Everybody knows the bad news about smoking - it lowers your life expectancy, decreases your fitness and has people coughing, turning up their noses and lecturing you on the health hazards of your habit. The good news is that nearly as many people have successfully quit smoking as still smoke. Life expectancy rates of those who quit smoking while they're fairly young are almost the same as for those who have never smoked.
Before you decide to quit it is important to ask yourself some questions:
- Is this a good time to quit? - i.e. not too stressful a period, not a lot of change happening in your life.
- Am I likely to be successful? - i.e. Are you convinced you're ready to quit? Are you prepared to deal with the side effects? Are other people supportive of you quitting?
- If you've tried unsuccessfully to stop smoking in the past, ask yourself 'what did I learn from that experience and what can I do differently this time?
- Am I the type of person who should quit "cold turkey" or would it be better to cut down gradually?
Some strategies for quitting:
- Make it public - tell your family and friends you are quitting, and let them know what is and what is not helpful.
- Be prepared for hard times, especially the first few days - withdrawal symptoms will hit hardest during the first week and will gradually weaken over time.
- Stop smoking first thing in the morning. You have already gone 8 hours without smoking by then, so you are already a success.
- Find ways to replace smoking. Learn relaxation techniques if you used smoking to calm down. Carry sugar-free mints, cinnamon sticks or gum. Consider using nicotine patches as substitutes for cigarettes.
- Try to connect with someone who has successfully quit and have that person support you.
- Be mentally prepared with things to say and do when you feel the urge to smoke. Tell yourself how you are getting stronger, reducing your risk of cancer, moving towards running that marathon, becoming "superior" to non-quitters, getting closer to becoming an obnoxious ex-smoker, etc. Imagine your lungs becoming cleaner and air flowing more freely each hour you go without a cigarette. Go out for a walk, turn on some music and dance, clean a cupboard or do anything else which is incompatible with smoking.
- Throw away ashtrays, matches and lighters along with your cigarettes and avoid, as much as possible, triggers to smoking.
- Keep track of the money you are saving and plan to buy something you wouldn't normally buy with that money.
- Be prepared for social situations that trigger smoking - i.e. going to a bar or restaurant, coffee breaks. Avoid alcohol if possible as it weakens your resolve.
- Start doing activities that are not compatible with smoking, such as exercising.
- Give yourself positive messages such as "I am a smoke-free person", "I am a healthy individual", "I have a lot of willpower", etc.
- Emotions such as anxiety, anger or depression are likely to lead to the urge to smoke. Have a written plan on how you are going to deal with these emotions in a more positive way.
Strategies for Cutting Down the Amount You Smoke:
- Count your cigarettes so you can establish your starting point.
- Set specific goals - for example cutting down by 50%
- Gradually restrict the places in which you allow yourself to smoke.
- Switch to cigarette brands you don't like, and start holding your cigarette in the opposite hand.
- Keep only enough cigarettes for your reduced daily goal, and never buy cigarettes in bulk.
- Gradually lengthen the amount of time between cigarettes; try postponing lighting up a cigarette for a gradually increasing amount of time when you feel the urge to smoke. Smoke less of your cigarette and throw away the unused part.
NAIT Student Counselling staff are available to help you with this or other concerns. To book an appointment come to Room W111-PB, call 780-378-6133, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.