SOMETIMES BEING A QUITTER IS GOOD FOR YOU!
Especially when it comes to smoking.
Back in the day (That’s baby-boomer speak for a long, long, time ago.) smoking was cool. Commercials, billboards and TV shows portrayed smoking as glamorous. My teenage friends and I had to try smoking at least once so we could be cool too. Luckily at that time I would rather spend my twenty-five cents (that’s what a pack of cigarettes cost) on a fountain drink and comic books.
I never smoked enough to become physically addicted so while I don’t have first-hand experience at quitting, I have talked with smokers, two of whom are near and dear to me who read my blog, and have struggled with trying to quit their smoking habit. So I told them I would do some research on people who are living happier lives because they have been successful at breaking this habit, and I would share it on my blog.
After much research and conversations with people who were successful at quitting, here are my conclusions. I was able to create a five-step plan to quit smoking and a Stop Smoking Worksheet as a guide. This is to be an individualized plan, based on one’s own situation and triggers, but I have included some examples of some of the most common responses in my research. Here is a downloadable file of the
Five step plan to beat the physical and mental smoking habit.
Step 1 – You Must Want to Quit.
You must want to quit and decide you will quit. This is a prerequisite to a successful quit. Whether you think quitting is hard or you think it’s easy, you are right. Your heart must be bigger than your habit. Understanding the long-term effects of nicotine on your body will help you with this decision.
There is a Case for Quitting.
We know smoking doesn’t kill everyone. About 50 percent of smokers do reach old age, although with yellow teeth, bad breath, premature aging and diminished taste buds, endurance, and eyesight.
Does this sound to you like a recipe for a lifetime of happiness? Wouldn’t you rather live a healthier lifestyle with more opportunity for happy places? There is a case for getting rid of those paper wrappers with leaves rolled up in them.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the life expectancy for a smoker in the United States is about 64, which is 14 years shorter than the national average (which includes smokers). Going by these numbers it becomes clear that few pastimes, habits or addictions are deadlier than smoking. And it’s about much more than just cancer.
- The greater danger is from vascular diseases leading to heart attacks and stroke, which kill more smokers than all cancers combined. Toxins in the tobacco smoke cause inflammation and hardening in the arteries.
- Speeding up your heart during exercise is a good workout for your heart, but it is unhealthy for your heart rate to increase when you are inactive, and that is what happens when you smoke. This can cause long-term heart problems, which include cardiac infarction, heart disease and more. The longer you smoke, the more stress you are putting on your heart, and you increase your risk of a heart problem.
- Nicotine also stimulates your respiratory and vascular system. People who are craving nicotine may have faster breathing. Their anxiousness and nervousness caused by the nicotine can cause irregularly high breathing which in turn limits their physical abilities.
- An increase of blood pressure, which is standard for nicotine users, is also dangerous. This puts your heart at risk and creates an unhealthy environment for many of your bodily systems.
- Nearly as common as lung cancer among smokers is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which entails the narrowing of airways in the lung, largely in the form of chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Bronchitis is a result of smoking-induced inflammation; emphysema stems from cigarette smoking hardening the alveoli, the little sacks in the lungs where oxygen meets blood.
- If an early painful death doesn’t bother you, think about life-quality issues. Smokers get sick more often because smoke paralyzes cilia in the lungs whose purpose is to sweep out dirt and bacteria. Smokers have less endurance, particularly sexual endurance, because carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the blood.
How Nicotine Affects Your Brain.
It’s easy to get addicted to nicotine. When you smoke, nicotine is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Within 10 seconds of entering your body, the nicotine reaches your brain. There it activates what experts call the “reward pathways” – the parts of your brain that create pleasure sensations. It sends a rush of dopamine to the brain and triggers a temporary happy, euphoric feeling.
Then the natural function of dopamine and serotonin is suppressed and nicotine becomes required to produce their efforts. The dependency becomes reinforced with time and repetition.
But the nicotine wears off quickly, and the faux-happiness is gone, so you light up another cigarette. This physical reaction changes the chemistry of your brain. You become physically addicted – needing more and more nicotine to get the same effect.
The Double Whammy – Physical Addiction and Mental Habit
Nicotine addiction is two-fold: the physical addiction that cigarettes have on your body, and the psychological or mental hold the routine of smoking has on your brain. The key to a successful quit is to attack your addiction on both fronts.
The good news:
Scientists say it only takes about five non-smoking days for nicotine to be out of your system. Once you get past the physical addiction, then you only have the mental habit to overcome.
It’s easy to blame the physical addiction, but in fact, your beliefs and thoughts control your actions that support your mental habit. Consider these ideas
- If smoking is simply a matter of physical addiction only, how can you sleep all night without a nicotine fix?
- I have talked to people who were forced to stop smoking during a hospital stay who feel better because of it. But when they leave the hospital and there is nothing forcing them to abstain from smoking their mental habit takes control, and they buy the next pack.
- I have also known expectant mothers who were able to stop smoking while pregnant because their mental focus was on the health of their unborn child. Then after their child is born, although they are no longer physically addicted, the incentive is gone and they start smoking again.
- I know smokers who dislike cold weather but don’t want to smoke inside their house because of the odor and stains that penetrate their furnishings and clothing. Thus they routinely don their layers of clothes and a heavy overcoat to go outside in the bitter cold for a smoke.
Keep in mind after the first week of non-smoking you are managing a mental habit that you want to stop, and you control your actions.
Knowing all this, consider your mental attitude, your beliefs, and thoughts. Ask yourself these questions.
- Do I believe the risks are real?
- Do I want to experience these risks?
- Do I sincerely want to quit?
- Do I believe, with the right motivation, mental attitude, and support I can quit?
If the answers are no, nothing short of a life changing, near-death, or similar wake-up call that renders you physically unable to smoke will help you.
If the answers are yes, then you CAN quit. You believe you can defeat the physical addiction and the mental habit that controls your physical actions. Read on.
Step 2 – Identify the Reasons You Want to Quit.
On your Stop Smoking Worksheet write down your reasons for quitting, then create positive self affirmations around these reasons. Read them throughout the day if you feel the urge to smoke. This will help you control your thoughts, words and actions that control your habits. Some examples are included on the Stop Smoking Worksheet.
Step 3 – Defeat the Physical Addiction.
Be prepared to control the withdrawal symptoms and remember they are temporary.
When you make the decision to quit smoking, your cigarette cravings don’t quit with you. So you’ll need to be prepared to go through nicotine withdrawal for the first week of your quit.
On your worksheet, write down your strategy for getting through the nicotine withdrawal period.
Withdrawal from nicotine produces a number of symptoms, including anxiousness, nervousness, shaking, moodiness, depression, inattentiveness, irritability, headaches, and cravings. These will disappear within a short time.
It takes up to 5 days before it’s out of the system, and people report the third day bringing the most intensive nicotine cravings. You may want to plan to be especially busy or involved with something during this time. You can speed up the process of removing nicotine from your body by drinking water, exercising, eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as oranges.
Over-the-counter nicotine withdrawal products like lozenges, gum and nicotine patches may be helpful during the “weaning” period. Nicotine replacement therapy like Nicorette® or NicoDerm® CQ® can double your chances of quitting. These help to overcome the ‘habit,’ and physical withdrawal symptoms may be less noticeable. But realize you must defeat the mental habit for long-term success.
Step 4 – Defeat the Mental Habit.
According to the Respiratory Health Association in Chicago, psychological, mental, or emotional addiction involves the rituals, feelings, or people associated with smoking.
For instance, some people smoke while enjoying their morning cup of coffee or breakfast so they light up each morning without even thinking. It becomes an ingrained part of one’s day so that it is no longer a conscious choice.
Identify the mental, emotional and situational triggers around your urge to smoke and how you plan to replace, manage or avoid them altogether. Write them down on the Stop Smoking Worksheet.
Writing the triggers down will help you plan how to avoid them altogether, or to manage those you may not be able to avoid. To manage these triggers always Stop, Challenge and Choose your response
- Stop: Refocus on the moment. Recognize the triggers and your feelings.
- Challenge: Evaluate why you feel this way. Review your strategy for managing this trigger.
- Choose: When you choose the response that best serves you in the long run, triggers will no longer stimulate you to smoke the cigarette.
Step 5 – Don’t Give Up. You Control Your Destiny.
Good news! If you have tried to quit before, the more you try to quit, the more likely you will be to succeed. This is backed up by years of research.
If you backslide, be conscious of the situation that caused it and determine how to avoid or deal with it in the future. Don’t let one moment of weakness determine your future success. Remember why you quit. Throw those cigarettes away, and repeat your positive affirmations. Stop, Challenge and Choose.
I once broke an annoying habit by making a pact with God that I would no longer do it. You may break a promise to someone else but when you make a pact with God you have to stick to it.
Promise God and that sacred spirit within you that you will never touch a cigarette again. Each time you are tempted, repeat your promise to God.
Any testimonials? If you have been successful at overcoming this habit, I encourage you to share how you did it so other readers may benefit from your experience. Also, if you are successful with this five step method let us know and share your feedback. ❤️