How to quit smoking
Get Ready and Start with the Right MotivationsAlthough quitting is not easy, it is doable. Starting with the right set of motivations will set the tone up of your journey. While most people quit smoking to eliminate health risks, there are other reasons you might find motivating as well. Maybe you want your home or car to be smoke-free, you don’t like seeing your family smoking second-hand, you want to set a good example for your kids, you had it with taking smoke breaks at work, or you just want to look and feel younger. Recognizing motivations early-on proves to be a very effective tool.
Understand the Withdrawal SymptomsSome people fail their quitting attempts simply because they did not know how their body will react. Preparing for the next stage is crucial for the process. After the human body becomes dependant on nicotine, it keeps sending replenishing signals when it feels the nicotine levels going low. These are called withdrawal symptoms and they only happen as the concentration of nicotine drops. The half-life of nicotine in the body is 2 hours; Meaning the body gets rid of half of the nicotine in the bloodstream every 2 hours. This is good news because after 72 hours, the remaining levels of nicotine in the body will be very low to non-existent, at which level, the withdrawal symptoms will stop. Understanding that these symptoms will not last forever helps you a lot in your journey to quitting.
Mark your CalendarIt is always good to stop bad habits as soon as we can. However, since we now understand the short period of withdrawal, we can be better prepared for the few tough day ahead. Now you have the momentum and the motivation so choose a day in the next 7 days. Setting a date proves to be helpful in building the psychological readiness, it also helps avoiding important hectic days like moving to a new house for example.
Remove Cigarettes from Easy ReachOn your quitting day, make sure not to have any cigarettes lying around. Throw away the remaining cigarettes you have. Dispose of any lighters or keep them away. Clean the ashtray in your car so it doesn’t sit there smelling like cigarettes when you are trying to avoid them.
Eliminate Cues Associated with SmokingYour body has an amazing talent called classical conditioning. It is a type of learning where the body associates an environmental stimulus with a naturally occurring stimulus. We feel hungry when we see food just like we feel sleepy when someone yawns. Sometimes though, the body builds wrong and unnecessary associations and you can imagine how many of these are learned by the brain of a smoker. To name a few, the consumption of alcohol will trigger an urge to smoke in the early stages of quitting, so it is very helpful to avoid alcohol during your first week. There are a lot of other small cues that you need to look for and change. Try to change where you sit in the morning, what you do after eating, in which room you have your coffee (more on coffee later). It is very helpful to make slight adjustments to your external environment to relieve yourself from these false and unnecessary cues that will trick you into smoking. These changes are temporary and the need for them will not be necessary after a few days.
Watch your Caffeine IntakeBeside being a smoking trigger, caffeine interacts in a special way with nicotine. Smokers metabolise caffeine at double the rate of non-smokers. This means that half the amount of coffee you used to drink as a smoker, was not being used by body. Once you stop smoking, drinking the same amount of coffee you’re used to, will cause your body to get double the caffeine intake and become over caffeinated. The easiest way to solve this is by cutting your caffeine intake in half. Replace every cup you have with half a cup if you like keeping your coffee schedule. You can also consider replacing some cups of coffee with decaffeinated coffee.
Don’t Replace One bad Habit With AnotherWe encourage you to reward yourself during the first few days of your smoke-free life. Have a treat to remind yourself of the great job you did so far. Keep yourself encouraged by setting goals and rewards. While this is very helpful, it is very easy for our bodies to replace smoking with another bad habit. Many people who are not aware of this tend to resolve to over-eating after quitting cigarettes. Keep your body at check and understand that these rewards are temporary. Instead of distracting yourself with food, try taking a walk, do a physical activity, or engage more with friends and family.
Expect Craving Episodes, and Know How to Handle themCravings are inevitable. Your goal isn’t to expect zero cravings and then get caught off guard. It is to be prepared for cravings when they happen. Your knowledge of withdrawal symptoms and eliminating smoking cues will help you minimize the number and duration of craving episodes, but it’s important to be ready to handle them when they happen. Our study of the first few days after quitting indicates that the expected number of cravings are 4-6 per day during the first 3 days. Then the number gradually drops to reaching one episode every few days, to one every few weeks. Each episode will last for few seconds to few minutes. Plan ahead. Know what to do when cravings occur. Acknowledge the great job you are doing and know that these cravings won’t last for more than 5 minutes.
Control Stress & AnxietyIt is a common misconception among smokers that smoking reduces stress. While it is true that a cigarette lowers the stress levels of a smoker to normal, it is important to note that this stress is originally caused by nicotine. The body of a smoker triggers stress signals to announce that it needs another fix, a cigarette calms the body for a short period but on the long term, a non-smoker enjoys a much calmer life with normalized stress levels. The mood of a non-smoker might fluctuate responding to external environmental triggers, but it doesn’t keep going up and down depending on when they smoked their last cigarette. Understand that your stress is temporary, it is not going to last your whole life. It is just your body reacting to a detoxification process, and making a transition into a much healthier life.