7 Ways to Kick the Habit – Cleveland Clinic
You might want to think twice before lighting up your next cigarette.
Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Politics
Smoking can cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
If you’ve tried quitting or are thinking about quitting, know that it’s never too late to quit.
There are also many ways to reduce your cravings and cravings. Pulmonologist Neha Solanki, MD, tells us how to quit smoking and how quitting smoking can improve your health.
Timeline for quitting smoking
There is no set time frame for quitting smoking. Some people can kick the habit on the first try, while others will have a hard time quitting. On average, it can take 66 days for a new habit to become automatic.
But don’t give up if you’ve tried several different methods just to take back a packet.
“It’s a journey and everyone is in a different place on their journey,” says Dr. Solanki. “You can quit, then start smoking again at a later date, and then try to quit again.”
The important thing is that you keep trying.
Ways to quit smoking
Here are some ways to help you resist your cravings and break this unhealthy habit.
Stop cold turkey
“For some people, cold turkey is the only way to go,” says Dr. Solanki. “But for others, this method is simply too difficult. It is difficult to break the ritual of smoking.
She recommends setting a “quit date” and then seeing if you can quit immediately when that day arrives. If not, don’t worry, there are other methods that can help you.
Use nicotine replacement therapy
Try over-the-counter methods like nicotine patches, lozenges, or gum. You can also talk to your doctor about prescription nicotine that comes in the form of a nasal spray or inhaler. There are also non-nicotine medications you can take, such as bupropion and varenicline.
“Often people start with nicotine replacement therapy,” says Dr. Solanki. “For example, nicotine patches replace the nicotine in cigarettes and help treat the craving. Over time, we slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in the patches you receive.
Change your daily habits
Not only do you need to think about your nicotine intake, but you also need to change your rituals that play to achieve that smoke.
If you smoke a cigarette with your morning coffee or during your afternoon work break, think about what you do during those times.
Can you replace this smoking ritual with something else? Maybe it’s eating a biscotti in the morning or replacing your cigarette in the afternoon with tea or a popsicle. Even hard candy, carrot sticks, or a lollipop can help with any oral fixation you may have.
“You still go through the motions of putting something in your mouth, but without the harmful risks of smoking,” notes Dr. Solanki.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and your blood begins to circulate.
“It helps you feel better,” says Dr. Solanki. “This is another great thing to do to distract yourself when you’re craving a smoke. Exercise is an incredibly good antidote to smoking.
But don’t think you have to log on to a sweat session at the gym — even a simple walk around the block can help curb cravings.
try to calm down
You can turn to relaxation techniques and methods such as yoga, deep breathing or mediation.
“Many people smoke to help calm anxiety and manage stress,” says Dr. Solanki. “If you try any of these relaxation techniques, it may increase your parasympathetic response. It helps decrease your anxiety, increases your concentration levels and your ability to stay calm.
Get rid of reminders
When trying to quit smoking, consider throwing away your ashtrays, lighters, and other items you use to smoke.
“By getting rid of these objects, it is more difficult to pick up a cigarette,” says Dr. Solanki.
It can also help to clean your house and car to get rid of the smoke smell.
Have a support system
Discussing your plans to quit smoking with family and friends can help hold you accountable. Talk to them about how you feel, what you struggle with, and be honest about how many cigarettes you’ve had.
“It’s easy to fool the system if you don’t report to anyone,” says Dr. Solanki.
You can also join a local support group or call the toll-free quit smoking hotline at 800-QUIT-NOW (800.784.8669) for support information and advice.
What happens when you quit smoking?
It can be difficult at first to fight these cravings. You may experience withdrawal symptoms for the first few days, such as mood swings, irritability, and headaches, as your body adjusts to not having nicotine. But once you quit smoking, you will notice a positive change in your health. Not only will your lung function improve, but you will also notice a decrease in the number of times you cough and become short of breath.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Increased appetite.
- Weight gain.
- Difficulty concentrating.
“You can have these withdrawal symptoms for a few days or a few weeks,” says Dr. Solanki. “It’s different for different people.”
Once you quit smoking, your health will improve, including:
- A decrease in your blood pressure and pulse.
- An increase in the temperature of your hands and feet.
- Your level of carbon monoxide in your blood returns to normal.
- An increase in your blood oxygen levels.
- A decrease in your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
- Your ability to taste and smell returns.
- Improved circulation.
- A decrease in cough, sinus congestion and shortness of breath.
- An increase in your energy level.
- Improved ability to breathe.
“Everyone’s lungs get worse with age, but the rate of decline is much faster in smokers,” says Dr. Solanki. “People who smoke actually have a lot of power to improve their health by quitting the habit.”
How to Stay Motivated When Trying to Quit
It may take you a few tries before you find success. But don’t give up.
“It’s okay if you have to start over,” says Dr. Solanki. “A lot of people feel guilty about it. Relapse does not make you a failure.
So don’t be too hard on yourself. Reevaluate your plan and start over. And keep in mind why you’re quitting, whether you’re doing it for your family or to improve your health.
“You’re the only person who can force yourself to quit,” says Dr. Solanki. “You have control over what you put into your body.”
Remember the facts: Smoking can kill you. And think about how much better you’ll feel once you quit.
“It’s a commitment you have to make to yourself and your future self,” says Dr. Solanki. “You have to be ready to quit.”