigarettes a day, you might gradually reduce that number until you’re able to stop completely.
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): NRT aims to reduce withdrawal symptoms and comes in different forms like patches, gum, and nasal sprays. The idea is to introduce only measured doses of nicotine into your body. There are prescription medications available but speak with your doctor first.
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis – which involves putting a patient in a hyper relaxed mental state to make it more susceptible to suggestions – is another scientifically proven method to quit smoking. Compared to other treatments, there are no side effects or withdrawals so it’s an option worth considering.
All of these methods work. Research all and investigate the side effects of each, especially NRT as there can be very adverse effects on sleeping etc. Look at the costs and time it will take for you to get results. Most importantly: Decide now is the time for you to stop smoking. Your decision is 100% the most important decision. Smoking is a habit, and like all habits, You are in control of when you stop.
Coping With Withdrawal Symptoms
What makes quitting so difficult is every cigarette contains 10% sugar. Sugar is highly addictive, way more addictive than nicotine! It’s why heavy smokers often can’t go for very long before they start to get cravings. They start to get antsy the longer they go without a cigarette and will go to great lengths to light up as soon as possible. One of the biggest fears people have around quitting smoking, is that they will put on weight! This is driven by ‘sugar cravings’ not nicotine withdrawals. An easy fix for this is to have segments of orange or lemon (or juice) with you during the first week after you stop smoking. Anytime you have ‘a craving’ eat a piece of citrus! Within 48-76 hrs the cravings will have diminished or completely gone!
When you quit and your body doesn’t get the nicotine/sugar hit that it’s used to, you’ll likely experience withdrawal. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
Symptoms vary from person to person. No matter which method you use to quit, it’s important to recognise that it takes time to get over the withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can occur as quickly as an hour from the time you had your last cigarette and typically peaks several days later. Eat citrus. Don’t overdo juice. 1 or 2 small pieces of orange are all you need.
Nicotine withdrawal can be incredibly uncomfortable but there are no health dangers. Symptoms eventually go away in two to four weeks although for some people it may take longer. In the meantime, do whatever you can to keep yourself busy. Go for a jog around the area, lift weights at the gym, visit a public place like a park (most don’t allow smoking), watch a movie, or hang out with a friend.
Quitting can be difficult. Stay optimistic and remember that if millions of people around the world can successfully quit, you can too.
Alex Morrison has been a SEO expert for over 10 years. In this time he has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in depth understanding of many different industries including home improvement, financial support and health care.