Make the decision to stop smoking for good can seem like a daunting task, as it involves letting go of a crutch that smokers may believe helps them cope. It is always a good time to stop smoking, but the impetus is particularly strong now with the pandemic having turned the spotlight on health. Moreover, Ramadan is fast approaching and is an ideal time to quit as those who observe the fast also need to avoid smoking.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 7 million people die each year from using tobacco. About 1.2 million individuals die from secondhand smoke. In addition, smoking can cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among other negative consequences.
Many people believe that smoking helps them relax, relieves stress, and gives them time out away from daily work or family pressures. But smoking can actually lead to poor mental health in the long term, as the cigarettes temporarily increase the feel-good hormone dopamine, encouraging the brain to switch off its own dopamine production.
Here we share some ways to reduce the cravings and stop smoking.
Quit cold turkey
Whether a person tapers their cigarettes slowly or stops smoking suddenly, the results are the same. For some people, cold turkey is the only way to go. But for others, this method is just too difficult. It's hard to break the ritual of smoking. People set a 'quit date' and then see if they can stop smoking immediately when that day arrives. If not, then they can try another method such as nicotine replacement therapy.
Use nicotine replacement therapy
Try over-the-counter methods such as nicotine patches, lozenges or gum. Alternatively, a physician can prescribe nicotine that comes in a nasal spray or inhaler, or non-nicotine medications.Hard candies, carrot sticks or a lollipop could help with the oral fixation a smoker may have. You're still going through the motion of putting something in your mouth but without the harmful risks of smoking.
Often, people will start with a nicotine replacement therapy. For example, nicotine patches replace the nicotine from cigarettes and help treat the urge. Over time, slowly taper down the amount of nicotine in the patches that you get.
Change your daily habits
Not only do you have to think about your nicotine habit, but you also have to change your rituals that play into reaching for that smoke. If you have a cigarette with your morning tea or on your afternoon work break, rethink what you do during those times.
Exercise helps you feel better, even if it's just a walk around the block to curb cravings. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and your blood starts flowing. It's another great thing to do to distract yourself when you have an urge to smoke. Exercising is an incredibly good antidote to smoking.
Try to relax
A lot of people smoke to help calm anxiety and deal with stress. If you try relaxation techniques and methods such as yoga, deep breathing or meditation, these can boost your parasympathetic response. This helps diminish your anxiety, increases your level of focus and your ability to stay calm.
Get rid of reminders
Consider throwing away ashtrays, lighters and other items that are used to smoke. By getting rid of those items, it makes it harder to pick up a cigarette. It can also be helpful to clean one's house and car to get rid of the smoke smell.
Have a support system
People discuss their plans to quit with family and friends who can help hold them accountable. Talk to them about how you're feeling, what you're struggling with and be honest about how many cigarettes you had.
It may be tough initially to deal with cravings and that people may experience withdrawal symptoms within the first few days, including moodiness, irritability and headaches as the body gets used to not having nicotine. Despite that, once people have stopped smoking, they will notice a positive change in their health, including improved lung function, and a decrease in the number of times they cough and experience shortness of breath.