You Know Why You Should Quit Smoking. Here’s How You Do It.
So you’d like to quit smoking. If you’re like most smokers, you probably already know why you should quit. Now you just need to know how to quit. Mark Twain probably said it most famously: “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Make no mistake about it. Quitting smoking is not easy. So what makes it so hard to quit? Nicotine does. When you inhale smoke from a cigarette, the nicotine is delivered straight into your bloodstream through your lungs. From there, it very quickly makes it way to your brain. You need to understand that Nicotine is just as addictive as Heroin or Cocaine. Then there is the habitual side of smoking that we must master. So quitting smoking is not something to take lightly. You have to go at it guns a ‘blazing. Did you know that cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals? Some of which are found in varnish, DDT, arsenic, nail polish remover, and rat poison! No wonder you’re ready to quit smoking! Well like I said, you already know why to quit, let’s get to the how.
Okay, so you’re ready, right? Have you thought about your decision to quit seriously? I’m going to give you the number one reason why most people who try to quit fail. It’s because they fail to make the decision to quit. Oh sure, you may want to quit. You would prefer to be a non-smoker. But that’s not going to cut it here. There is no room for wants or preferences. You have to make a hard decision and stick by it.
Think back to a time when you wanted something very much. I mean really wanted something. Going back to early childhood works good here. Remember how you wanted it so bad you could taste it? You would cry or your world might come to a screeching halt if you didn’t get this thing? How it occupied all your thoughts, all day long? You wanted it so bad that not getting it was not going to be an option for you. That’s the kind of decision you have to make here with smoking. To keep smoking is not an option.
So let’s take a moment right here and now and you think of three reasons why you want to quit. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
No you can’t use the health excuse. It has to be deeper than that. Don’t go to Google either. The decision to quit has to be all about you. You have to own it. No one else’s reasons are going to work here. Some good reasons might be because you want to live longer for your family’s sake. Did you know that smokers’ life expectancies are shorter by almost 15 years than that of a non-smoker? So maybe you want to be around for your grandchildren. Maybe you see yourself leading a more active lifestyle. Or maybe you want other people to see you in a more positive light or you don’t want your kids to think its okay to smoke. These are all good reasons. But yours has to be personal. No cookie cutter reasons here. If you don’t want it for the right reasons, you will relapse eventually.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way and you have your reasons written down (you did write them down didn’t you?), let’s talk about how to go about quitting.
First things first, tell everyone you know that you are going to quit. This includes family, friends, and co-workers. Even tell your dog! I’m sure he’ll appreciate it too. Make it known that you have made your decision.
Now start preparing yourself. You understand that smoking is an addiction and a habit. Both have to be dealt with equally. In most cases, the habit is the harder part. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s talk about the addiction. Your body is going to crave the nicotine as soon as it realizes that it’s missing. There really is nothing you can do here except wait it out. Just remember, you are the boss. You are in control. The nicotine cravings will usually subside within a week after your body realizes you’re not going to give in to its whining. This is the part where your friends and family can help. They’ll understand what’s going on since you told them and can offer support and pampering. You’ll need to do your part as well though. Make sure to drink lots of water and keep healthy snacks within your reach at all times. When the urge to smoke hits, grab some water and chug it down. Think about your reasons to quit that you wrote down earlier. Concentrate on them. Eat some carrot sticks or some other healthy food. The craving will generally pass within a few minutes.
Let me stop here and talk about that last paragraph a little more. It’s important that you plan this out while you are still a smoker. Plan your snacks well. Smoking is habitual, which we’ll talk about a little later, so most smokers have a strong hand to mouth habit. If you haven’t planned your snacks well, you could see a few extra pounds pop up. Try making some individual snack bags that you can keep in the freezer and grab on a daily basis. Fill one with a few crunchy vegetables such as bell pepper slices and carrot sticks. Fill another with dried fruit, and unsalted nuts. Get creative here and put some thought into it. You’re really going to need these. Don’t forget to stock up on bottled water. You’ll need to always have one within reach. Many ex-smokers say that drinking more water helped them fight through the cravings with more ease. So never leave home without your snack baggie and several bottles of water.
Now, let’s move on to the habitual part. Once the nicotine is out of your system, the physical side effects will ease up. The only thing left to do is replace the hand to mouth habit of smoking. Yes, I did say replace. Habits are strange creatures, and I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about “breaking” habits. But here’s the thing. Habits have to be replaced. So we have to find an alternative habit. You’ll be doing this part from the very beginning, so let’s put some good thought into this one. Generally, it will take 28-30 days for a habit to be replaced. You can get used to something much quicker, but for your brain to accept something as the norm, it will take about a month of constant doing. So what do we do? Well this again is going to be an individual response. It’s all about the person who is quitting. As we said, you need to replace the habit with a new one, preferably a nice one. So, let's take first things first. Get out your trusty paper and pencil. Now write down the times you smoke. You know, all smokers have their routines. Is it right after you get out of bed? After breakfast? On the ride to work? Write it all down. Every one. These are the time slots that your habit is at its strongest. You’ll need to develop alternatives for each time slot. Maybe a few exercises after breakfast. Organize your recipe book, plan the day’s menu. Small things that can take the place of the time you generally spend puffing. Do you smoke and drive? This can be a tough one. Here’s an idea though that has helped lots of people. Get a small digital camera and carry with you. Instead of smoking, try looking for photo opportunities. You just might be a budding photographer. You could carry along some books on cd as well to occupy your mind. There are no concrete answers here; this is where planning is crucial. You have to have all this mapped out before your quit date.
Did I just say quit date? Yes, I did. That’s the next step. You’ve made your decision. You’ve written down your reasons. You’ve told everybody about it. You’ve planned your snacks and bought your water. You’ve written down your smoking times and come up with alternative actions. Now it’s time to set a date. No, February 31st isn’t a good day. If your start date is longer than two weeks, you need to go back to the beginning and read about the decision thing again. Seriously, set your date one or two weeks from now at the most. Maybe it’s this Tuesday. Whichever day you choose, again put some thought into this. Make sure you’re not scheduling your quit date around any stressful activities or parties. The night before your quit date, just before bed, go around the house and throw out all your ash trays and lighters. Make sure everything is ready for tomorrow. Get rid of everything that reminds you of smoking. When your quit date arrives, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into full gear. This is when your testing begins. Believe me if you can make it through the first two days, it gets much easier. Keep your trusty pencil and paper handy. Write down how your feeling and review your reasons for quitting often. Repeat them to yourself when needed. Try to avoid people who smoke all together. Avoid them like the plague! It isn’t personal here. You just don’t need to be around it right now. If you’ve planned everything ahead of time, your chances for success are much higher. Above all, don’t get discouraged. If a slip up does happen, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and learn from it. Why did you do it? What triggered it? Learn from it so you can avoid it next time. It’s a brave thing you’re doing. Give yourself a pat. I wish you the best of luck.