November 17th is the Great American Smokeout – a great time to commit to finding ways to quit smoking. Use these five tips to help you on your way.
Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, is a primary risk factor for the leading causes of death in the developed world. Smoking may harm nearly every organ of the body and diminishes overall health. It can lead to heart disease, stroke, lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, osteoporosis, and cataracts. From your health and finances to your self-esteem and productivity, the rewards of quitting smoking are profound and begin immediately. Many people will experience the benefits of not using tobacco within 20 minutes of quitting, and as your tobacco-free days accumulate, the benefits will accumulate, too.
- Find Your Reason:
Why are you thinking about quitting? Is it to lower your chance of developing cancer, heart disease or other chronic conditions? To look and feel younger and prevent premature aging? To protect your family and friends from second hand smoke? To save money? Whatever it is that motivates you, acknowledge it, say it out loud and reaffirm to yourself that you are capable of quitting.
- Develop a Quit Plan:
Nicotine is very addictive and you will likely experience withdrawal upon quitting. That is why it is very important to establish a quit plan ahead of time. Will you go “cold turkey,” use nicotine replacement therapy, pharmaceuticals or mindfulness//hypnosis techniques. This is a great time to talk with your doctor about your options and decide what method you believe will be best for you.
- Enlist Support:
Let your friends and family know you are going to quit. Having a support system will help keep you on track when you may be struggling. Have a main point of contact when you feel unsteady. Enlist a health coach to keep you on track. You may like to join a support group to share your experience and learn from others. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others – a single phone call can help you reconnect with your intention and ward off cravings.
- Avoid Triggers and Create New Habits:
Recognize your triggers. Do you tend to reach for a cigarette after drinking alcohol or coffee? Are you more likely to light up when you are stressed or when you are in the car? Once you acknowledge these times and triggers, find a new habit to work towards instead of smoking. Avoid drinking and over eating. After coffee or a meal, brush your teeth or go for a walk. When you are in the car, dial a supportive friend or family member. When you feel stressed try exercising, take a long bath or use breath-work/meditation. Smell can be a trigger too so after your last cigarette get rid of ashtrays and lighters. Wash your clothes, clean your carpets, draperies, upholstery and car.
- Don’t Give Up:
Many people try several times before giving up cigarettes for good. If you slip, try not to get too discouraged. Instead, determine why you relapsed. Use this experience as a learning opportunity. Revaluate your quit plan and make adjustments as needed. Remember that within only one day of quitting your blood’s carbon monoxide level returns to normal. In just 2-3 weeks, you will start to lower your odds of having a heart attack. Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of heart disease within the first 1 to 2 years, reduces respiratory issues and cancer risk. It’s never too late to quit!
Quitting smoking is not easy. If it was easy, you probably would not still be smoking. So I recommend that you prepare a battle plan using any or all of the techniques listed above. But be prepared for the battle and fight to win.
If you only try you may not succeed. But if try to win, your chances of quitting smoking and improving your overall health are much greater.
Dr. Steve Horvitz is R-Health’s Medical Director and one of the physician’s part of the NJ SHBP / SEHBP program.