Quitting smoking is a tough challenge. The addiction is both physical and mental. But you can do it. In fact, you will join the company of millions of former smokers. It is one of the best things you can do for your health and the health of others around you.
You have decided to take the first step. Read on to help make a plan to quit for good.
The Link Between Mind and Body
Smoking is a habit that is repeated many times each day. It often becomes a part of a normal routine like having breakfast. Habits like smoking as soon as you wake or on your way to work become habits you do without thinking. This can make them harder to break. Consider that one pack of cigarettes can turn into 150 to 200 puffs a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. You can see how much the habit affects day to day life.
Smoking is also addictive to the body. This means that chemicals from smoking have made changes in your body. When those chemicals are stopped, it causes problems like cravings, headaches, anxiety, nausea, and lightheadedness. Nicotine plays a major role in the addiction. It sets off pleasure signals when a person smokes. And the longer you smoke, the more you will need for the good vibes.
The Key to Quitting
There is no easy way to quit. Some steps may ease some of the challenges. Do not be discouraged if it takes more than one try before you kick the habit for good.
The key to quitting is patience, determination, and having a plan.
How to Do It
Keep these points in mind when you quit:
Know Why You Are Quitting
Pick a reason that you believe in. It may be for your family or for yourself. Quitting will be harder if you do not believe in your reason.
Take it One Day at a Time
Focus on making it through one day without smoking. Remember, it will get easier as time goes on. Nicotine will soon leave your system. The worst of the withdrawal symptoms will go away with it.
Smoke Less Each Day
Some people may choose to quit all at once. This may not work for everyone. You may want to start by smoking fewer cigarettes each day. Once you reach seven cigarettes per day, it is time to fully stop. Set a quit day and stick to it.
Change Your Environment
Think about the places and things that lead to smoking. Remove triggers when you are able. Get rid of the ashtrays at home. Do not come back from lunch 15 minutes early to sneak in a cigarette break. Do not go to places where smoking is part of the atmosphere.
Practice the Three D's
Delay; Deep breathing; Drink water.
When you feel like a smoke, delay it. Try to do or think of something else. Take a walk or chew gum. Breathe deeply, and count to 10 slowly as you delay. Drink plenty of water. It helps flush the nicotine out of your body.
Keep a Diary
Each time you feel like a cigarette, write it down. Note the time of day, what you are doing, and how badly you want to smoke. Use a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 for the worst craving. A diary helps you to learn your triggers. It may help you make a plan to avoid them or prepare you for those you cannot avoid.
Talk to Your Doctor about Medicine
Prescription medicine may help to ease cravings. It may also block the pleasant feelings that the cigarettes make. Talk to your doctor about choices that may be safe for you.
The doctor may also suggest nicotine replacement tools. These are patches, gum, lozenges, and nasal sprays. Many can be bought over-the-counter. They can help you ease off of nicotine without the other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. This allows you to slowly quit.
Some are able to quit on their own. Others may find help from:
- Therapies, such as hypnosis and acupuncture
- Smoking cessation classes
- Group therapy
- Self-help programs—web and phone-based programs (Freedom From Smoking or Smokefree.gov)
A blend of these options may work best for you. For example, using a nicotine patch and going to group therapy may help you to become smoke-free for good.
Reward Yourself for Succeeding
Quitting is hard. You deserve a reward for meeting short-term goals. Smoke-free for one week, two weeks, or a month should be rewarded. Put aside the money that you would have spent on cigarettes. When the time comes, use that money for a reward!
American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association
Guide to quitting smoking. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-how-to-quit. Accessed April 23, 2021.
How to handle withdrawal symptoms and triggers when you decide to quit smoking. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/symptoms-triggers-quitting. Accessed April 23, 2021.
Smoking & tobacco use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking. Accessed April 23, 2021.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board