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How to stop smoking

How to stop smoking

Taking the decision to quit smoking is one thing. Deciding how you’re actually going to do it is another. There are a number of different ways to go about it, ranging from smoking cessation medication to plain and simple willpower.

Whether you decide to seek help or want to go it alone, you should be able to pick up some tips to quit smoking for good right here.

Daniel Atkinson
Medically reviewed by
Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical lead
Table of contents
Medically reviewed by
Dr Daniel Atkinson
GP Clinical lead
on November 01, 2022.
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What to do when you want to give up smoking

There are a number of different ways to stop smoking and that’s for a good reason, no two people are the same. What works for one person may not work for another. So don’t be disheartened if this isn’t your first attempt at quitting. In short, there simply is no best way to give up smoking, only the best way for you.

Once you’ve chosen your method of quitting, there are some other steps you can put in place to help your quit attempt become a successful one.

Having a plan in place before you quit can be a big help for several reasons. Firstly, it helps you prepare mentally, so you know there may be some bumps in the road ahead. Keeping a plan can also help to focus your mind on the end goal and strengthen your resolve.

If you choose to use a stop smoking medication then you may need to take it for a week or two before you actually stop smoking, so in these cases having a plan in place is vital.

Your family and friends can have a role to play when you decide to quit smoking. They can help to support you when you may be feeling low and show some patience when you’re struggling with the day-to-day stresses of withdrawal.

If you have the support of friends and family available, it can be useful to let them know when you decide to quit. For example, you might find it particularly difficult to not smoke when you’re drinking, if they understand this they can suggest other activities that don’t include alcohol.

When you give up smoking, it can be in the quiet moments that temptation can arise. Your usual or habitual cigarettes can start to look appealing once more.

That’s why keeping busy can be so important and it doesn’t mean you have to work 24 hours or take up marathon running. Keeping busy can be anything from playing darts to knitting, as long as you’re engaged, it can help to keep those cravings away.

As previously mentioned, triggers can lead to the biggest hurdles when you stop smoking. These are the things that your brain associates with the dopamine reward provided by nicotine. When you remove your regular smoking schedule, your brain and body will notice.

Triggers can differ from person to person, so knowing yours, and avoiding them where you can, should be a part of your quitting plan.

Whichever method you choose to quit smoking, it’s important to keep positive. Keep the reason behind your decision to quit at the forefront of your mind. Write it down and keep it on display, if it helps.

Going through the quitting process can present some difficult moments. It’s when these come about that your positivity might be tested.

Keeping calm in the testing moments can really help to push negative thoughts away. Stress can be a major trigger for a lot of ex-smokers and it can eat away at positivity. But you can combat this with breathing techniques, meditation and exercise. Not only will this reduce the stress triggers, it can also engage the mind.

What makes quitting so hard?

Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical found in all tobacco products. The addictive properties associated with nicotine make it difficult for smokers to give up, even when they really want to. So whilst it’s one thing knowing how to stop smoking, in practice it can be trickier than you might think. That’s why there’s support available to help you quit when you decide to do it.

So, why do people find it so hard to stop smoking? There can be many reasons for this, and they often differ from person to person, but the main ones include physical addiction and routine. Having a plan in place so you know how to give up smoking will help, so it’s important to arm yourself with as much knowhow before you quit.

How are addictive habits formed?

Nicotine hits the brain immediately after you inhale it, affecting the neurotransmitters that regulate mood. The most well-known of these neurotransmitters is dopamine, a chemical that creates pleasurable responses to nicotine.

When you stop smoking, your brain will notice that it isn’t receiving those little pleasure hits that form part of your daily routine. Smoking after eating or basic tasks are like little rewards and it’s often these times that we crave a cigarette after quitting.

Withdrawal symptoms

Nicotine can affect various parts of the body, including the brain, lungs, arteries, metabolism and hormones, just to name a few. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that stopping smoking can cause significant withdrawal symptoms. Thankfully, withdrawal symptoms tend to last for just a few uncomfortable months, with insomnia, mood swings, coughs, constipation and cravings soon following.

When you stop smoking, the nicotine is cleared from the body in just three to five days. It’s usually around this time that the symptoms of withdrawal really begin to bite.

Smoking can act as a stress reliever. It can provide immediate dopamine hits that act as a coping mechanism. After you quit you may notice your anxiety levels start to creep up. It should be noted that the physical addiction and health issues associated with smoking can put more strain on the body than the short term discomfort of withdrawal. If you have concerns about anxiety when trying to quit, you should speak to your doctor.

Nicotine withdrawal can affect people in different ways, with several factors playing a part. These can include genetics, how long you’ve been smoking, how much you smoke and mental health. Some studies have shown that the various treatments to help you to quit smoking provide positive results when compared to cold turkey (quitting without treatments) . There are quite a few options available, so if one method doesn’t work for you, there are others to try.

Can you get help easily?

There’s lots of help available, if you’re ready to quit smoking. Fortunately it's easier than ever to access stop smoking treatment. Just talk to a clinician about you, your health and your smoking habits and together you'll be able to find the right treatment for you. It's also a good idea to maintain a strong support network from your friends, family and clinician where possible in order to stay supported every step of the way.

Stopping smoking can be difficult, but lots of people do it every year. With a little help, there’s no reason why you can’t join them.

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