If you smoke, there’s a good chance you’ve tried to kick the habit at some point. Turns out that more than half of smokers have tried to quit in the past year, with one-third trying more than once.
Maybe you gave it a go because you don’t want your kids to smoke. It could also be that you’re trying to cut down on the $5,000 that pack-a-day smokers spend on cigarettes each year or reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, and infection after surgery. No matter the reason, quitting smoking is one of the best moves you’ll ever make.
While there are umpteen awesome reasons to quit, there are only so many effective methods to get the job done. Hypnosis therapy, for instance, uses combinations of suggestions and words to amplify the desire to quit by inducing a trance-like state. But does hypnosis actually work to quit smoking? The jury is out on that, with research showing that it sometimes works. In short, hypnosis isn’t a quit-smoking slam dunk.
The good news: There are several scientifically-backed ways to quit that cost little or nothing and are pretty straightforward. So let’s take a gander at four of ‘em!
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
NRT reduces the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting by replacing the nicotine from cigarettes with slow-release skin patches or faster-release chewing gums, nasal and oral sprays, inhalators or lozenges/tablets. Whatever method you choose, research shows that NRT improves the chances of stopping smoking by as much as 60 percent. NOW we’re getting into slam-dunk territory!
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about NRT, which may be covered by your provincial health insurance.
Doctor-prescribed medications can boost your chances of quitting even more. In Canada, two pills—bupropion and varenicline—have proven effective. Combined with NRT, bupropion may double the chance of quitting, and varenicline may triple it. Again, chat with your doc about your options here.
The intense cravings caused by nicotine can make smoking feel like an old friend who’s always been there during hard times. It can suck to bid that buddy goodbye—even though he’s a total jerk—but you can’t beat your smoking habit if you’re a slave to nicotine. Good thing there’s a whole whack of steps you can take to set yourself up for success:
Know your triggers
Certain people, places, situations, feelings or moods can trigger your need to smoke. Waking up in the morning with coffee, for instance, or having drinks with buddies during the big game. Other common triggers include meals, parties, social events, and breaks at work. Knowing what your “triggers” are will help you avoid them or find ways to handle them.
Dodge your triggers
If downtime has always meant “smoke time,” switching up your daily and social routines can silence your triggers. For example:
- Play a game on your phone when buddies go for a smoke.
- Replace smoking with showering before your first cup of joe.
- Instead of taking a smoke break at work, head to the lunchroom and chat with whoever is there. You might be surprised by how cool the lunchroom crowd is.
Plan to manage your cravings
Practicing the “four Ds” is a tried-and-true way to keep cravings at bay.
Resist the urge to suck on a tar stick for 5 minutes, and the feeling may pass.
Drink a glass of water: This will change the feeling and taste in your mouth and help reduce cravings. At the same time, your body needs plenty of H2O to flush out cigarette toxins. Plus, you’re replacing the smoking habit with a healthy one. Water for the win!
Inhale through your nose and hold it for a count of 5. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for a count of 7. This will help you relax and stave off cravings. If cravings get really bad, take deep breaths as if you’re smoking a cigarette.
Distract yourself with something else. There are lots of great ways to take your mind off smoking. For example:
- Get busy: Chewing gum or sucking on hard candies keeps your mouth busy, while toothpicks or straws do the same for your hands and mouth. Doodle while on the phone at work, and take frequent walks. Eat more slowly and savour the flavours of your food.
- Load up the fridge: Snacking is another great way to cope with nicotine cravings and the habit of always having something in your mouth. Try to fill the fridge with healthy snacks, such as ripe fruit and crisp veggies, to prevent weight gain.
- Exercise: Go for a walk when you usually have a cigarette. Distract yourself by taking someone with you, listening to your favourite tunes, or making a phone call. Routinely getting your ass in gear will curb cravings and make you feel better.
Get enough sleep
When the going gets tough, the tough get enough sleep. After all, it’s harder to skip a smoke break when you’re tired. Solid shut-eye has been linked to more self-control and focus, with the U.S.-based National Sleep Foundation reporting that most guys between the ages of 26 and 65 need between 7 to 9 hours a night. Mentally tough men make quality sleep a priority by practicing good sleep hygiene.
Share your (awesome) goal
If all of your buddies smoke and you’re a very social guy, let them know you’re trying to quit smoking. For one thing, they’ll likely support you — they may have tried themselves and realize they should try again. For another, it will explain why you’re hanging out with non-smokers while battling cravings.
Hang out with family and friends
Chances are there are people around you who love and respect you. Their encouraging words can work wonders, as can sharing their own struggles and successes when they kicked the habit. They’re in your corner to provide the support you need to quit smoking for good.
Be a man with a Quit Plan
Last but not least, print out or download a Quit Plan you can fill out and use to stay on track in times of need. Click here to download one that lists all the steps and strategies we’ve covered so far.
While there are plenty of things you can do to up your chances of quitting, there’s also no shortage of outside help.
Online tools for quitting, such as MyQuit Coach and QuitNow!, provide round-the-clock encouragement and tips. Research shows that supportive text messages can double your chances of quitting. There really is an app for that!
If you prefer to connect with helping hands over the phone, you can simply dial 1-866-366-3667 to connect with a specialized expert who can assess your readiness to quit, help you pick a Quit Date, and help establish a quit plan that includes tips and tools to get you ready.
Once your Quit Date arrives, your free coach will call to check on your progress, review the challenges, reinforce your reasons for quitting, provide new coping strategies, and help you get back on track if you’ve had a slip. Just a single call to these free services can increase your chance of quitting by up to 50 percent. Phone a quit coach now.
In-person options are similarly abundant. Your doctor can refer you to a medical professional who specializes in helping you to quit through scheduled face-to-face appointments that can motivate you and provide tools to get the job done. Small-group sessions, meanwhile, add peer support to the mix. Combined with NRT and/or medication, research shows that your chances of quitting are doubled if you attend group behavioural programs versus relying solely on self-help.
When do smoking cravings stop?
Knowing when cravings tend to strike can help you stay mentally strong. If you’re two days in and climbing the walls, remember that the first three days of quitting smoking can be the worst and that you’ll be over the hump by Day 4. A slight uptick in cravings may occur around your seventh day, but by the 10th day, there’s light at the end of the tunnel (that isn’t an oncoming train).
Strong urges to smoke gradually taper off over the next 3 to 4 weeks. Stay focused on the one-month milestone, which is when most urges and withdrawal symptoms finally head for the hills.
Now, let’s DO THIS!
There’s no such thing as too much help when it comes to quitting smoking, so click here to download our free (and hilarious) “Kick-Butt Guide to Kicking Butts” ebook. Get your awesome journey started ASAP!
Where are you on your quit smoking journey? We are here to support you! Please feel free to share in the comments below.