(Originally seen in Bustle) September 2017 | CAROLYN STEBER
If you're currently trying to kick your smoking habit, then you already know how difficult it can be. While some magical people are able to put 'em down and never light up again, everyone else has a helluva time giving up their cigarettes. So, firsts things first, please know that you're not alone in this difficult process.
And second, know that it is 100 percent possible to quit — especially if you're willing to make some other changes. "[It's] difficult because not only are you addicted to the nicotine, you're also addicted to the routine, the habit, and all that accompanies the habit," psychologist Dr. Michele Barton, of Psychology Life Well, tells Bustle. You're addicted to taking a break, to standing outside with friends, to doing something with your hands. The list really goes on and on.
"The social habits and psychological benefits that may accompany the cigarette need to be continued without the cigarette, or else other issues will arise and quitting will become more complicated than just stopping smoking," Barton says. You also need to find ways to replace the feeling the cigarettes gave you. If you can try some of the tips below, with time, you should be able to move on. And feel so much healthier.
1. Try Deep Breathing Instead
While it may sound simple, taking a deep breath can make a huge difference when replacing your smoking habit. "Take the same deep breath you inhale as if smoking without the cigarette and exhale," Barton says. Nicotine is certainly addictive, but she tells me that deep breath you take while smoking may be what you're looking for, too. "Why not continue the deep inhalation and exhalation and remove the toxic substance?"
2. Cut Back Little By Little
Going cold turkey works for some people. But if it's yet to work for you, try setting a quit date in the future and working towards it little by little. "The cold turkey thing is very jarring to your nervous system and does not make the process any easier," Barton says. "Depending on how many cigarettes you smoke, slowly cutting down by half each week as you approach your ultimate stopping date is recommended."
3. Write A Breakup Letter To Your Cigarettes
If you love a symbolic action, you might enjoy sitting down and writing a breakup letter to your cigarettes. As health coach Claudia Matles says, "Write a break up letter to the cigarettes explaining how you want to go your own way, how you don't need them anymore, how the relationship has been for years, and why you'd like to break up." This will make your focus clearer, and truly help the decision to sink in.
4. Pay Attention To When You're Most Vulnerable
When quitting, you should always be thinking two steps ahead of your cravings. So ask yourself, when do you feel most like lighting up? "Note your most vulnerable times (i.e after going out to dinner, going to a bar, at a concert) and for one month, if possible, avoid those situations," says psychologist and radio show host Dr. Joshua Klapow. "Just until you get your feet underneath you.
5. Get Distracted ASAP
Replacing your smoking habit with another habit can help, too. If, for example, you usually step out of work at 10am to have a smoke, use that time to go for a walk instead. You might also want to try a the substitution method. As Klapow says, "You are used to putting something in your mouth. You need to have a substitute — gum, candy, lollipops. Have them, get them, use them."
6. Try A Visual Meditation
Sit down and start meditating on the idea of being a nonsmoker. What would you do instead? How would you feel? Picture it all in vivid detail. "The subconscious will kick in with the conscious and you will very well be that nonsmoker you've been visualizing in your meditations," Matles says. "These tools worked for me and it's been about twenty five years and I've never looked back!"
7. Use Apps To Your Advantage
There are plenty of apps out there to help smokers kick the habit, like Livestrong.com's MyQuit app. This one in particular allows you to track when you last smoked, when you had a craving, as well as your current smoking status. It also helps you set attainable goals, so you can quit in a reasonable way. Pretty cool, right?
8. Get Rid Of Little Reminders
If you've made the decision to quit, throw away all the things that might trip you up. "Get rid of the cigarettes and anything related to the cigarettes in the house and at work (matches, lighters, ash trays)," Klapow says. Not only do you want to avoid the visual reminder, but having to go out and buy them again may give you that moment's pause where you can decide not to.
9. Go To Your Local Acupuncturist
If you've been taking pills, sucking on lozenges, or sticking on nicotine patches, that's great. But acupuncture is another great way to quit, if you're looking for something more natural. As acupuncturist and integrative physician Dr. Elizabeth Trattner tells me, acupuncture and other integrative treatments, often have the same efficacy of SSRIs when it comes to quitting.
10. Give Yoga A Try
A yoga class can offer you the same relaxation you're used to getting from smoking, but in a way healthier environment. "It helps clean out the lungs with its special detoxification breath," Matles says. "It's [also] a wonderful way to distract the mind because you're giving attention to the body and breath connection, which calms the nervous system and purifies the body and mind."
11. Be Really Good To Yourself
Quitting smoking sucks, so don't try to do anything else right now that might make you feel uncomfortable. "When you're working to quit, keep your body and mind comfortable and occupied," says Lauren Wolfe, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and certified tobacco cessation specialist. "Make sure not to skip meals, and keep healthy snacks available throughout the day. You also need to figure out how you can ride out your urge to smoke — rest assured, urges do pass."
Even with all these tricks, quitting smoking can still be pretty difficult. But keep at it. Replace the feeling and habit with something else until your brain adjusts. And, if you just can't shake it, don't be afraid to ask for help.