By Sara R. Lentz - University of Texas at Austin
Quitting smoking is a popular New Year’s resolution—but many have trouble sticking with it.
“Many people underestimate how difficult it is to not only quit smoking, but to maintain the change,” says Zane Freeman, research coordinator for the YMCA exercise intervention for smoking cessation study taking place at the University of Texas at Austin.
The study is one of several conducted by the university’s Anxiety and Health Behaviors Lab during the past five years. The research focuses on holistic ways to help smokers quit the habit.
“In addition to dealing with intense nicotine withdrawals, people have to consider ways to overcome fixations and triggers that can potentially result in a relapse,” Freeman says.
No matter what treatment you choose, the researchers say, these five tips could be the backbone of a final goodbye to cigarettes.
1. Take time to ease into it
Cold turkey isn’t the best option. Get ready to quit smoking by first tapering down your cigarettes. Determine the average number of cigarettes you smoke each day, and try setting a goal to lower that number in the days or weeks leading up to your quitting. This not only helps with the practice of resisting the urge or habit to smoke, but also with getting used to the withdrawal symptoms.
2. Know your reason for quitting
Identifying reasons for wanting to quit smoking in a journal or on a list can often increase your motivation, so it’s a great way to get started. Look at both the health benefits and social benefits of not smoking, such as increased ability to smell and taste, less money being spent each month, whiter teeth, and reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
3. Be sure you have social support
Do your friends, family, and co-workers know you’re trying to quit? Identify people who already are or who could be serving as your social support while you quit. If your partner or your close friends smoke, let them know you’re trying to quit, and ask them to refrain from smoking around you if possible. And let them know you’d love some encouragement while pursuing this resolution to quit.
4. Identify your weaknesses
Before you start, spend some time thinking about high-risk situations that might make you more likely to smoke. For example, do you always need a cigarette when you have a drink? Or maybe you smoke in the car on your way to work every morning.
Identify situations that could lead you to smoke and set a plan for how you’ll avoid or work around them. If you have to drive to work every day, try cleaning out your car and getting rid of any cigarettes that may tempt you. Or if there’s a party where you know there will be many smokers in attendance, consider skipping it or let your friends know you’re trying not to smoke.
5. Make a back-up plan
One of the biggest obstacles in smoking cessation is dealing with withdrawal symptoms, which is especially true for daily smokers. Using some form of nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges can be a big help.
Nicotine patches, for instance, come in various doses depending on how many cigarettes you smoke per day. So you’re even able to taper down from the nicotine patches to further help you get used to the withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting smoking.
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