So, you’ve decided to quit smoking. That’s awesome, and you’ll undoubtedly notice that your health and overall sense of well-being will improve exponentially after you’ve quit, but the first few weeks going smoke-free will be hell on wheels (and not in that “good” way). Though nicotine itself will leave your body relatively quickly, a long-standing habit is difficult to break, and it’ll take a few months to get past the psychological addiction as well as the physical one.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you out a bit.
1. Have a Strong Support System
It’s important to let your friends and family know that you’re serious about quitting, and why you want to do so: telling other people makes you accountable to others as well as to yourself, and they’ll be able to help you out by being supportive and encouraging when you need them to be. Make sure they understand that you’re going to be a grump-faced jerk for a little while as you try to break the addiction, but that you appreciate their support. Let them know exactly what you need from them (keep you away from cigarettes; distract you; let you lie on the floor watching Die Hard 50 times in a row, etc.) and let them help you when you need it—don’t be stubborn and try to face this alone.
2. Cut Back Before Cutting Out Completely
If you’ve been a moderate-to-heavy smoker for a while, quitting cold turkey will be absolutely horrible, and you’ll be far more likely to jump right back into smoking out of sheer desperation. Start by cutting back by a couple of cigarettes a day for a week, then cut down more each consecutive week. Once you’re down to 1 or 2 smokes a day, you’ll be in a much better space to cut it out completely.
3. Take it One Day at a Time
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, but if you’re staring at the seemingly endless horizon of a thousand-mile journey, you’re going to plunk your butt down on the ground, cry a bit, and light up a smoke. It may sound difficult, but try not to think about how much time it’s going to take for you to kick this habit: try to stay present, in the moment, one moment at a time.
Any time you start to feel overwhelmed, bring your attention back to your breathing, and recognize just how many minutes you’ve spent that day not smoking. See if you’re able to add another minute to that, and then another. Soon you’ll get distracted by something else, and at the end of the day it’ll be a great epiphany to see that you’ve spent 20+ hours not smoking.
4. Drink Water, and Chew Fennel Seeds
The former sounds like pretty solid advice, but you might be wondering about the latter: fennel is a mild diuretic (it helps eliminate water from the body), so drinking plenty of water + chewing fennel = flushing toxins out of your body more quickly. Fennel also helps to freshen breath, and keeps your mouth active when cravings might arise so you’re not tempted to toss food in there instead.
5. Get Active
Nothing makes you appreciate a clearer cardiovascular system than physical activity. If you’ve been mostly sedentary, try Yoga or Tai Chi to get you up and moving without straining yourself, or take up swimming: it’s a full-body exercise that can be as gentle or challenging as you need it to be.
More active folks can sign up with a running group (which will also help you socialize with people who have healthy lifestyles), so there’s a solid support/encouragement system in that social group as well. You can run with others at the same level as yourself, and you’ll feel great as you all progress together.
6.Take Up a Hobby
Keeping your hands (and mind) focused on a specific task will keep you from thinking about shoving cigarettes into your face, and you’re less likely to have cravings when you’re focused intently on something amazing. Aim for a hobby that requires a significant amount of care and concentration, and begin with small projects that you can complete in a day or two: finishing them quickly will give you a sense of accomplishment, and will keep you from getting frustrated with them and turning back to cigarettes to calm you.
Video games can also be distracting, though turning to something like World of Warcraft to get over your smoking addiction might not be the best idea: you’ll just be trading one vice for another.
7. Stay Away from Smokers
This one might be the most difficult, especially if your social circle is mostly comprised of people who smoke, or if the activities you participate in on a regular basis encourage smoking. Unfortunately, it’s often when we try to kick a bad habit that we discover who our true friends are: when you tell people around you that you’re trying to quit smoking, it’s more than likely that a few of them will make fun of you for it, and try to mock you or pressure you into having the occasional drag. Those who aren’t proud of their own addictions tend to encourage others to join them in it so they don’t feel as guilty, and they have someone with them who’s along for the ride. You could very well find yourself in awkward situations with people you considered friends, but who will give you no support as you try to give up smoking for good.
If situations like these arise, you’ll need to distance yourself for a little while until you’ve made enough progress that you won’t be enticed by others who may offer you cigarettes. If certain people give you grief about your choice, then it might be a good idea to re-evaluate your relationship with them.
Be patient with yourself, and give yourself time to heal as the nicotine works its way out of your system. You’ll feel like absolute hell for a while, and you’ll be a cranky, snarling mess to be around, but that passes quickly—before you know it, you won’t have any more cravings, and you’ll be able to run up a few flights of stairs without wheezing.
Featured photo credit: The Last Cigarette via Shutterstock