Every March, one day is dedicated to No Smoking Day, a day designed to help smokers give up for good. But, there’s no need to wait for No Smoking Day to roll around. There’s never a bad time to kick the habit, although this is usually easier said than done. Whilst it can be one of the trickiest things to quit, there are a few things you can do to give yourself the best chance for success.
This is the first step and should happen before you quit cold turkey. Choose a time and date when you know you won’t be stressed, and make sure you remove all reminders of smoking, like lighters, ashtrays and the smell of smoke. It also pays to have a contingency plan in place for when cravings hit; make a list of things you can do instead of smoking, it could be as simple as chewing some gum or walking the dog.
What’s your reason?
This will be your best motivation when you’re giving up. Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit and keep it somewhere visible. Whenever you’re tempted to have a cigarette, look at the list and remind yourself of your personal motivation for quitting. If you’re giving up for health reasons, make a list reminding yourself of all the risks associated with smoking, such as lung cancer and heart disease. These can also be powerful motivators to help you stop.
When it comes to addiction, giving up can be extremely stressful both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, stress can exacerbate cravings and make it doubly difficult to give up. Schedule in plenty of time to allow yourself to unwind and destress. Try having a massage, a soothing herbal tea or practising mindfulness to keep you calm and collected.
This is when your prepared list will come in handy. Make sure you have plenty of things to do to distract yourself from your craving, whether it’s playing a sport, reading a good book or learning something new. Whatever you choose to do, the more you can distract yourself from your cravings, the easier it will be to ignore them.
The three-minute rule
When your cravings are strong, it can make time seem like it’s standing still. In these situations, it’s worth remembering that subconscious cravings don’t usually last more than a few minutes. Keep a clock or watch close by and time yourself for 3 minutes, by which point your craving should have subsided. This will help you keep perspective on time and remind you that you can get through your cravings!
Consider nicotine replacement options
A tried and tested method by many quitters, nicotine replacement options can do the job where other techniques just aren’t cutting it. The best strategy is to use slow release products like patches to help minimise cravings throughout the day, and carry a fast acting product, like a nasal spray, to relieve any sudden, intense cravings. You won’t get the same ‘hit’ this way, but NRT is a great way to slowly wean your body off of nicotine addiction without the dangerous toxins found in cigarettes.
Know your triggers
If you know you usually smoke when you’re drinking or after lunch, avoid doing these things at the same time whilst you’re trying to quit. If you really can’t change your routine, find a different activity to do at these times to distract yourself.
Money is a great motivator, and saving the cash you would have spent on cigarettes is a great way to stay on track. Have a ‘smoking jar’ somewhere visible in your home and put all the money you save from giving up smoking in it. Having this visible reminder will give you all the more reason to stay motivated.
Set markers and reward yourself
Give yourself specific goals and milestones to achieve; it could be as simple as not smoking for a week, or even a few days. Once you’ve reached your goals, reward yourself. You could even use money from your savings jar to buy yourself a treat!
Smokefree NHS: key facts and statistics
- smoking is the nation’s no.1 killer
- two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18
- smoking harms nearly every organ of the body
- smoking increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and dementia
- secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone exposed to it, especially children who breathe faster and have less well developed lungs, airways and immune systems
Source: Public Health England
Ready to quit smoking, but not sure how to do it?
There’s lots of free support available to help you go Smoke Free and give up for good. Visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree to find the help that works for you.