Quitting smoking can be tricky — especially if you’ve been smoking for years, it’s your go-to during social outings or it’s a reprieve during stressful situations.
So, if you’re finding it difficult to give it up, you’re not alone.
Dr Mai Frandsen, a smoking cessation researcher at the University of Tasmania, reveals some strategies that have been recognised as being the most effective in quitting smoking.
Set up instant rewards
Nicotine is addictive, and it only takes a few seconds for the effects to kick in. But it can take up to 28 days for cravings and other symptoms to disappear when you stop smoking.
Dr Mai Frandsen, a smoking cessation researcher at the University of Tasmania, says short-term incentives help get you through the first month.
“Like getting fit, it takes time to see results. That’s why people join gyms, because they offer daily feedback,” she explains.
Change your routine
If you’re serious about quitting, it’s time to edit your daily routine.
“If you have a cigarette with a coffee in the morning, the first thing is to change that habit and go for a run or take the dog for a walk instead,” Dr Frandsen says.
Replace any behaviour that you associate with smoking, such as drinking or office breaks, with another activity that you enjoy or would like to try.
Focus on a positive future
“Some people might go, ‘I’m going to die anyway so I may as well enjoy the present’. In some circumstances, scary images on packs can have unintended consequences,” says University of Queensland psychology lecturer Adam Bulley.
Don’t let negative thoughts take over, be prepared for them. Write down the reasons you want to quit as a constant reminder of your goals.
Prioritise your future self
You don’t often see the damage that smoking causes straight away, so you shouldn’t expect to see improvements immediately either.
“Being mindful of the future is key,” says Bulley. “Taking a moment to anticipate your future is a way to change your behaviour.”
This way of thinking about the future has shown it can reduce cravings and the number of cigarettes you smoke.
Show me the money
According to Dr Frandsen, money is a very good motivator, and setting up a cash reward to track your progress is a good incentive. But leave the piggy banks for the kids — the key here is to be creative.
First, attach a dollar figure to quit. This could be based on the money you would save, or how much it would cost to pay for counselling services.
Give that money to someone you trust. You only get it back if you reach your goals.
What happens to your body when you quit?
— 5 minutes the urge to smoke dwindles.
— 12 hours almost all nicotine has left your system.
— 24 hours carbon monoxide levels start to drop.
— Two days taste and smell senses start to improve.
— Five days the nicotine by-products are now out of your system.
— Two weeks symptoms of withdrawal, such as irritability, will disappear.
— Two months blood flow increases to your hands and feet.
— One year your risk of heart disease rapidly drops.
— 10 years your risk of lung cancer is halved.
Source: Cancer Council Australia.