The dangers of smoking are endless, and you have likely heard of at least one of them before. Whether it be the risk of cancer, the effects on the brain, or the toll it takes on your wallet, the list is a lengthy one. In an attempt to encourage taking charge of the problem that many Americans face, the following are reasons why you or someone you know should quit smoking, along with some helpful tips to make the switch to a tobacco-free lifestyle.
Fight Procrastination Day was recently recognized on September 6 as an unofficial holiday to promote taking responsibility for the important tasks in your life and combating the urge to put them off. Coincidentally, this idea of procrastination is a major contributor to why most smokers have yet to quit. However, procrastination is not the only deterrent.
The science is pretty clear for what makes quitting so hard: nicotine is one of the most addictive substances. It releases dopamine in your brain, causing you to crave more each time you inhale. When you stop smoking, there is then a deficiency of dopamine, causing you to feel anxious or depressed. Some think that nicotine helps them focus and eases their anxiety but in reality, nicotine causes stress and anxiety. By continuing to use it as the stimulant that it is, the symptoms will only worsen.
With these forces acting against you, the road to quitting can seem daunting. However, with the right knowledge, a solid plan, and a confident mindset, the process can be a success.
Why to stop smoking:
As shared by smokefree.gov, each time you inhale any amount of cigarette smoke, the chemicals in tobacco make their way to your lungs and then blood, circulating through every organ in your body. However, 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your body will start to heal. In just three days, the nicotine and chemicals will leave your body. Although the process of withdrawal can make you feel worse at first, think of it as a sign of your body healing.
The benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle include lower heart rate and blood pressure, less coughing, easier breathing, and normal levels of carbon monoxide in the blood. The risk of cancer of the lung, kidney, pancreas, mouth, throat, esophagus, or bladder are all lowered. The risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half after just one year of quitting, and after 15 years of being smoke-free, the risk is the same as that of a non-smoker. The risk of stroke and bronchitis is also lowered.
With these health factors in mind, it is clear that you can have a pretty good handle on your health just by quitting and staying smoke-free.
But, your own health is not the only aspect that will benefit from your quitting. Your friends and family will also reap the benefits as they will no longer be affected by the dangers of secondhand smoke. By starting your process of quitting, and then successfully maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle, you are also setting a good example to those around you of how to take care of yourself, or maybe how the path towards quitting is possible for them, too.
How and when to stop:
For smokers, cigarettes consume a large part of their day. Removing them can create distress, leaving you with an empty part of your life that needs filling. To combat this, as well as some of the many triggers that make it difficult to quit, the following tips can be used:
- 1. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to talk with a counselor about any advice you may need. Free help is always available!
- 2. Keep your hands busy
- Grab a stress ball
- Play cards or download games on your phone
- Exercise with a friend
- 3. Eat a healthy snack or cook a meal
- Create something yummy that will keep you busy and give your mouth something to do to fight cravings.
- 4. Try behavioral therapy
- Meeting with a counselor could help you identify why you started smoking, or the parts of your life that keep you wanting to smoke.
- 5. Work with your doctor to find medications or treatments that could help
- Nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, sprays, or inhalers, as well as prescription medications, could all help aid your process.
- 6. Join a support group
- Talking with others may seem uncomfortable at first, but research shows that finding people with similar situations as you helps you not only feel less alone, but gives you someone to relate to.
- 7. Keep your family and friends close
- Talking on the phone or catching up with someone will help you stay occupied and keep you distracted from thinking about cravings.
- 8. Avoid places that remind you of smoking. Go to restaurants, movies, stores, and even hotels where smoking is prohibited.
- 9. Start a piggy bank of savings
- Add however much you would normally spend on cigarettes to your savings jar each day. Watching how much you are saving can motivate you to keep going, or maybe even help you save up for something you love.
- 10. Remind yourself of the benefits
- No matter what your reason is for quitting, give yourself reinforcement that the lows are going to be worth it.
As discussed earlier, procrastination can set in and delay quitting. To fix this, choose a day and either quit abruptly on that day or quit gradually until that day. Research suggests that neither choice results in significantly greater success over the other, so choose what will work best for you.
Most of all, let yourself breathe. The process will have its inevitable ups and downs, and allowing yourself to work through them will not only remind you of how much you do not want to go back but of how rewarding it will be once you can say you did it.
There may be people in your life who have been urging you to quit, or it may just be something you want to do for yourself. Nonetheless, the goal of quitting must be one that you, and only you, are motivated to accomplish in order to quit for good.
No one ever said the process is an easy one — most call it a roller coaster — but with 1.3 million Americans quitting annually, it is not an impossible one. For more information about the Indiana Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW / 1-800-784-8669) available sever days a week in multiple languages, visit the Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition for Porter County website here. Find additional resources on the supporter’s websites: Smokefree Indiana and Valparaiso University College of Nursing and Health Professions.