Tips on how to stop smoking
While things like alcohol come with recommended daily amounts, smoking doesn’t. In fact, the recommended daily amount of cigarettes is none at all, and for good reason. Every year, around 100,000 people die from smoking related causes, as the past-time increases the risk of developing over 50 serious health conditions. It can cause lung, mouth, throat and stomach cancer, as well as increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
It is these health risks that spur the majority of smokers on to quit. In fact, 72% of respondents to our Health of the Nation survey now class themselves as non-smokers. However, getting to that point is one of the toughest things you will ever have to do, as the addictive nature of nicotine means that quitting is fraught with cravings, withdrawal symptoms and triggers. Quitting isn’t impossible though, and there are certain methods you can use to make sure that your journey to a smoke-free life is as effective as possible.
Make a plan
Planning your smoke-free journey is a great way to keep yourself on track. First, decide on which method is best for you – cutting down gradually and making small lifestyle changes, or going cold turkey. Each one will require a slightly different approach. Next, make your physical plan. List a realistic ‘quit-by’ date and plot milestones to help you get there (like cutting down to two cigarettes per day by the end of the month). Don’t forget to plan in events like weddings and parties either, so you can prepare for potential temptations in advance.
A positive mind-set can go a long way in helping you to overcome obstacles and rise above relapses. The key is not to get discouraged, to try again, and to face the coming weeks with even more determination.
Identify why you crave
Once you know what triggers you to reach for the cigarette packet, you can develop coping mechanisms and alternative ways to deal with each one. For example, if you like to smoke after finishing a meal, try chewing a piece of chewing gum instead. If you find stress and anxiety to be a trigger, try listening to relaxing music, doing yoga or getting a massage.
Write a list of pros and cons
The benefits of quitting smoking are no secret – more energy, healthier skin and a hugely reduced risk of premature death due to serious illness. However, when cravings get too much and the only solution seems to be to just light up another cigarette, you could need a little reminder. By writing a list of pros and cons, you can carry them around with you and look at them every time you feel as if you might relapse.
Develop ways to cope with nicotine withdrawal
Nicotine withdrawal isn’t just craving your morning cigarette. It is actually categorised by a range of physical symptoms that are important to recognise:
- Irritability, frustration or anger
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased appetite
- Increased coughing
- Constipation or an upset stomach
- Decreased heart rate
If you find that you start experiencing some of these symptoms as you become smoke-free, a great way to take your mind off them is to exercise. Scientific studies have proven that even a short, five minute walk can encourage your brain to produce anti-craving chemicals, but the effectiveness of exercise could also be down to the simple fact that it gives you something else to focus on.
Alternative methods of coping could be to keep your hands and mouth occupied. Hold an inhalator, chew gum, pass a beaded bracelet through your fingers, hold a drink in your smoking hand, or even drink through a straw to give your mouth something to do.
Tell people you are quitting
The support of your loved ones can prove invaluable when you are trying to quit smoking. Once they know what you are trying to do, they can help you to avoid situations that could trigger cravings, help support you through withdrawal symptoms and, if they smoke too, even quit with you. Knowing that someone else is coping with the same thing can be a huge help.
If you got a pay rise at work or even just completed a DIY project at home, chances are that you’d reward yourself in some way. The same should go for when you reach a milestone in your efforts to stop smoking, to give yourself something to look forward to and encourage yourself to carry on. With a packet of cigarettes now costing upwards of £7, this reward could be a nice meal out with your partner, family or friends, a day trip or weekend away, or even just a takeaway.
Take advantage of the services available
Everyone is different, and while one person might be able to stop smoking on their own, others will need help. If you find that you are struggling then you shouldn’t be afraid to seek it out, especially when there are so many services available to smokers. The NHS Stop Smoking Service is particularly useful, offering face to face support, free email and text support, and a free quit kit full of practical tools and advice developed with help from experts, smokers and ex-smokers.
With male respondents to our Health of the Nation survey smoking an average of 3.8 cigarettes per day, and female respondents smoking an average of 3.3 cigarettes per day, it does appear as if more and more people are making the decision to cut down on the amount they smoke, or quit altogether. We hope these tips have encouraged you to do the same, and have made the process seem a lot less daunting.