Why quit smoking? Quitting smoking is the single most important step a person can take to drastically improve their health. In addition to reducing the risk of a number of fatal and debilitating diseases, quitting smoking will improve your overall quality of life, your appearance, energy levels and the balance of your bank account. Smoking offers no benefits to the smoker, yet almost every one of them has made an attempt to quit at one point and failed. Cigarettes are one of the most difficult addictions to overcome, rivaling many illicit drugs, but they are not more powerful than human ambition. Millions of smokers have already successfully kicked the habit, and armed with the right knowledge there is no reason you can’t become one of them…

How to Quit Smoking

Seeing the reasons to quit smoking is not the difficult part about quitting. Smokers are not ignorant of the negative aspects of the habit and the large health risks involved. Generally, a smoker will either attempt to quit and fail or never attempt it in the first place because of psychological blocks they have put in place that make continuing to smoke appear rational. The nature of all addiction is this human capacity for self-deception. When in the contemplation stages of giving up the habit, smokers are very good at coming up with justifications for smoking. Things like “it relaxes me,” “what else would I do on my breaks?”, “I’m too far-gone to quit now,” and “life is just too stressful to quit smoking now” are common excuses, although there are a myriad of others. The habit is placed on a pedestal, and this thinking becomes more pronounced the longer it’s been since the last cigarette.

Realize that the impulse to continue smoking in spite of the negative consequences the habit entails is not a rational one. Cigarettes only serve to relieve the nicotine withdrawal caused by smoking cigarettes. A non-smoker wouldn’t find a cigarette relaxing or pleasurable because they have not been conditioned by addiction to feel this way. The relief felt after that first cigarette of the day is the relief from the misery of withdrawal, and what non-smokers experience all the time for free. When you smoke to relieve the discomfort of dealing with a stressful event, you’re mostly smoking away the stress of nicotine craving. As any relapsed smoker who had a significant period of abstinence can tell you, the magic of smoking comes from the addiction and the first cigarette after having quit for a few months just isn’t the same.

After quitting smoking, a number of symptoms arise within a day or two and can last up to and over a month. The most common symptoms are irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, lack of concentration, chest discomfort, fatigue, insomnia, hunger, dizziness and cravings for cigarettes. Most of these withdrawal symptoms, however, peak in intensity after the first week and begin to fade away. The number of smoking cravings also fall off over time, with the most cravings in the first few weeks. While these seem like a lot to deal with, it’s important to keep the ultimate goal in mind. A few weeks of discomfort is not a big trade-off for freedom from smoking. The withdrawal is your body undergoing a drastic healing process after years of being poisoned.

Whether or not you use a form of nicotine replacement therapy, such as the patch or nicotine gum, is a personal choice to make. Bear in mind, however, that until you’re off these products completely, you’re still taking nicotine and prolonging the addiction. The goal of such cessation tools is the gradual reduction of nicotine over time. There are also pills available such as Chantix and therapies like hypnotherapy to be considered. Research each method carefully before making a decision and try to talk to any successful quitters you may already know. Many swear cold turkey is simply the way to go.

Another form of nicotine replacement is the electronic cigarette. Electronic cigarettes are a relatively recent invention that use nicotine vapor and flavoring to mimic the experience of smoking a real cigarette. As no actual combustion occurs, proponents of electronic cigarettes claim that they are a much safer alternative and to date the little research available on the subject agrees. The “juice” the devices use to create vapor come in varying concentrations of nicotine, including none at all, so it is possible to slowly reduce your consumption as you would with any other replacement therapy.

During the quitting process, drink plenty of fluids and try to eat nutritious meals. Ice water especially mimics that “ahh…” feeling of drawing on a cigarette during a craving. Exercise and rest may help ease the pain, and certainly contribute to your body’s ability to heal itself. Taking a break from alcohol for the first few months of nicotine cessation may prevent slip-ups as drinking strongly magnifies cravings and reduces impulse control and judgment. Things like chewing gum, sucking lollipops, or chewing on an empty pen tube should be avoided, as they will not imitate the feeling of smoking enough to kill a craving and may just lead to the real thing. If you do slip up and smoke, don’t take it as an opportunity to set another quit date. Simply determine what triggered the relapse and move on, all your progress has not been lost by one moment of weakness.

Stay strong. Don’t forget your reasons for quitting and keep in mind that most craving episodes only last ten minutes. Be tough and you’ll be out of the woods before you know it.

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