On average, it takes a person about 8 times before they can quit smoking successfully. We all know about the serious effects that smoking has on our health – each year, millions of death are linked to the consequence of tobacco smoking. Why is it still so hard to quit?
We share more about the science behind the addiction and smoking cessation tips to help you on your quit smoking journey.
Nicotine triggers a physical and psychological pleasure response
Before starting on your quit smoking journey, it’s good to first understand why it’s so hard to stop smoking. There are three factors that make up a smoking addiction
- Physical: Nicotine in cigarettes are addictive. Smoking nicotine triggers a release of dopamine in your brain, which is responsible for that feel-good feeling. However, smokers eventually build up a tolerance for nicotine, so that you need to keep smoking more to feel the same rush.
- Mental: For many smokers, smoking has become part of their lifestyle and daily routine. Most smokers tend to smoke at specific moments of their day, such as before heading to work or after meals.
- Social: Many smokers first start smoking because of their friends or co-workers. Workplaces in which smoking is used as a break to bond with colleagues may also make it harder to stop smoking.
Within 20 minutes of quitting, your body starts to recover
Quitting smoking lowers your risk of developing various types of cancers and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes.
The benefits of stopping smoking can start as soon as 20 minutes after your last cigarette. Within the first hour that you stop smoking, your heart rate will drop and return to normal and your circulation improves.
Additionally, when you stop smoking, you may also experience increased energy and a heightened sense of smell and taste. That’s because smoking damages the nerve endings in your nose and mouth, which dulls your senses!
5 Actionable Steps to Quit Smoking
1. Commit to it
Set a date for when you want to quit. Write this on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you’ll see every day or set it as your wallpaper on your phone. This acts as a visual reminder for you to stay on your quit journey.
Get rid of all temptation at home leading up to the day. That means throwing away all packs of cigarettes at home, so you won’t have the chance to smoke, even if you want to.
2. Bring in social support
Let all your friends and family know when you’re planning to quit smoking. Lean on them for motivation to stay on your quit journey, especially when you experience withdrawal symptoms from the nicotine.
Having people to cheer you on can be a huge source of encouragement. Additionally, you can organise activities with them, such as working out together, to distract yourself from wanting to smoke.
3. Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy to manage your nicotine cravings
While some people can quit cold turkey, it may not be a method that works for everyone. When you quit smoking, you will experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms that may feel difficult to overcome.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Difficulties concentrating on what you’re doing
- Feeling tired or irritable
- Having headaches and coughing
Withdrawal symptoms will be the hardest in the first 48 – 72 hours after your last cigarette. After which, your body becomes more used to not having nicotine.
To manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms, you can try Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). NRT works by administering nicotine to your body in small doses, to help combat the feeling of withdrawal. As time goes on, the dosage of nicotine in NRT is reduced gradually, until your body no longer craves it.
Research has shown that NRT can increase your chances of quitting by 50 – 60%. It can be prescribed by doctors during a consultation, so speak to a doctor about your suitability for the product.
4. Learn new stress management skills
For many, smoking is a way to cope with stress. Tackle the root cause of the issue by equipping yourself with stress management skills.
Start by identifying your triggers. What situations cause your fingers to itch for a cigarette? Is it after speaking to your boss or when you’re faced with a difficult task at work? Knowing what triggers your urge to smoke helps you to learn how to cope in a more productive way instead.
5. Create new routines
Find ways to replace smoking in your daily routine. For example, rather than reach for a cigarette at the end of the day, use that time to head outside for a run. If you often associate smoking with drinking coffee in the morning, have tea instead.
The point is to create new daily routines which don’t include a cigarette break!
Ultimately, there is no best way to quit smoking. Choose a method that works best for you. Additionally, don’t feel too discouraged if you slip up and have a cigarette. Quitting smoking is a long journey and you have to be patient with yourself too.
Let us support you on your goal to quit smoking. Our doctors are able to prescribe NRT if you require it. Speak a doctor anytime on the DA app.