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How to Quit Smoking Successfully

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Health Risks of Smoking

The purpose of knowing how smoking affects our bodies is not to scare you into stopping – but to inform you. Education is one aspect and one tool that can help motivate you to start to change your behavior and choices, because it is your power to do so. Here are some health conditions that cigarettes worsen and/or put you at risk for:

  • Cancer of the esophagus, lung, kidney, liver and stomach
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Reproductive issues
  • Diabetes
  • Immune function
  • General health and life expectancy
  • Smoking leads to almost one in five deaths in America every year

Smoking is difficult to quit, because your body is addicted to nicotine, not to mention the other ways smoking meets our emotional needs. Talk to your doctor about your lifestyle, and ask for their professional opinion on how to proceed.

Allow Yourself to Regress but Plan for Success

Perhaps you came to your decision point on a birthday or because of a sudden inspiration. While it is understandably easier to begin quitting right when you feel motivated, we encourage you to keep two points in mind. The first is that it is common for it to take a few tries to completely quit smoking. If you give in to a nicotine craving and have a cigarette after you have stopped, yes it can be disappointing but do not lose heart. Take the opportunity to self-evaluate and learn about your triggers and needs, and ask yourself how to do it differently next time. Every time you regress shows you something that was lacking that you can address.

The second element to consider when you decide you want to quit is that you do need both a purpose (health or a loved one) and a plan (one cigarette less a day or week). It is the rare individual who can quit cold turkey, and even then you would benefit from active substitutions. Here are 3 ways to form a successful plan.

  1. Find support. Encouragement and accountability make a world of difference instead of depending solely on your own willpower. Ask your friends, family, coworkers and doctor to partner with you, and be specific in how they can help you. Ask someone to go for a walk with you after meals when you are used to having a cigarette. Take a cooking or fitness class with a friend, and pick one during the time of day that you are the most idle. You may need daily support in the beginning until you get used to a new routine, and that is okay. Simply communicate with your support system when you are going through a harder point, and come to a mutual understanding of how much they can meet your needs. This way, you can be prepared to reach out to a support group in your city if your friends and family are having a busy week.
  2. Focus on addition, not subtraction. Of course, you will feel the apparent void of smoking in a very tangible way – physically, emotionally, and habitually. It will help to remember that the purpose of quitting smoking isn’t just to avoid doing something. You are getting something out of this, from better health to longer life expectancy. When it comes to the everyday practice of not smoking, you may find it also helpful to replace smoking with new things. As we mentioned in the above point, you can replace the act of smoking with another action like going for walks. Channeling your attention on learning something new is a great way to experience the new things in your day, not the missing cigarettes. Learn that musical skill you’ve always wanted to, or start a book club or hiking club where you alternate bringing different healthy snacks.
  3. Identify and change your associations. Smoking is usually paired with other things or specific environments. What was it for you? Boredom, stress, eating, alcohol, or socializing are common partners that go before or with nicotine-ssmoking. It is crucial that you understand what it was that cigarettes were filling for you so that you know what else you need to address besides smoking. For some, smoking isn’t to deal with stress and simply became a physical habit where your body is addicted to the nicotine. Regardless, the physical addiction is real and using nicotine products to help you wean the physical effects can help you transition well. Finding something to occupy your hands and mouth (like nicotine gum) can also help keep you from reaching for a familiar cigarette. Counseling sessions, yoga, regular meetups with nonsmoking friends can be different healthy outlets if you were using smoking as a coping mechanism for stress. Talking to a therapist for a temporary period is a smart way to learn tools and insights into how you specifically can change. Getting involved in your local community and finding a way to give back (provide foster care for rescue animals, or volunteer with an organization doing work you care about) will give you interesting ways to spend your time and meet new people.

Good luck, and like with everything in your health, take it one day at a time. You can do it!

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