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How to Quit Smoking…Really.

February 22, 2013

So you’ve decided to quit smoking. At least you’re thinking about it. What are next steps? We’ve all heard stories about people quitting cold turkey after smoking a pack a day for thirty years. And then there are those people who just can’t kick the habit after trying every smoking cessation aid.
While everyone’s smoking cessation journey is unique, there are some steps that you can take to increase your changes of success. We talked to Philip McAndrew, MD, an internist at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill, who suggested these strategies to kick the habit for good:
Build a team: “You can’t do this alone. Nicotine release serotonin and we love that feeling, so you will need people around you to support you. You will need people who are with you in all areas of your life, especially in places that make you think of smoking,” said Dr. McAndrew. The team should include: your doctor, friends who are supportive of you quitting, co-workers, and family.
Set a date: It is important to be specific on a date you want to quit but also give yourself time to prepare. It is recommended to set a date two to four weeks away so you have time to prepare your environment and your mind to quit.
Prepare for quit day: Start thinking about what changes you need to make in order to make your smoking cessation effort successful. Think about what makes you want to smoke. Dr. McAndrew suggests trying the following:
• Keep a diary of when you smoke, and where, so you can recognize tempting situations.
• Talk to your doctor about medications and other smoking cessation aids that might help you quit.
• Take care of your oral fixation with gum, carrot sticks, or other snacks.
• Throw away your cigarettes, matches, lighters and ashtrays from your home, car, office, wherever you smoke.
• Clean your clothes, home and car so they don’t smell like smoke.
• Add a smoking cessation hotline to your phone’s contacts. That way, if you hit a wall, you have easy access to support.
Celebrate quit day: “Once the decision is made to quit smoking, start thinking about the quit day and get excited. Don’t see it as an end to a favorite habit, but a celebration of the beginning of a new, healthier life,” said Dr. McAndrew. He suggests going out with friends, or having a party to mark the special occasion.
Find new ways of dealing with stress: Stress is often a trigger for someone to return to old habits. This is where your doctor, a support group and your team can really lend a hand. Find healthier ways to deal with stress such as exercising or deep breathing. Make sure you have those plans in place before your quit day.
Watch out for boredom: A common challenge for people who are trying to quit smoking is boredom, said Dr. McAndrew. Many people fight the urge to smoke in the car, for instance. Fight the urge to smoke when bored by keeping your mind engaged. Listen to an audiobook or podcast.
Continue to do the things you enjoy: Often, when a smoker contemplates quitting, it seems that life as he or she knows it will end. Not so, said Dr. McAndrew: “People connect smoking with nice things, like taking a break or going out with friends. It’s important to break that psychological connection.” He recommends:
• Go ahead and take that smoke break! Just don’t smoke.
• Consider going on a walk or spending time outside.
• Keep going out with your friends. Since most restaurants and bars don’t allow smoking, you won’t be as tempted.
• Why not have that dessert? Just don’t have a cigarette at the end of it.
Think about those you love: “Quitting smoking is about so much more than ourselves,” said Dr. McAndrews. “Studies have shown that second-hand smoke can be more devastating than first-hand smoke, especially for children. Children who live in homes where there is a smoker are more prone to allergies and have more colds, upper-respiratory infections and ear infections.” Dr. McAndrews also points out that research has shown that children with parents who smoke are more likely to grow up and smoke. “Of all the things you pass on to your kids, smoking shouldn’t be one of them.”
What has helped you quit smoking? Let us know on our Facebook page.

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