How to Quit Smoking – A Beginner’s Guide

You’re not sure how you got here.

At first, you were just having puffs occasionally at the bus stop with your friends. Then you just had a few of a Saturday night over a drink or two. Now suddenly your smoking has gotten out of hand and it’s affecting both your health and your wallet.

Smokers tend to congregate together, so chances are at least some of your friends smoke as well. They may even have tried to quit, only to smoke more than ever.

Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things you can do, I know. My smoking habit had turned my fingers yellow and put me in the hospital twice before I gave it up. The first time I came out of hospital, the first thing I did was throw the ‘How to Quit Smoking’ information pack I’d been given in the bin and light up. The second time I listened to the people who cared about my health and well-being and made some serious changes. Don’t make the mistakes I did.

If you are interested in learning how to quit smoking, here are some great tips and strategies to give you the best chance of succeeding first time around.

It’s not about luck, it’s about lifestyle

Quitting smoking has this in common with losing weight – you will only succeed when you make the effort to change your habits.

It’s easy enough for some people to ‘just quit’ cold turkey, but it certainly wasn’t for me. The truth is that most people need to make small, significant changes to their lifestyle to help them quit. Throwing out your smokes before you’ve prepared properly could just mean that this time tomorrow you’ll be snapping at your loved ones as you scrounge behind the sofa for change to buy a new pack. New habits take time to form. You will get the best results when you prepare yourself properly.

Preparation to quit

Start by observing when and where you smoke. Buy a little notepad and jot down your smoking schedule. This will help pin down which times of day are the most likely to cause problems for you when you quit.

It can also be a good idea to look at what you are thinking when you reach for your cigarette. For me, the true horror times were just before work (‘Better have a couple now in case I don’t get a break’), just after work (‘Thank goodness that’s over!’) and at the traffic lights (‘I’d better light up now while I have a moment’). The next step in how to quit smoking is to make plans for what you will do when you don’t have a cigarette. My friend Andrew found that he smoked most just after he got home for the day, knowing that his wife would make him sleep on the couch if he smoked just before bed. He made a list of things he could do – either chores or hobbies – when he got home that would keep him busy until dinner time. I bought a large sipper cup to work and started drinking juice from it as soon as work ended. At each set of lights on the way home, I would sip from the straw as a replacement for my cigarette.

What you’re going to go through

As I’ve mentioned above, quitting isn’t easy. When planning how to quit smoking, you should not ignore either the physical or the psychological hold that smoking has on you.

The American Cancer Society notes that side-effects can include headaches, tiredness and dizziness. You can also feel irritable, restless and depressed. The ACS says these symptoms can last for up to 3 days in regular smokers, but I can tell you from personal experience that it feels a lot longer than that. Don’t give up! Now that you have the information, take it into account when planning your Quit Day. Plan to drink plenty of fluids to ward off headaches. Ask your family and friends to be understanding if you’re not the best company. Be extra kind to yourself for at least a week after you quit – treat yourself to a movie when you’re feeling down or like you want to give in.

Have a Support Group

Depending on what kind of people you know, friends can either be your greatest asset when you quit or your biggest liability.

Are they going to laugh and keep offering you cigarettes, or will they respect your decision and try and help you accomplish your goals? Let them know your plan in detail. Not only will this let them know how serious you are, it also commits you to your chosen course of action. If they don’t take you seriously, or try and plant doubt in your mind about your ability to quit, consider taking a break from their company while you are in the process of quitting. You don’t need to put up with their sabotage as well as everything else you’ll be going through.

Don’t slow down, stop

There’s a joke I’ve been told about a policeman who pulls over a driver for not stopping at a stop signal. ‘Oh, but I slowed down!’ says the driver. The policeman pulls out his baton and starts hitting the driver around the head with it. ‘Now,’ says the policeman, ‘would you like me to slow down, or stop?’. You can cut down now, but slowly you will find your habit building up again. That’s not how to quit smoking. You’ve gone through the preparation stages – take the leap and go for it! Pick a day that will be your Quit Day. The night before that day, destroy all the cigarettes you have in the house. Don’t just throw them out. Mangle them beyond recognition and dump them in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash.

Enjoy it! This is a freeing moment for you – life is going to smell better, feel better, taste better and you’re going to have more cash in your pocket. Congratulations! You’re a non-smoker!

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