Giving up smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. Smoking is linked to many serious health issues such as lung cancer and there are many reasons to give it up.
As well as reducing your risk of various types of cancer, stopping cigarette smoking can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Other health benefits include improved fitness, less shortness of breath and reduced carbon monoxide levels (and increased oxygen levels) in your blood.
But no matter how convinced and committed you are, it can be a tough road. Here are ten practical, tried-and-tested tips to help you give up cigarettes – and stay off them.
1. Set a date
Tempting as it may be to say that you’ll stop ‘one day’ or cut down gradually, this kind of vague promise to yourself is hard to stick to when the cravings hit.
Set a date for quitting and stick to it and make it sooner rather than later.
2. Identify when cravings strike
The first step to beating your cravings is knowing when to expect them. Common times to smoke are when drinking, after dinner and in stressful or emotional situations.
Work out the things that trigger your cravings and write them down so you can’t kid yourself later.
3. Plan ahead
Now you know your pressure points, you’ll need contingency plans to cope with them. You could try calling on friends who will be strict with you, escaping a party for a walk instead of going out for a smoke or finding a mantra to use when you’re tempted.
4. Adjust your diet
One study found that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. If you have been accustomed to having a cigarette after dinner, opt for foods containing fruit, vegetables and cheese as these can make cigarettes taste very unpleasant.1
You could also consider switching up your routine to distract yourself – do the dishes, get out for a walk or move to a different room.2
5. Consider your drinks order
An evening of drinking is a tough time for people giving up smoking. Alcohol makes cigarettes taste better so alternate boozy drinks with water or juice- you’ll also be better able to keep your resolve when you have a clearer head.1
Changing your drinking routine can help too– order a drink you’ve never tried before or treat yourself to something you rarely have.
6. Make new friends
If you’re out and about or at a party, stick with the non-smokers to help you resist cravings. Longer term this will also lead you to shift your perspective on smoking. Most non-smokers find the habit unpleasant and a bit strange, and after a while you’ll start to think so too.1
7. Keep your hands and mouth busy
You can double your chances of quitting successfully with nicotine replacement therapy.2 Products such as inhalators and gum distract you from the fact that you’re not holding a cigarette.
E-cigarettes are also effective for a lot of people. If you’re drinking, hold your drink in the hand you would usually smoke with and try using a straw.2
Alternatively, find a new hobby that keeps your hands busy and mind occupied, like playing the guitar, knitting or painting.
8. Try prescription medicines and other therapies
There are medicines available which help you stay strong by reducing the intensity of cravings. They take about two weeks to kick in, so you should plan to start taking them before you stop smoking.2
Speak to your doctor to get medical advice about whether stop-smoking medicines are right for you – they are only available on prescription.
9. Move more
Quitting smoking is the perfect opportunity to get fit. Not only will you be able to breathe more easily but exercise can help to quash cravings.
When you want a cigarette, even getting out for a brisk five-minute walk releases chemicals in your brain to curb cravings.1
10. Don’t give up
If you relapse, don’t despair. It’s not inevitable that you’ll slide back into old habits; simply use your slip-up as a learning experience.3
Remind yourself of all the reasons you decided to quit in the first place and put more plans in place to make sure you don’t relapse again.