How to prepare to quit smoking

Reader's Digest Editors

Before you try to kick the smoking habit, do some ground-work to boost your chances of success.

There is no one magic trick to help you stop smoking. In fact, research has proved that you’re more likely to succeed if you combine several strategies. No matter which ones you choose, talk to your loved ones, friends and workmates before you start. Tell them you’d like to count on their help. Ask people not to smoke when you’re around. If you can, find someone to quit with.

As you start to think about quitting, visualise yourself as healthier, more attractive and sexier. Picture yourself in control of your smoking and hold on to the image.

how to prepare to stop smoking

When you’re ready to seriously quit smoking, schedule an appointment to see your doctor. Discuss your options, such as nicotine and non-nicotine aids, as well as other strategies you’re considering. If you haven’t had a checkup recently, now is the time to have one. It will give you a "before" picture to compare with your new non-smoking self.

If you’ve tried to quit before and have not been successful, review any victories you’ve had. What worked, even if only for a short time? Consider meeting with a counsellor; he or she can help you deal with your feelings and fears more openly and learn the coping skills you’ll need to become a successful quitter.

 

Set a date

prepare to stop

Pick your quit date. Tell your friends, family and your workmates. Make the date close enough to take seriously, yet far enough away to allow preparation. Some people choose a holiday when they’re away from routines. Others prefer the structure of their regular schedule. Don’t pick a day when you anticipate being under stress.

Before the quit date arrives, try to picture the problems you might encounter and think of solutions ahead of time. Also, find ways to remove temptation from your path.

Plan activities that make you feel good, healthy and energetic during your first few weeks of quitting. They can both distract and reward you. Take your grandchildren to the zoo. Treat yourself to a massage or facial—it’s a much better use of the money you’ve been spending on cigarettes.

 

Start an exercise regime

start exercise programe
Photo by Lindsay Henwood

More people succeed in quitting if they exercise. Exercise increases your energy and also boosts your metabolism, helping you avoid weight gain, which can easily throw a spanner into your resolve. It may also take the edge off withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, headaches, and lethargy.

Improve your diet too. Besides minimising weight gain, eating well will help you to replenish antioxidant vitamins and minerals and boost your protection against free radicals created by tobacco smoke.

Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to help flush toxins from your system and thin sinus and lung congestion. Keep a store of fresh vegetables in the refrigerator for those cravings you’re bound to be having.

Read more: 10 ways to motivate yourself to exercise

 

Take the easier way

nicotine

Experts know you’re more likely to go back to smoking within three months if you haven’t changed your routines and behaviours. Nicotine-replacement products can buy you time to make those changes. They also boost your overall chances of success.

By sending a controlled amount of nicotine to your brain via your bloodstream, they satisfy your body’s craving without the added dangers of tobacco. 

Should you worry about becoming addicted to the nicotine replacement itself? Here are the facts:

  • Most people are able to gradually reduce their use of nicotine-replacement products until they’ve completely stopped.
  • Few people use them for longer than the recommended three to six months.
  • Replacement nicotine won’t damage your lungs and it’s not known to cause cancer by itself.
  • Since it’s considerably less harmful to get nicotine through a chewing gum or patch than through tobacco, some doctors permit long-term use of these products.

 

Don’t go it alone

support friend quit smoking
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Research shows that the most successful approach to quitting is using nicotine-replacement products and seeking some kind of support in order to change your behaviour. Pick a friend who’s available whenever you need to talk or find support through the NHS

If joining a group isn’t your style, try listening to tapes or reading books to help you over rough spots.

 

Should you quit cold turkey?

cold turkey quit

Most smokers who successfully quit do it cold turkey. The problem with quitting gradually (sometimes called "fading") is that it makes it harder to stop by lengthening the period of withdrawal.

If you’re a heavy smoker, however, it may not be realistic to stop all of a sudden, since you’re accustomed to large doses of nicotine. You may want to reduce smoking to less than a packet a day before you quit.

Talk to your doctor about how you can do this more easily, perhaps with the help of the drug bupropion (Zyban). This antidepressant helps balance the levels of certain brain chemicals associated with mood and mental state.

You can also help wean your body off nicotine by smoking less often, inhaling fewer times with each cigarette and inhaling less deeply.

 

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