As the New Year approaches, many smokers are planning to quit and resolving that this year will be the one they finally kick the habit for good. Unfortunately, many will fail. Nicotine is highly addictive, and the fact people become dependent upon smoking in a variety of environments makes it one of the most difficult habits to break. No matter what method you use to quit smoking, you can count on having at least a few rough weeks. But people are much more likely to quit permanently if they establish a healthy plan.
Here are some keys to success:
Wanting to Quit
Many smokers quit because of pressure from family or friends, because they can’t smoke at work, or because they’re concerned about their health. And while these are valid reasons, they can also be a recipe for relapse. Most smokers have to truly want to quit in order to do so successfully, and no amount of pressure from children, doctors, friends, or family can force it to happen.
Smoking is a highly social habit. People smoke while chatting with friends, while drinking at a bar, and while commiserating with coworkers. Successful quitters are able to get social support. Some common elements of helpful social support include:
• Nonjudgmental encouragement from friends and family
• Someone to talk to when you feel like smoking
• Avoiding people who pressure you to smoke
Lower Stress Levels
Most smokers smoke more when they’re stressed. If they try to quit during a high-stress time, they’re more likely to fail. This doesn’t mean you should wait until your life is stress-free to quit smoking, but quitting during times of high stress can set you up for failure. Try quitting at a time when your job isn’t putting a lot of pressure on you and you’re not dealing with family problems. For many people, the New Year is an ideal time because they get time off from work and their families are still basking in the closeness and love of the holidays.
Smoking is as much a habit as an addiction, and smokers can grow dependent upon having something in hand while they talk, work, or cope with stress. Establishing a healthy replacement behavior can help you stave off the desire to smoke. Some people replace smoking with overeating, but a better strategy is to chew gum, exercise, suck on a lollipop, or talk to a loved one. If you can manage to incorporate exercise or another healthy habit into your quitting plan, this New Year could be your healthiest one yet.
Medication and Nicotine Substitution
Nicotine replacement therapy includes patches, gums, and even inhalers. These supportive therapies can reduce your craving for nicotine, and many people find that the nicotine reduces their moodiness and some of the physical side effects that sometimes come with quitting smoking. Similarly, medication designed to help you quit can prevent depression, reduce your cravings, or interfere with nicotine receptors in your body. These treatments are not guarantees of success, but most people have better luck if they use medication or nicotine replacement as they try to quit. Talk to your doctor about the best options for your specific needs and health status, as all medications have some side effects.
- Glynn, D. A., Cryan, J. F., Kent, P., Flynn, R. A., & Kennedy, M. P. (2009). Update on smoking cessation therapies. Advances in Therapy, 26(4), 369-382. doi: 10.1007/s12325-009-0022-9
- Kaufman, J. L. (2005). Smoking Cessation. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(19), 2434-2434. doi: 10.1001/jama.294.19.2434-a
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011, April 19). Smoking cessation: Creating a quit-smoking plan. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/smoking-cessation/SK00055
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