For a smoker, making the decision to quit can be relatively simple. Following through and keeping your resolve, however, is often far more challenging. Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is the second most addictive substance after heroin (joint second with cocaine, in fact); giving up is a battle in its own right.
Chemicals in cigarettes suppress appetite and raise feel-good hormone levels in your body, so stopping smoking is bound to take a negative toll. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, poor sleep patterns, anger, anxiety, depression and weight gain. The good news, however, is that many of these symptoms lessen or disappear after two-to-four weeks, with only a few longer-term symptoms remaining, so the worst of your struggle is over relatively quickly.
Of course, it all sounds straightforward when you read about it. Yet don’t lose heart – everyone has the ability to quit smoking; it’s a matter of finding the right motivation and the right aids to help you on your journey. And to that end, here are seven easy steps to follow, offering tips and advice on how to handle the rocky road ahead.
Step 1 – Forge New Allies
The people around you – family, friends and work colleagues are going to play a massive role in keeping you motivated and on track. It makes sense to discuss your decision to quit with all of these people, honestly and openly, so that they understand how and why you’re doing this. That way, they’re more likely to help you than hinder you. If there are smokers within your family or close circle of friends, it’s worth asking if any of them want to join you in your endeavours – that way, you get additional moral support from someone who’s going through the same experience.
Step 2 – Choose Your Tactics
Take the time to read up on the different cessation aids available. If possible, and if you feel comfortable, talk to your doctor as well, as they’re the best source of advice when it comes to anything medical. To get you started, here’s a quick overview of the main options:
- NRT – nicotine replacement therapies. These include patches, gums and inhalers that release a small amount of nicotine into your system to quell any cravings your body might have. These are endorsed by the NHS and FDA and are a good choice if you want a subtle, non-visible way of managing your withdrawal symptoms.
- E-cigarettes – look and work in a similar way to normal cigarettes, except a cartridge of eliquid is heated up inside the e-cig to produce a vapour which users (vapers) inhale. The eliquid contains nicotine, but vapers can choose the amount of nicotine that they want added in, and a nicotine-free version is available for those who have succeeded in overcoming their addiction yet want to continue vaping. From the simple pen-like ones to the more sophisticated box mods, there is a variety of devices that vapers can choose from. Click here for a few examples. E-cigarettes have not been scientifically proven effective, so your doctor won’t recommend them, but many smokers are finding them invaluable.
- Cold Turkey – this means simply giving up smoking, and anything related to smoking, completely, with no aids at all. This tends to work best for people who are not regular smokers and therefore have a lesser addiction to nicotine. It requires a great deal of willpower but some people favor a direct, no-nonsense approach.
Step 3 – Remove Exterior Threats
Choose a day when you’re officially going to quit. It can be the same day, or a date in the future so you can mentally prepare for what’s coming. Either way, when that day arrives, make sure you throw away everything linked to smoking – cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, tobacco and any other paraphernalia you might have accrued. Don’t even think about keeping one packet back ‘just in case’ – you’re expecting yourself to fail, and giving yourself an easy opportunity to fall off the wagon. If you need to walk to the shops to buy a cigarette, it will give you enough time to think about whether you do really need one after all.
After this point, you also need to consider the social settings you’ll find yourself in – if you hang around with smokers in your free time or at work, is it possible to find non-smokers to keep you company for the first few weeks? Or if you often enjoy a smoke at the pub, can you buy in some beers to drink at home for a while? Don’t put yourself in situations where you’ll be more tempted to give in, unless it’s totally necessary.
Step 4 – Keep Your Target in Sight
If you’ve got a specific reason for quitting – maybe you’ve been prompted by the untimely passing of a loved one, or have decided to give up for the sake of your children – then it’s worth keeping a photograph or other visual reminder of that reason with you at all times. That way, when you’re tempted to light up, you can look at it and remind yourself of why you’re doing this, which should help you stay on track.
Step 5 – Choose Your Weapons
For some people, giving up smoking isn’t just about the effect it has, but about the rituals and sensations that smoking involves. If you’re finding your hands feel lost without a cigarette to hold, give them something else to do – try a dexterity puzzle such as a Rubik’s Cube, which has the dual benefit of distracting your mind away from any other symptoms too. If it’s your mouth that’s struggling to adapt, try sucking on boiled sweets or toffees – though if you’re going through them at a rate of knots, consider low-sugar or sugar-free varieties.
Step 6 – Be Prepared to Negotiate
There are so many different ways of giving up smoking that it’s unlikely your first route will lead to instant success. Therefore, don’t be surprised or disheartened if the method you’ve elected doesn’t work – don’t give, simply accept that your body and mind clearly need a different approach. Try an alternative method – patches instead of gum, or vaping e-cigarettes if you feel the need to physically smoke something. Just because it doesn’t work first time doesn’t mean you’ll never succeed – so keep trying, and eventually you’ll find the combination of tactics that’s right for you.
Step 7 – Be Smoke Free
Soon after giving up your body will start to notice the difference. After just 20 minutes your blood pressure and pulse will return back to a regular level and after 8 hours the carbon monoxide levels in your blood will begin to normalize. If you can keep it up for five years, your risk of a stroke is reduced drastically and your risk of mouth and throat cancer is halved. Smoking takes a big toll on your body and for some people it can be fatal. Make the decision today to change your lifestyle and don’t look back!