One of the hardest things to do is kicking a habit that you’ve been doing for a long time. This is especially true when it comes to smoking and deciding that you finally want to quit. To successfully curb a smoking addiction requires a major change in lifestyle, as well as find alternative ways to manage your cravings.
Despite all the health warnings surrounding smoking, it doesn’t make quitting any easier and there are many reasons behind this. However, before we talk about that, let’s take a closer look at what makes up a stick of tobacco and how it can affect you.
What’s in a Cigarette?
Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain nicotine, a drug with addicting properties that forms the root cause of chemical dependency with the user. This colorless alkaloid is extracted from the tobacco plant and combines with other stimulants to affect the brain and cause smokers to become quickly addicted to it.
Aside from nicotine, tobacco smoke typically contains the following chemicals:
• Acetic acid
• Carbon monoxide
Almost all of these chemicals are known to be toxic and carcinogenic by themselves, especially in large quantities. However, when these chemicals work in conjunction with one another, they forms a chemical reaction that triggers signals in the brain that causes users to crave it even more.
Users who start smoking may react negative to the substances at first, but smokers begin to derive more pleasure from its use as the body begins to build a tolerance to the chemicals.
How Does Smoking Addiction Work?
When tobacco smoke is inhaled, it enters the lungs and the chemicals are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Nicotine is then passed onto receptors within the nervous system, which releases chemical hormones to different parts of the body and the brain. This can cause various changes like a person’s heart rate, their blood pressure, their appetite, and their breathing.
Nicotine also affects the release of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, in the body. This is why users experience a buzz when inhaling tobacco smoke. Similarly, nicotine also triggers the part of your brain that stimulates the release of dopamine, a hormone that controls the feeling of happiness in the brain. It’s no wonder that smokers experience a sense of rush and pleasure when using tobacco.
The particular method of intake for nicotine makes it so that the chemicals quickly reach the brain in a matter of seconds. While this can allow a person to quickly derive gratification from the act of smoking, users tend to build a tolerance to it over time and will eventually need more nicotine to be able to get the same amount of pleasure to sustain this feeling. This perpetuates the cycle of addiction that smoking tobacco enables. People with nicotine addiction show signs of anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and intense tobacco cravings.
A study that was done by the Center for the Advancement of Health back in 2000 showed that the symptoms of nicotine dependence can start as early as a few days for some smokers. More than half of the 96 participants of the study said that they developed symptoms within a span of two to four weeks, which led them to form a daily habit of smoking as a result. The research also stated that nicotine use can increase the number of nicotine receptors in the brain as soon as the intake of the second dose.
6 Tips on How to Kick Your Addiction
Nicotine withdrawal can be a very unpleasant experience for nicotine addicts that have been cut off. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can vary from one individual to another but can include depression, restlessness, weight gain, headaches, and frustration, among others. Learning to curb or completely control these symptoms can be an especially huge challenge for those who have formed a chemical dependence to nicotine for a long time.
Simply going cold turkey can actually be detrimental to your goal of kicking your nicotine habit, especially if don’t have the necessary measures in place to help you ease yourself into this new lifestyle. This is because your brain chemistry needs some time to adjust to the nicotine withdrawal and resisting it without creating the proper structure that can help you reach your objective will only make you backslide into your old habits.
Defining a start date for when you want to quit is always the first thing that you should do once you’ve finally decided to quit smoking. This will become your reference point in seeing how far you’ve gone if you’re able to stick to this commitment. As for the next steps, here are some helpful tips to help you get started on your road to recovery.
• Identify the Times When You Need to Smoke – Nicotine addiction is mostly a habit and being able to predict the times when you need to smoke is a good first step towards change. Do you smoke right after a meal? Or maybe you usually smoke on your drive to the office? Once you identify the times in your routine that you typically smoke, try to find a way to break this pattern. If you tend to smoke after meals, try eating in the office instead where you probably can’t smoke as freely. If you usually smoke while driving, try taking a different route so you’ll be more focused on your driving rather than taking the time to take a quick smoke.
• Find a Support Group – Much like any addiction, it’s important to find a support group that can help you cope if you’re having trouble staying away from temptation. Your support group can be your family, your friends, or other people who are also trying to quit. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel like you’re slipping or think that you can’t make it through the day without a smoking a cigarette. Just being able to talk about this with someone that you can trust can be enough motivation to steer you down the right path.
• Find a Way to Constantly Remind Yourself – You should always be able to constantly remind yourself of the reasons why you want to quit smoking. This helps you keep your eye on the prize at all times and serve as a physical reminder of your motivations. You can try keeping a list that’s visibly posted in your house, where you’ll always be able to see it. You can also try wearing a custom wristband or t-shirt that has a one-liner that sums up your reason for quitting.
• Remove Any Reminders of Smoking – Anything that can remind you of the act of smoking can serve as a trigger that can weaken your resolve. Empty cartons of cigarettes, discarded cigarette butts, or even the lingering smell of tobacco can tempt you into slipping back into your bad habits. You should make an effort to clean your surroundings of anything tied to smoking and create an environment that’s conducive to your rehabilitation.
• Keep Yourself Busy – The first few weeks or months of trying to break a bad habit is perhaps the hardest. It’s during this time that you might question yourself about your motivations for quitting. This is most prevalent when you’re simply idle and not leave yourself open to such introspection. So it’s in your best interest to keep yourself busy to avoid such thoughts. You can try taking up a new hobby or indulging in other routine activities like exercise to occupy your time.
• Don’t Forget to Reward Yourself – The reason why it’s important to note the date when you started your new lifestyle is so that you can see how far you’ve progressed since then. It only makes sense to treat yourself to something nice for every year, month, or even week that goes by that you don’t smoke. Every day is a small victory in your campaign of self-improvement, so it wouldn’t hurt to buy a little something for yourself as a reward. After all, now that you’ve stopped buying cigarettes and other tobacco-related products, you should have some disposable income that you can use to reward yourself.
How to Help Other with Their Smoking Addiction
One thing some people forget when trying to support someone who’s trying to quit smoking is that the decision to stop ultimately has to come from them. You can explain all the negative effects of smoking and give all the advice on how to quit, but if that person just isn’t ready then all your preaching might have the completely opposite effect.
One of the best ways to motivate someone is to show them that you’re willing to support them in their endeavors by pursuing activities that can help them overcome their cravings. If they’re willing to substitute their smoking habit with exercise, for instance, then volunteer to join them. Being an active participant in their efforts to change is a great way to show support and to motivate them further.
Should this person slip or relapse though, don’t make them feel guilty about it. Encouragement should still be the main objective here when trying to be supportive. Remind them of their start date and congratulate them on how far they’ve come—even if it is as short as a couple of months. This kind of encouraging support can do a lot to bolster their ego and push them to try again.
In the end, there are many avenues to follow for those who want to kick the smoking habit. Weaning yourself off nicotine can be a struggle, especially if you’ve been smoking for a long time. What’s important to remember is that your motivation needs to be centered on self-improvement and the willingness to improve your health for the better.
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