As an ex-smoker who gave up 6 years ago, I know how difficult it is to kick the habit and no matter how many times my family and friends encouraged me to quit, the only person who could decide to quit for good, was me. What works for one person may not always work for another, but here are the things that helped me to quit for good (after several failed attempts beforehand!):
- Choose your Quit Day and Go Public: It really helps to actively pick a day in the calendar that suits you to stop smoking and if you tell your family and friends you are going to quit on that day then you are publicly making the commitment to carry it through and not change your mind!
- Turn Each Negative Thought into a Positive One: Invariably when you give up smoking, your brain will try to tell you all sorts of lies to try to make you buy a packet of cigarettes and light up. Lies such as "It's just one cigarette" or "You can stop some other time" or "You don't have to torture yourself like this, just have a cigarette and you'll feel better" and "What do your friends and family know, they've never smoked, they don't understand how hard this is..." The truth is that as your body rids itself of nicotine and all the other hundreds of nasty chemicals in cigarettes your body and your brain will be detoxing, not just physically but mentally. Negative thoughts at this time are totally normal but you can beat them! Each time you have a negative thought, turn it around. Use positive messages to yourself such as "I am going to feel so much better and so much fitter even in just a few days!" and "Come on [insert your name here], you can totally beat this and you are in control of your own feelings, you don't need to be a slave to this drug anymore."
- Buy a Piggy Bank and Put Your Cigarette Money into It! I found this enormously useful as each day I'd put in what I would have spent on cigarettes, telling myself that at the end of month I could either buy new clothes, get my hair done, get my nails done and treat myself to a lovely lunch or keep saving up for a holiday. It really worked for me as when I saw how much money I was saving it inspired me and motivated me to keep going!
- Drink Lots of Water with Lemon: When you get a craving for a cigarette, it is very easy to turn that craving into a new habit of eating sweets or chocolate to fill the gap left by cigarettes. But if you keep a glass of lemony fresh water next to you and keep sipping it each time you feel irritable or agitated, it will calm you down. I used to get up, walk around for a few minutes and then take a nice drink of water, some deep breaths and tell myself something positive such as "You are going to glow with health in a few weeks' time, your skin will be clearer, your hair will shine and your eyes will sparkle."
- Avoid Pubs and Places Where You Might Be Tempted to Smoke: The really tough part about giving up smoking is not just the cravings - it's the impact it has on your life as a whole. Things you used to do or places you used to go may need to be avoided for a while to keep you off those cigarettes. If you have friends and family who smoke then you may need to avoid them for a while. Yes, this is a very difficult one but the reality is that if you are around smokers you are more likely to want to light up. If (like me) you used to take smoke breaks at work and meet the girls outside the office building for a quick catch up mid-morning or mid-afternoon, these catch ups will have to be put on hold until you are strong enough to resist. Even being around smoke you'll start inhaling it and missing it and really, who wants to do that when they are trying to quit? Avoidance is key. I gave up alcohol completely as even a sniff of a glass of wine made me want to smoke but I was so determined to stop that other temptations just had to go as well. Remember, this is not forever, just while you are in the "giving up" period (for most people this is between one and three months but for some it can be longer depending on how strong you are feeling!)
Above all, the key thing to remember when you give up smoking is how amazing you are going to feel, how much more energy you will have and how fabulous you are going to smell! Even now, if someone is smoking around me or even walks ahead of me with a cigarette, I feel physically ill when I smell cigarette smoke. It's not until you quit, that you realise just how bad they really smell - your clothes, your breath and your hair permanently stink when you smoke but you can't smell it yourself. Please believe me, you will smell a whole lot better once you stop!
Best of luck - if I could do it, then you can definitely do it! And think of that facial/massage/new hairstyle you can treat yourself to at the end of Month One!