People who successfully quit smoking say that doing so was one of the hardest things they have ever done. Nicotine is one of the top five most addictive drugs, and simply the act of smoking itself reinforces the addiction. When you smoke, you start to associate nearly everything you do with the activity. Waking up and smoking. Driving and smoking. Smoke breaks at work. Coffee and a cigarette. Stress relief. Party time. And so on.
The most important thing to remember is that you can do this.
1. Find Your Motivation
Everyone has a different motivating factor. We all know the health risks that come with smoking. But hearing over and over again that smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death is too abstract for some. Maybe it is more helpful for you to think about being around for your children and grandchildren.
Or maybe the amount of money you will save is what does it for you. Whatever your reason, get specific. It isn’t enough to say that you will save money. Calculate how much you will save (don’t forget to consider health-related costs in this one).
2. Learn About All Your Options
Quitting cold turkey is actually one of the least successful ways to quit. The reason is that there is no buffer to help you with your withdrawal symptoms; and you are not just taking away the nicotine. You are also taking away the ritual.
Some people have been turning to vaping to replace cigarettes, but we are finding that it can also be dangerous. Tobacco free chew is another option for getting your nicotine and maintaining the activity that goes with smoking, without inhaling chemicals into your lungs. Nicotine replacement therapies and prescriptions can get expensive, but your insurance may cover them.
3. Make a Plan
Having a plan of action ahead of time will help you stay on course. Decide on a day, get all your support systems lined up, and do your research to know what you will experience so you can prepare for how you will cope.
4. Get Social Support
Lean on your friends for encouragement and support. If that is not comfortable for you, do a search for support groups in your area or online. There are tons of resources that provide the help of other humans. You do not have to do it alone. If you are struggling with quitting because you use smoking as a coping tool, consider counseling to help you deal with underlying emotional concerns.
5. Don’t Forget a Plan to Avoid Triggers
When we are trying to break habits, it is helpful to avoid things that remind us of the habit or places where we indulged. People who are addicted to alcohol often no longer hang around bars for this reason. While smoking may be associated with almost everything, you may still be able to cut out some of the activities you most strongly associated with cigarettes.
6. Clean Your House and Car
Having a fresh, clean home and vehicle free of cigarette odors may be enough to make you not want to go back. When you are feeling like you want to smoke, take a deep breath and enjoy the smell.
7.Find Ways to Relax
Smoking triggers a relaxation response for about a half-hour, and then you start experiencing withdrawal and get anxious. Find ways to tame the anxiety of withdrawal by participating in activities like meditation or yoga. Taking a relaxing bath or shower, or getting a massage may also help.
8. Start Exercising
One of the things that cause withdrawal symptoms is the lack of dopamine because your brain has become dependent on the nicotine to signal release. Exercising will trigger a release of dopamine in your brain and help you feel physically better too. You won’t want to go back to smoking when you get your heart pumping.
9. Stock up on Healthy Foods
You’re going to want to eat when you quit smoking, but you can cut back on weight gain by making healthy snacking choices. Sugars and salty foods actually increase your craving to smoke, so make sure you have plenty of high-fiber fruits and veggies on hand, along with some lean proteins to keep you feeling full.
10. Keep Track of Your Progress
One way to prevent backsliding is to keep track of how far you’ve come. Make a calendar and mark the milestones so you know how close you are to the next one. There are apps you can use that will help you keep tabs as well. When you see that you are only days away from the fibers in your lungs growing back, you may feel like smoking that cigarette you want right now is not worth it after all.
11. Keep Trying
The average person tries between six and ten times to quit smoking. Some try 30 or more. The important thing to remember is that every time you try to quit smoking gets you closer to the final time you have to try. You are not a failure if this time doesn’t work, but you will never quit if you do not keep at it. Use the hurdle as a learning experience to figure out how you can improve for your next attempt. Take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and make a new and better plan.