We all know that smoking is bad, so we won’t bore you with the details of the damage that smoking will take on a person’s body. What we will give you is two bits of good news! 1) If you stop smoking once and for all then you can reverse much of the damage done to your health, and 2) we have some interesting insight that you may not have heard before, and which might help to support you in quitting.
Understanding the habit
It is good to stop thinking of smoking as being physically addictive, and see it instead as behavioural, habitual, and psychological. Did you know that after 100 hours without smoking, you’re no longer physically addicted? So, by day 5 of quitting, you’re not actually physically addicted to cigarettes! We’re not suggesting that psychological and habitual addiction, cravings, and symptoms are not real – far from it. Smoking is, for many, a difficult habit to break. But a good step towards breaking the habit is understanding the addiction.
So, if we begin to think of smoking as habitual, then the best way to help you break a habit is to replace it with a new one. Identify at what points you most crave cigarettes throughout the day and what you are doing at that time. Now, plan for a habit you can pick up in place of smoking which distracts you from your cravings. A study at UCL found that the average time to pick up a new habit is 66 days – so this may be a more realistic time frame to break the habit for good.
One great tip is to do exercise whenever you feel yourself craving cigarettes. Scientific research suggests that exercise actually curbs cravings and may even prompt your brain to produce anti-craving chemicals. The key is finding something that satisfies or distracts you from whatever has brought the craving on, so try out some different new habits to see what works best for you:
– Smoke for an energy boost? Try replacing a cigarette with a double espresso.
– Enjoy a cigarette with coffee or after eating? Why not have a chocolate or sweet treat (one of the few times we will recommend sweets – make the most of it)!
– Does drinking alcohol prompt you to smoke? Try switching to non-alcoholic drinks, or hold a straw or cocktail stick which you can chew on instead.
– Find comfort in having a cigarette in your hand whilst socialising? Hold a glass or another object instead – you could even buy a fidget cube!
– Do you like to smoke whilst walking? Perhaps chewing gum will help.
– Like to take a smoking break at work? Plan a short walk with a colleague instead.
You get the idea! The key is to pinpoint what your triggers are and find a new habit to keep you busy instead. Distracting yourself and rewarding yourself are important ways to help curb your cravings. So, after a meal, do the washing up, phone a friend, go for a little walk or jog, or do a workout – whatever you find works best for you.
This is just one tip, and every individual will find that different methods will help. But if this helps just one person quit smoking, then we will be very happy! For further help and advice on giving up smoking, visit a website such as NHS, Giving Up Smoking, or speak to a health professional.