Smoking accounts for nearly one in every five deaths in one way or another in the US today. A good portion of smokers would like to quit (70% according to the American Cancer Society), but only 7% stop for good on their first attempt.
They say every time you quit you get a little bit better at it – so here are some tips to improve your chances.
- Quit for a Good Reason
If the only reason you decide to stop smoking is for other people, you will be less likely to succeed. Quitting requires a strong personal commitment. Write out a list of what you will gain by stopping and what you (or your family) will lose if you continue to smoke. Choose the strongest incentive on the list to keep in mind when you’re fighting the urge to light up.
- Decide on the Right Time
Pick a date to quit and mark it on your calendar. It will also help you to think about quitting as an actual event, not just a good idea. Choose a time when you’re unlikely to have an especially heavy workload or stressful situations to deal with. Don’t try to quit on a date within two weeks of an upcoming social event such as a birthday or holiday celebratio
- Communicate Your Intentions
Tell your friends, family and co-workers that you intend to stop smoking and share your quit date. If you use social media, announce it there too. Once you’ve informed everyone, you’ll be more committed to your goal. If you know people are going to ask you about your progress, you’ll be more motivated to resist your nicotine cravings during the crucial first 24 hours.
- Expect to Feel Awful
If you’re addicted to nicotine, withdrawal symptoms will begin within a few hours of smoking your last cigarette. They include cigarette cravings, irritability, restlessness, inability to concentrate, increased appetite, fatigue, depression, anxiety and constipation. These symptoms peak after 24 hours and ease off gradually over the next four weeks. Try to prepare yourself psychologically for this ordeal.The longer you keep from smoking the better you will feel so every day is a victory.
- Consider Nicotine Replacement Therapy
The main reason smokers who try to quit fail is that nicotine addiction is so hard to break. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) helps lessen the effects of nicotine withdrawal and makes it easier to get through the day. It releases nicotine steadily into your bloodstream at much lower levels than in a cigarette. Most courses of NRT last eight to twelve weeks before you gradually reduce the dose and eventually stop. You can buy nicotine patches, gums, inhalers, sprays or lozenges at most pharmacies.
- Start Something New
You’re starting a completely new stage of your life so it is a good idea to start something that will help to distract you. Maybe look into getting a personal trainer to focus on your health. Or start learning a language or playing chess. Anything will work really, just something new to get your brain working so you won’t sit there thinking about how you’re not smoking.
- Ask Your Doctor About Medications
There are a couple of prescription medications that can help you to stop smoking. Bupropion (Zyban) affects parts of the brain involved in addictive behavior. It can reduce nicotine cravings and also curb your appetite. Varenicline (Champix) prevents nicotine from binding to receptors in your brain and that will stop the pleasurable feelings you get from smoking. It also reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Both medications need to be started 7-14 days before your quit date.
- Get Rid of Your Cigs
The first thing to do after you’ve smoked your final cigarette, and before nicotine cravings set in, is to throw out or give away all remaining cigarettes in your possession. Don’t keep them around ‘just in case’. It’s easier to resist an urge if you would have to go out and buy a pack of cigarettes to satisfy it.
- Join a Stop-Smoking Forum or Get Outside Support
Jump online and look for some online forums that exist to support people who are quitting. Having a support group can really help. If your cravings are so strong that you’re considering buying cigarettes, post a message first to give others a chance to talk you out of it. Looking into professional counseling can be another great support system from outside your regular life for you to lean on.
- Avoid Temptation
Stay away from people and circumstances that are likely to cause you to light up. Decline any invitations to go out with other smokers. Explain to them that you are trying to quit and you don’t want to be tempted. Don’t drink to the point of intoxication. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes it more difficult to resist your nicotine cravings. Avoid stressful situations such as hosting relatives who get on your nerves.
- Notice the Difference
Many benefits of not smoking are apparent after only a few days. Your clothes and hair will no longer reek of stale smoke. Your ability to smell and taste will improve and meals will be more pleasurable. You’ll have more money to spend on things you enjoy. You’ll no longer be putting others in danger with secondhand smoke. Your friends and family will be proud of you.