Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. About 480,000 premature deaths occur each year. Even with these staggering statistics, people still continue to smoke.
Because quitting can be overwhelming. It’s not only physically, but mentally addictive as well. A person has to change their lifestyle, habits and coping strategies. Many drivers say the damage is done – so why quit now. This could not be further from the truth. Just twenty minutes after quitting, the heart rate drops to a normal level. Within twelve hours carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop to normal. Two weeks to three months after quitting, the risk of heart attack begins to drop and lung function begins to improve; coughing and shortness of breath decrease. After one year, the risk for heart disease is half that of a smoker. After five years the risk of stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker and after 10 years, the risk of lung cancer is half that of a smoker.
So how do you kick the habit? Here are some very healthful tips:
- Start by making a list of reasons to quit. Place the list in a visible location. Choose reasons that resonate with you on a personal level. This is your value and should be recalled during a difficult time in the quitting process.
- Make another list of when you are most likely to smoke. Make note of what you’re doing at the time and how bad the cravings are to see if specific times of the day or activities increase your cravings.
- Make a third list of what to do when cravings do hit. Suggestions include: take a walk, drink a glass of water, kiss your partner or child, throw the ball with the dog, play a game, wash the car, clean out a cupboard or closet, chew a piece of gum, take a nap, get a cup of coffee or tea, practice your deep breathing. Make copies of the list and keep one with you at all times so when the craving hits, you can take out the list and quickly do something from it.
- Quit when you are in a good mood.
- Put the names of family members and friends you love on each of the cigarettes in a pack before you smoke it. Take note of the loved ones names as you smoke and consider how your smoking impacts them.
- Put all the money you are saving in a large glass jar, so you can see how much you are saving by not smoking.
- Switch to decaf until you’ve been cigarette-free for two months. Too much caffeine can cause the jitters.
- Ask people who know you to remind you of challenges you have successfully overcome. This will give you the self-confidence to stick with your pledge not to smoke.
- Talk to your Doctor, there are many medications these days that can help with the physical withdrawal symptoms.
- Set a quitting date and stick to it. Remove any reminders of smoking from your home.
- Tell your family and friends, ask for their support. No one should be alone when quitting.
- Find other ways to decrease your stress. Meditation and exercise are good options.
- Stock up on healthy snacks like carrots, fruit or nuts. You can reach for these when you have the urge to smoke. In place of smoking cigarettes, try sunflower seeds, sugar-free lollipops, or gum. You can also switch your cigarette habit for a nut habit. Eat nuts in their shell, this way, you’re using your hands and your mouth, getting the same physical and oral sensations you get from smoking.
- The act of brewing the tea and slowing sipping it as it cools will provide the same stress relief as a hit of nicotine. Or carry cinnamon-flavored toothpicks and suck on one whenever a cigarette craving hits.
- Whenever you’re tempted, take a look at all the ways smoking can damage your health:
- Increases risk of lung, bladder, pancreatic, mouth, esophageal, and other cancers.
- Increases risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure
- Increases risk of diabetes
- Reduces levels of folate, low levels of which can increase the risk of heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease
- Affects mental capacity and memory
- Contributes to thin bones
- Increases likelihood of impotence
- Reduces fertility
- Affects ability to smell and taste
- Try acupuncture, there’s some evidence that auricular acupuncture (i.e., needles in the ears) curbs cigarette cravings successfully.
- When you have a weak moment go back to your value list and remember all the benefits of quitting.
- Talk to a health coach. Health coaching uses a process called motivational interviewing. This process assesses your readiness to quit, involves asking powerful open-ended questions, mirrors your thoughts, and formulates goals and rewards to encourage you through those difficult days.