Quitting smoking is like an exam. Those pesky A4 size monsters that filled the school hall with silence. The only sounds heard were the slow footsteps of teachers walking back and forth isles so narrow that your pint-sized desk would face a momentary shock whenever someone brushed passed it.
You’d relish those moments when finishing an exam left a quiet remnant of confidence that you just might have aced it. And those long days and nights of preparation may have finally bore fruit.
It was preparation that taught you how to respond to questions, themes and issues that might come up in a test.
Quitting smoking follows a similar logic: how well you respond to your quit date (and the days, weeks, and months following) will depend on the time you’ve taken to prepare for questions, themes and issues likely to rear their ash-stained head along your journey.
With only three per cent of smokers managing to successfully quit smoking each year, breaking the habit is clearly difficult. But with the right helping hand and a well thought out quit plan, quitting smoking can be made easier.
1. The cold turkey method
Quitting smoking cold turkey relies on using willpower alone to ditch the habit. In a previous article, we establish that using this method, without any means of planning, preparation and assistance, reducing a smoker’s success rate: only three per cent of smokers who stop smoking using the cold turkey method remain smoke-free long term. Without any tools to mitigate them, withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability, fatigue and nausea, are likely to feel stronger.
Nicotine addiction is real, and while most of the physical withdrawal symptoms usually subside within the first two to three weeks, keeping your cravings at bay requires a longer term solution.
2. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
When you stop smoking, you’re no longer giving your body that regular fix of nicotine which it had become so used to. Nicotine is this addictive substance found in cigarettes that you crave once it’s removed from the body. Nicotine replacement therapy is a popular smoking cessation method as it provides the body with low doses of nicotine but without harmful substances – like tar and carbon monoxide – found in tobacco cigarettes.
NRT is available in different forms such as nicotine patches, gum, lozenges and nasal spray. While some NRT methods, like nicotine patches, release nicotine gradually, other methods, like nicotine gum, are likely to give you a more instant hit. Depending on your healthcare provider, NRT may event be available to you for free.
Like NRT, e-cigarettes (or electronic cigarettes) deliver nicotine to the body, but through a handheld device that works by heating a liquid that delivers a vapour to be inhaled by the user. Using an e-cigarette simulates the act of smoking, so it may feel like you’re puffing on a cig, which, for some folk, could make the transition to a smoke-free life easier.
4. Non-nicotine medication
Non-nicotine medications, Chantix (Champix) and Zyban, work to block the effects of nicotine in the body and on the brain by reducing cravings and the withdrawal symptoms you might face once nicotine stops entering your system. They’re only available through your GP on prescription and treatment lasts around 12 weeks for Champix, and up to nine for Zyban, with the course beginning a week or two before your quit date.
5. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for quitting smoking
While the first four smoking cessation methods largely address the physical side of smoking, cognitive behavioural therapy treats the psychological side of addiction. Nicotine replacement methods may help you in your journey to quitting smoking, but they only act to replace one form of nicotine for another, so when you come off them completely, you might be left out in the cold with the ‘dunno’ emoji in tow.
What’s more, common smoking cessation methods also carry a risk of side effects like difficulty sleeping, nausea and headaches, which could make the transition less pleasant.
CBT has often been used as a type of talking treatment in a variety of settings, focusing on how thoughts, attitudes and beliefs shape feelings and behaviours. According to the American Cancer Society, “counselling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicines alone”.
The cognitive – or thinking – component of CBT focuses on your thoughts about smoking and quitting so that you can replace negative thoughts with those more positive and encouraging.
The behavioural element focuses on identifying triggers that prompt you to light up, replacing them with behaviours that are less likely to have you give into your smoking urges.
CBT prepares you with the groundwork, tools and techniques to change how you behave and think about smoking so that you have a better understanding of your reasons and motivations for quitting. ‘Why did I start smoking in the first place?’, ‘what triggers influence me to light up’?, and ‘how do I navigate my cravings when I feel stressed?’ are the sorts of questions CBT helps you to answer.
Learning new coping strategies to deal with cravings, breaking old routines, and establishing new habits is as much a mental process as it is a physical one. Nicotine replacement therapy or non-nicotine medication can help you combat the physical side of smoking addiction, while cognitive behavioural therapy helps change the way you behave and think about smoking, so you can set a quit date and arrive at it confidently without an impending sense of doom.
A combination of the two methods are much more likely to get you to become a non-smoker for good, rather than through nicotine replacement therapy or medication alone.
It’s possible for cigarette cravings to show up weeks, months, even years after you stop smoking, so it’s crucial that after you quit, you stay smoke-free. This requires you to create sustainable changes to your habits, combat cravings and manage relapse by planning in advance and staying motivated. With Quit Genius, you can do this on your smartphone with our new Sustain pack.
Your school exam days may well be over but you’ll still need to apply similar preparation techniques if you want to triumph over another monster that might feel like an exam on and after your quit date – that’s still pesky and still made of paper.
Quit Genius delivers scientifically proven CBT specifically targeted towards smoking cessation, all wrapped up in a practical and user-friendly app. You’ll have personalised advice available on demand, supporting you throughout the entire process. Start your journey ->
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