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If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, you may be waiting for January 1st to take action. New Year’s is a perfect time to set your goal to stop smoking, but that’s no reason to procrastinate in the meantime.
There are steps you can take right now, as the New Year approaches, to start weaning yourself off the habit. By doing some initial preparation toward your action plan, you can increase your chances of staying smoke-free year-round.
Here are some steps to get you started on the right path:
Choose Your Quit Date
It helps to have some lead-up time to the day that you are planning to stop smoking. Now is the time to take out your calendar and pick a date–ideally within the next two weeks–to quit for good.
New Year’s Day is an excellent choice, because it is a special day that is already associated with changing bad habits and starting over in fresh directions. If New Year’s isn’t practical, you might also consider another special day that has meaning for you–such as your birthday or anniversary–to provide you with an extra incentive.
Spread the Word
Now that you’ve chosen your quit date, you have two weeks to prepare for the big
“On Monday, I’m going to quit smoking!” If your family and friends roll their eyes when you say this, it’s probably a sign that your mental fortitude is just slightly weaker than the ungodly pull of modern man’s Achilles heel: nicotine.
Quitting smoking is a popular New Year’s resolution, a promise made by newlyweds, and the subject of much marital nagging. With recent research showing that nicotine addiction rivals addiction to heroin and other illicit substances, it may take more than mental will to quit. Not only do you have to deal with well-wishing non-smokers (the syrupy, condescending “good for you”), disbelieving friends (“Oh, so this time is it? Whatever.”), and perpetual nags (“As soon as you stop smoking, you start getting healthier!”), you actually have to get through those first hours, days, and weeks.
If your last smoke is already planned, make it count. Despite all the drawbacks of smoking – including cancer – it’s popular for a reason. You’re sick, tired, and stressed out. You need something to give you that little edge that even coffee can’t provide. When you give up smoking, you deserve to celebrate a little bit.
1. Make it an event to remember.
Making a production of
There are many different methods that have successfully helped people to quit smoking, including:
- Quitting smoking cold turkey.
- Systematically decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke.
- Reducing your intake of nicotine gradually over time.
- Using nicotine replacement therapy or non-nicotine medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
- Utilizing nicotine support groups.
- Trying hypnosis, acupuncture, or counseling using cognitive behavioral techniques.
You may be successful with the first method you try. More likely, you’ll have to try a number of different methods or a combination of treatments to find the ones that work best for you.
Medications to help you stop smoking
Smoking cessation medications can ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, and are most effective when used as part of a comprehensive stop smoking program monitored by your physician. Talk to your doctor about your options and whether an anti-smoking medication is right for you. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved options are:
Nicotine replacement therapy. Nicotine replacement therapy involves “replacing” cigarettes with other nicotine substitutes, such as nicotine gum or a nicotine patch. It works by delivering small and steady doses of nicotine into the body to relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms without the tars and poisonous gases found in cigarettes. This type of treatment helps smokers focus on breaking
Weight gain is a common concern when quitting smoking. Some people even use it as a reason not to quit. While it’s true that many smokers put on weight within six months of stopping smoking, the gain is usually small—about five pounds on average—and that initial gain decreases over time. It’s also important to remember that carrying a few extra pounds for a few months won’t hurt your heart as much as smoking will. Of course, gaining weight is NOT inevitable when you quit smoking.
Smoking acts as an appetite suppressant. It also dampens your sense of smell and taste. So after you quit, your appetite will likely increase and food will seem more appealing. Weight gain can also happen if you replace the oral gratification of smoking with eating, especially if you turn to unhealthy comfort foods. So it’s important to find other, healthy ways to deal with stress and other unpleasant feelings rather than mindless, emotional eating.
- Nurture yourself. Instead of turning to cigarettes or food when you feel stressed, anxious, or depressed, learn new ways to soothe yourself.
- Eat healthy, varied meals. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit your fat intake. Seek out low-fat options that look appetizing to
Avoiding smoking triggers will help reduce the urge to smoke, but you can’t avoid cravings entirely. But cigarette cravings don’t last long, so if you’re tempted to light up, remember that the craving will pass and try to wait it out. It also helps to be prepared in advance. Having a plan to cope with cravings will help keep you from giving in.
- Distract yourself. Do the dishes, turn on the TV, take a shower, or call a friend. The activity doesn’t matter as long as it gets your mind off of smoking.
- Remind yourself why you quit. Focus on your reasons for quitting, including the health benefits, improved appearance, money you’re saving, and enhanced self-esteem.
- Get out of a tempting situation. Where you are or what you’re doing may be triggering the craving. If so, a change of scenery can make all the difference.
- Reward yourself. Reinforce your victories. Whenever you triumph over a craving, give yourself a reward to keep yourself motivated.
Coping with Cigarette Cravings in the Moment
|Find an oral substitute
||Keep other things around to pop in your mouth when cravings hit. Good choices include mints, hard candy, carrot or celery|
Once you stop smoking, you will experience a number of physical symptoms as your body withdraws from nicotine. Nicotine withdrawal begins quickly, usually starting within thirty minutes to an hour of the last cigarette and peaking about two to three days later. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to several weeks and differ from person to person.
Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Cigarette cravings
- Irritability, frustration, or anger
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased appetite
- Increased coughing
- Constipation or upset stomach
- Decreased heart rate
Unpleasant as these withdrawal symptoms may be, they are only temporary. They will get better in a few weeks as the toxins are flushed from your body. In the meantime, let your friends and family know that you won’t be your usual self and ask for their understanding.
Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
|Craving for cigarette
||Most intense during first week but can linger for months
||Wait out the urge; distract yourself; take a brisk walk.
||Two to four weeks
||Exercise; take hot baths; use relaxation techniques; avoid caffeine.
||Two to four weeks
||Avoid caffeine after 6 p.m.; use relaxation techniques; exercise; plan activities (such as reading) when sleep is difficult.
||Two to four weeks
||Take naps; do|
One of the best things you can do to help yourself quit is to identify the things that make you want to smoke, including specific situations, activities, feelings, and people.
Keep a craving journal
A craving journal can help you zero in on your patterns and triggers. For a week or so leading up to your quit date, keep a log of your smoking. Note the moments in each day when you crave a cigarette:
- What time was it?
- How intense was the craving (on a scale of 1-10)?
- What were you doing?
- Who were you with?
- How were you feeling?
- How did you feel after smoking?
Do you smoke to relieve unpleasant or overwhelming feelings?
Managing unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety are some of the most common reasons why adults smoke. When you have a bad day, it can seem like cigarettes are your only friend. As much comfort as cigarettes provide, though, it’s important to remember that there are healthier (and more effective) ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.
For many people, an important aspect of quitting smoking is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings without