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Despite knowing all the negative and almost fatal effects that smoking has on health, many people choose to continue smoking until their ‘don’t-care’ attitude lands them up in the hospital. You may be asking – is there really a way to learn to kick this habit for good?
Yes, but it takes some planning. Because without a plan, you won’t have direction. And without direction, your ship won’t be sailing towards a better life anytime soon. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is it So Hard to Stop Smoking?
The main reason why it’s hard to quit smoking is that it’s not only a physiological habit but a psychological one too. When life gets in the way and we have problems, we sometimes don’t get any outlets for coping or venting. This is when some people turn to cigarette smoking as a sort of emotional support. Unfortunately, although it does give us some relief from depression and anxiety for a little while, it doesn’t fix our problems. It provides a temporary escape, and in life, if you want to fix something, you have to face it head on and tackle it, instead of avoiding the challenge. The emotional component of being attached to smoking is what makes it hard to learn how to stop smoking immediately and that’s the biggest hurdle most people face.
Easy Ways to Quit Smoking and Kick Your Cigarette
If you’re wondering ‘how can I quit smoking?’, the answer is – it starts with a game plan. Here’s how you can start on your journey to a new life.
1. Decide on a Start Date
Everybody starts somewhere, right? So should you, but that doesn’t mean after a few years or months. Set a realistic start date, like a few weeks tops, and prepare your mind to quit on that day.
You can also:
- Tell your family, friends, and co-workers about it so that you don’t cheat.
- Stop hanging around friends and people who smoke near you.
- Get substitutes like bubblegum, carrot sticks, candy, and straws.
- Attend a support group for quitting smoking and attending therapy sessions.
Note down what didn’t work for you the last time you tried to quit and any tactics you can try by journaling your previous quitting experiences.
Scientifically speaking, it won’t make a difference if you taper down your nicotine use gradually until your start date and quit or you go cold turkey on that day and smoke before that as much as you want. But if there’s one ground rule to this, it’s this – no smoking from the very day you start.
Some additional tips on how to manage your withdrawal or coping symptoms when they appear are:
- Make your life busy to the point where smoking doesn’t cross your mind.
- Exercise whenever you get cravings, go for a walk, or drink water in small sips.
- Consume more fresh fruit juices and vegetable broths.
- Avoid toxic/negative people or anything that makes you feel bad and causes the emotional trigger to smoke.
2. Consider Going for Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Only 6% of smokers are usually able to quit abruptly without any support or therapies. This tiny margin should tell you that you don’t want to gamble when you’re quitting something bad. But Nicotine Replacement Therapy will improve your chances substantially and ensure you don’t fall for any relapses.
Some of the NRT options you’ll get from your doctor are:
- NRT skin patches
- Chewing gum
- Nasal spray
For the nasal spray and inhaler, you’ll need a prescription from your doctor but for the other options, you can get them from anywhere you like. Nicotine patches are good since they don’t contain toxic chemicals and are available in low doses. The low doses make you wean off the habit gradually and also don’t cause severe withdrawal symptoms, making it much easier to quit.
However, if you notice any symptoms such as an abnormal heartbeat, mouth ulcers, skin inflammation, weakness, nausea, and dizziness, visit your healthcare professional and get yourself checked up immediately.
3. Find New Ways of Coping
If you’re serious about quitting, you’ll do whatever it takes to get there. That means counselling, attending support group sessions, and even reading self-help materials.
Some of the popular ways of learning how to stop smoking naturally and managing your emotional symptoms are:
- Signing up for a support group that gathers like-minded individuals like you who are trying to quit.
- Booking a session with a qualified therapist and talking to them about your problems. A therapist may be able to give you insights into your psyche and about the way your subconscious mind works.
- Getting an accountability partner both online and offline. This will make sure you don’t cheat plus you’ll get to support someone else too.
- Developing healthier habits instead of smoking like new hobbies such as drawing, painting, coding, music, or anything else you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t.
- Reading self-help books that explain how your mind works and stories of people who have stopped smoking to motivate yourself to go the extra mile.
4. Try Non-nicotine Medications
Some options for non-nicotine medications available to you are:
- Bupropion (Zyban)
- Varenicline (Champix)
You won’t be able to acquire these two drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Bupropion acts on your neurotransmitters and reduces withdrawal symptoms when taken. It’s usually administered for 12 weeks, and when the person manages to quit, then for another 3 to 6 months to make sure they don’t relapse.
Varenicline reduces the pleasure or high you obtain from nicotine or your cigarettes. It acts on your pleasure centres in your brain but it’s not foolproof though. You may experience depression, suicidal thoughts, aggressive behaviour, and similar symptoms when you take it. That’s because, just like how your pleasure from cigarettes will wean away, so will your pleasure for a few other things in life. Again, you’ll have to take this for 12 weeks and if you manage to quit within that time period, then you’ll have to continue taking it for another 3 to 6 months to prevent relapses.
5. Consider Alternative Therapies
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or the customized treatment plan designed by your healthcare professional may work but you can opt for other treatments too. If you’re thinking of trying out alternative therapies, here are a few good options-
- Herbal supplements and Ayurvedic remedies
- Tobacco sticks and strips
- E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes)
- Cold Laser Therapy
- Mindfulness Therapy
What If You Slip or Relapse?
If you slip, you don’t have to sweat it because it’s a temporary setback. But that doesn’t mean you should be going for multiple slips because that could eventually build up to a relapse. A relapse is basically when you go back to your old habit and continue it. If you follow your game plan to the letter and manage your symptoms in healthy ways, you won’t find relapses happening but slips are a common part of quitting. That “one-puff” after many days of staying away from cigarettes isn’t going to put you back to square one, but don’t take your chances regardless of that.
Here are a few tips on how to prevent slips and relapses:
1. Quit Alcohol
Period. No negotiations at all. Alcohol will make the rewiring process a lot harder when you’re quitting nicotine and acts as a trigger.
2. Start Journalling
Get a diary or a journal. Write down your thoughts. Write about how you feel and what thoughts cross your mind prior to the slip. How do you feel when you’re about to lose it? Think of this activity as a form of brain-drain and a way to cope healthier. Another good exercise you can try whenever you feel bad or really negative is to take a piece of paper and write down all the terrible things you feel like screaming at someone. Crumple up that paper and throw it in the trash can. It’s sort of like taking your negative emotions, crumpling them up, and throwing them away.
3. Call Up a Smoking Support Hotline
If there’s nobody available to talk to you and you need immediate help, call up a smoking support hotline. Talk to a person who is available and just start interacting with them. Be honest, tell them how you feel, and calmly listen to what they have to say. Remember, these people are professionals at helping others and know a thing or two about giving you the helping hand you need to quit.
4. Focus on Your One Habit
Don’t take on any other new habits when you’re learning how to quit smoking. This is because quitting an old habit and creating new ones can test your willpower. Take things easy and make quitting smoking super easy by doing other things you like. Enjoy drawing, hanging out with people, playing games outside, and other healthier lifestyle activities that will reward you with good mental and physical health.
5. Get Back on Track
If you’ve already relapsed, don’t lose your cool. Get back on the wagon as early as you can. It’s still not too late. You still have a shot. Just note down what went wrong, talk to your healthcare professional and find out ways to prevent what you did from happening again. Everybody responds differently, don’t forget that.
Here are some frequently asked questions which are answered below.
1. How to Prevent Weight Gain After Stopping Cigarette Smoking?
You might find yourself overeating once you quit smoking as another form of an emotional outlet. And the best way to prevent that or stop weight gain after quitting smoking is to just go out and exercise. Stock up on finger-foods and eat clean instead of the processed junk you get from fast-food stores. Have multiple but small-portion meals to avoid binge eating and keep your calories in check. And don’t forget to drink water.
Quitting smoking will literally change your life. Once you get a taste of the benefits, you’ll never feel like going back and that alone is worth it. But until then, hang on and work through the withdrawals till you get there. Don’t give up.