6 tips for people trying to quit smoking
About 4 in 5 New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. If your resolution is to quit smoking, the odds can be even tougher.
Your chance at success can look better with the right preparation and support. Here are six tips to help you or someone you know successfully quit smoking and have a smoke-free February (and beyond).
1. Identify your triggers and how to beat them.
Driving, having coffee or a drink, celebrating and finishing a meal are just a few common smoking triggers — the people, places or things that make you want to smoke or use tobacco. Because smoking triggers can make quitting especially difficult, identifying your triggers and learning how to deal with them before you quit smoking is key. In fact, it is one of the first of 10 steps to successfully make a plan to quit smoking.
2. Look beyond willpower.
Out of 100 people who try to quit smoking cold turkey — meaning quitting abruptly without any treatment support or replacement medications — only about three to five of them will succeed for longer than six months. The cold turkey method of quitting has such a low success rate because addiction undermines willpower, or the ability to control impulses through decision-making, according to Dr. J. Taylor Hays, a professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center. The key to quitting successfully is to take advantage of proven-effective quitting methods that are readily available. (For what does work, see the 10 steps above.)
3. Learn to cope with withdrawal.
"Withdrawal symptoms are often considered one of the greatest hurdles for folks trying to stop smoking," says Hays. Having a plan if symptoms emerge, such as Hays' four strategies for coping with withdrawal, can help. One strategy is exercising, which can crush a craving. "Instead of using nicotine to get that 'feel good' response in the brain, you are doing it more naturally thanks to the endorphin boost you can get from physical activity." Even a short walk can do the trick.
4. Know the myths about mental health and smoking.
People with mental health and substance use conditions smoke at much higher rates than the general population. When it comes to quitting smoking, some common myths about mental health and quitting tobacco could be standing in the way. For example, studies show that people who experience anxiety, depression or stress usually feel better after quitting smoking. Many people may not know that — the tobacco industry has invested significant resources to connect tobacco with mental health.
5. Seek support.
Consider telling at least one friend, family member or coworker you trust that you’re quitting — maybe you’ll ask them not to smoke around you if they’re smokers, too. Or, connect with others who know exactly what you’re going through in the EX Community on BecomeAnEX®, a digital quit-smoking program developed by Truth Initiative® in collaboration with Mayo Clinic. Around the clock and all year long, the EX Community is full of current and former smokers who can answer your questions, be a supportive listener and cheer on your success.
Be sure to take advantage of other resources that are available to you. For example, many employers, health systems and health plans offer quit-smoking programs like the EX® Program from Truth Initiative and Mayo Clinic, which expands on BecomeAnEX. Specialized support through personalized coaching and medications from the EX Program can make all the difference in keeping your resolution.
6. Celebrate often.
Made it through a holiday or stressful weekend without smoking? Congratulate yourself — experts say that recognizing and celebrating accomplishments when you’re quitting can boost resistance to stress and cravings. Even making it through your first 24 hours smoke-free is a big accomplishment. Members of the EX Community know what a big deal it is to hit those milestones, and they’ll celebrate with you all the way. Here are three ways you can celebrate victories during your quit journey with the EX Community.
To help keep your New Year’s resolution and have a smoke-free forever, explore BecomeAnEX.org.