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To Quit or not to Quit?
As a non-smoker, I know I am guilty of saying to numerous patients, “You need to stop smoking” without fully realising how difficult it actually is for most people. Why is it so hard to quit? Well to put it simply, smokers are addicts and what they are addicted to is nicotine. When inhaled, nicotine causes the release of a chemical called dopamine which stimulates the pleasure centres in the brain and makes you feel good. Unfortunately this effect quickly wears off and the smoker then craves another cigarette….and another…..and another.
For someone who smokes, the act of smoking is often part of a daily routine; the wake up smoke, the coffee break smoke, the stressed out smoke etc. Many people feel that not only is a cigarette one of life’s simple pleasures but it can also become a crutch i.e. the person relies on a cigarette to get them through the day especially if they find themselves in a stressful situation.
Many smokers also develop social groups around smoking – people will head for smoke breaks with co-workers or friends. There is also the fear of missing out on the “craic” so to speak, if you don’t follow your friends outside for a smoke break. Therefore the social and behavioural aspects of smoking can be just as challenging to overcome as the physical dependence.
So how do you quit?
- Pick a Quit Date but make sure this day will be as stress free as possible!
- Make a list of why you want to give up e.g. is it for health reasons, family etc? Keep this to hand at all times and when you start craving, read it to help keep you motivated.
- Clean your house. Wash clothes, curtains, steam furniture and shampoo the carpet. Washing away the smoke smell, even the stale smoke will help prevent future cravings.
- Throw out all your old lighters, ashtrays etc.
- Have a support network. Rather than quitting in secret, reach out to friends and family and ask them to help support you. They will want you to quit just as much as you do!
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy which includes patches, gum etc. Not everyone can give up cold turkey so make an appointment with your GP and let them help you find the right option for you. NRT can more than double your chances of quitting.
- Avoid trigger situations. If you normally smoke after a meal, then go for a walk instead and try to avoid stressful situations if possible.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can provide a dopamine release that can replace the one you used to get from cigarettes. It will also help your body repair the damage caused by smoking quicker.
- New hobby. If you have been putting off painting or learning a foreign language, now is the time to do it! Trying to keep yourself occupied is essential especially in the first few weeks.
- TREAT YOURSELF!! You need to keep yourself motivated so why not decide to treat yourself after say 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months etc? Or you could save up all the money that you would have normally spent and treat yourself to a nice holiday. YOU DESERVE IT!