17 April 2008

Don't give up giving up

Don't give up giving upQuitting cigarettes means walking away from an addiction to something containing over 4,000 known chemicals. This is why quitting smoking is one of the toughest things to do. But it gets easier with practice. Perhaps the most telling testament to the difficulty of quitting is the number of people who routinely say "I've tried to quit smoking more than once." In fact, the average person who has successfully quit smoking has only done so after five or six failed attempts.

A big problem for many smokers trying to quit is handling the craving for nicotine. Nicotine increases the levels of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, attention and memory, making it far more difficult to avoid a craving than many people might think.

Here are some helpful tips to help you to quit smoking:

- Pick a quit day within the next two or three weeks to quit. Having a deadline makes it easier to plan how you will handle the people, places and situations that make you want to smoke. Make your own list of reasons for quitting: health, family, money...

- Replace cigarettes. Many people chew gum in lieu of smoking cigarettes. To make that beneficial, make sure the gum is sugarfree to avoid damaging teeth. Some people simply reach for food when a nicotine craving hits. If you take this road, make sure the food you choose is healthy, such as fruits and vegetables (i.e., carrots, celery, apples).

- Speak with friends, family, and colleagues who can give you support. Start making the lifestyle changes that will support your plan. Leave cigarettes at home when you go out, remove the ashtrays from your home. Consider joining a support group. Some people find it helpful to talk to others who are also trying to quit.

- Learn to relax. Because nicotine affects chemicals in the brain and, in turn, mood, quitting can make a person cranky and restless. In fact, nicotine withdrawal and dependence have been recognized as disorders by the American Psychiatric Association for 20 years. Oftentimes, the restlessness that results from withdrawal will drive someone to smoke again because they cannot relax when a craving hits. Take 10 slow, deep breaths and hold the last one. Then breathe out slowly and relax all muscles. Imagine a soothing scene and allow your mind to escape as you concentrate on that scene.

- Leave the room. Merely changing surroundings when a craving hits works for some people. Head outdoors for some fresh air, walk down the hall to a different room or change what you're doing when cravings hit.

- Don't fall into the trap of "Just one won't hurt." "Just one" often turns into more than that, as anyone who has tried and failed at quitting before can attest. The problem with the "just one" approach is that it negates all the work a person has done up to that point.

Health benefits of quitting smoking are unlimited!

Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your health and quality of life. Non-smokers have a much lower risk of getting dozens of smoking-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD, including emphysema). You will look and feel younger. Smokers are more likely to wrinkle at an earlier age and have deeper wrinkles.

Quitting smoking increases the chances of living a longer and healthier life. After about 15 years, an ex-smoker's relative risk of getting lung cancer is only slightly greater than that of someone who has never smoked. Similarly, their relative risk of a heart attack is reduced almost to the same risk level of someone who has never smoked.

Once you have quit, you will know you can succeed at difficult takes and take more control of your life. Quitting helps you believe in yourself. Many smokers remember the exact day they quit because it is a source of great pride. You'll feel proud of your ability to overcome something so challenging.