Smoking is injurious to health! We all know it, but still many people are addicted to smoking and no single day begins or ends without a cigarette.
But every time you light one up, you are increasing your risk of lung, bladder, pancreatic, mouth, esophageal and other cancers. Smoking also increases your risk of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, thin bones, obesity and lots more.
In addition, smoking affects mental capacity and memory as well as increasing the likelihood of impotence and reducing fertility. Smoking during pregnancy also affects the unborn child. Women who smoke while pregnant often give birth to low-birth-weight, premature babies.
It’s hard to stop smoking, especially when it is ingrained as a daily ritual. And quitting cold turkey is not an easy task.
The nicotine from cigarettes provides a temporary high. When your body does not get the regular nicotine fix, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Nicotine withdrawal begins quickly, say within 30 to 60 minutes of the last cigarette. The withdrawal can last for several weeks and varies from person to person. Some common withdrawal symptoms include cravings to have a cigarette, irritability, anger, anxiety, nervousness, concentration problems, restlessness, increased appetite, insomnia, fatigue, reduced heart rate and headaches.
No matter how difficult it is to cope with the withdrawal symptoms, know that they are only temporary. The symptoms will stop as soon as the toxins are flushed from your body.
Always remember this good news: Many smokers have quit, and you can also do it!
To successfully quit smoking, you’ll need strong determination and the willpower to work through the nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Also, you need a good plan to start the process, including when you want to quit as well as all the reasons for quitting.
Here are the 10 tips to help you quit smoking.
1. Clean Your Home
As soon as you have decided to quit smoking, it is time to clean your house. This is an important step as it will remove the cigarette smoke stains and smell, which can otherwise make you crave another puff.
- Toss all of your ashtrays and lighters.
- Wash any clothes that smell like smoke.
- Clean your carpets, draperies and upholstery.
- If you smoked in your car, clean it out, too.
- Use air fresheners to get rid of that familiar scent.
A more pleasant and clean environment will make it easier for you to deal with the withdrawal. So, make your home a smoke-free zone. Don’t allow anyone to use tobacco in your home, car or even while sitting next to you in a restaurant.
2. Avoid Smoking Triggers
The next step toward quitting smoking is to avoid the triggers, which can be people, places, things and situations that set off your urge to smoke.
Avoiding these triggers will help reduce your desire to smoke, but it will not stop the cravings entirely. Remember that cravings don’t last long, and you can surely let them pass without lighting up a cigarette.
To outsmart some common smoking triggers:
- Avoid caffeine, which can make your urge for a cigarette very strong. Try drinking water instead.
- Avoid the company of friends who smoke. Instead, try spending time with nonsmokers.
- Go places where smoking isn’t allowed.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep. Being tired can trigger the urge to smoke.
- Try to limit drinking alcohol when you first quit, as alcohol and cigarettes often go hand in hand.
- If you usually smoke after meals, try brushing your teeth, taking a walk, texting a friend or chewing gum to stop the urge.
- When you would normally take a cigarette break at work, play a game on your computer or mobile phone instead.
3. Keep Your Hands and Mouth Busy
After potentially years of smoking, some quitters miss the comfort of a cigarette in their hands or between their teeth. So, look for ways to keep your hands and mouth busy.
To keep your mouth engaged, you can chew sugarless gum, suck on sugarless hard candies, or eat cloves, sunflower seeds, licorice sticks, carrots and celery sticks.
To keep your hands active, instead of grabbing a pack, hold a pen between your fingers, play with a rubber or squeeze ball, knit, do a crossword, solve a puzzle, play an online game or read a book.
When you’re out, carry a drink in the hand that would usually hold your cigarette, or drink from a straw to keep your mouth busy.
4. Practice Deep Breathing
Whenever you feel a strong craving for a cigarette, take a deep breath in and slowly let it out. It will help you relax and calm down.
Deep breathing is very beneficial for those who wish to quit smoking. Apart from strengthening lung capacity, deep breathing also eases nicotine cravings and improves the low mood that smokers often experience upon quitting.
A 2004 study published in Addictive Behaviors reports that controlled deep breathing significantly reduced smoking withdrawal symptoms, including craving for cigarettes and negative affect (tense, irritable), while maintaining the levels of baseline arousal (wide awake, able to concentrate).
To perform deep breathing:
- Lie down on your back or sit straight in a chair.
- Put your hands on your abdomen and relax.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, while expanding your abdomen and then filling your lungs with air. Count to 5 as you inhale.
- Hold your breath and count to 3.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth. Again, count slowly to 5.
- Continue to inhale and exhale deeply for 10 minutes.
5. Drink Water
One important key to overcoming your nicotine addiction is getting your daily water fix. Your body needs water to flush out toxins, so keep drinking water at regular intervals.
By drinking more water, you’ll urinate more, thereby speeding up your body’s elimination of the toxins.
Also, water will help treat headaches, one of the common nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It also helps ease your cough by making it easier for your lungs to clear out mucus.
And if you’re worried about weight gain from quitting smoking, drinking water will help control your increased appetite without changing your eating habits too much.
Carrying a bottle of water with you will also keep your hands and mouth busy.
The amount of water you need to drink depends on your health, climatic conditions and physical activity level. However, most people should drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily.
6. Try Acupuncture
If you need help quitting smoking, make an appointment with an acupuncturist.
Acupuncture can curb cigarette cravings quite successfully. It works by triggering the release of endorphins (natural pain relievers) that allow the body to relax. This in turn stops jitters, curbs cravings, lessens irritability and restlessness, increases relaxation and helps detoxify the body.
An 8-month and 5-year follow-up study published in Preventive Medicine in 2001 reports that adequate acupuncture treatment may help motivated smokers to reduce their smoking, or even quit completely, and the effect may last for at least 5 years.
Along with a reduced desire to smoke, subjects reported that cigarettes tasted worse than before the treatments.
7. Take Up a New Hobby
To help you quit and fight nicotine withdrawal symptoms, consider finding yourself a new and interesting hobby.
Any kind of hobby like painting, pottery or creative writing can take your mind off smoking. This is because the newly found interest can occupy your mind and body to help you deal with cravings.
A 2014 study published in PLOS ONE suggests that doing “self-expanding activities” like hobbies or puzzles can help alleviate nicotine cravings. This in turn can make it easier to quit.
When it comes to hobbies, choose an activity that you are interested in or something that you’ve always wanted to do.
8. Do Some Meditation
Meditation is one of the best ways to handle some of the psychological aspects of nicotine withdrawal.
Meditation helps fight a negative mood and brings about calmness. It relaxes and calms both the body and the mind, which in turn reduces your stress level.
By addressing the root cause of stress and anxiety, the symptoms abate on their own as your stress level drops. Meditation also helps you cope with withdrawal symptoms as well as the respiratory and heart disease brought on by smoking.
A 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that smokers trained with a form of mindfulness meditation known as Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) curtailed their smoking by 60 percent. However, subjects in a control group that received a relaxation regimen showed no reduction.
Start doing mediation for a few minutes initially and gradually increase the time to at least 10 minutes a day.
9. Start Exercising Regularly
Taking up healthy exercise like running or cycling not only improves your health but also makes it easier to quit smoking.
Exercise unleashes a flood of endorphins, which often help curb withdrawal headaches. Exercise can also speed up your body’s self-repair process.
The calories you burn will also ward off weight gain as you quit smoking.
In a 2009 study published in Psychopharmacology, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for the first time to show how exercise changes brain activity in smokers and found that it may help reduce cravings for nicotine.
It also backs up previous studies showing that just one short burst of moderate exercise can significantly reduce nicotine cravings.
A 10-minute walk in an open area whenever you have a strong craving for a puff can really make a difference in your effort to quit smoking.
10. Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Don’t try to diet while you give up cigarettes. Your body needs all the nutrients to help fight the nicotine withdrawal and recover quickly.
When quitting smoking, keep your diet simple and healthy. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. These are good for your whole body.
As your appetite increases after you quit smoking, find a healthy snack you enjoy like baby carrots or celery sticks. Carry these snacks with you at all times so that when a craving strikes, you can have something to put in your mouth and slowly nibble on it.
You can also switch to drinking a cup of herbal tea when you would usually have a cigarette. Slowly sipping a cup of warm tea will provide the same stress relief as a hit of nicotine.