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Three tips for quitting smoking from an expert

Members of Truth Initiative’s® web-based quit smoking program, BecomeAnEX, have posted more than 87,000 blog entries to ask questions, share resources or just talk about their day and how their quit attempt is going.

BecomeAnEX was developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, the program’s clinical partner. Since 2008, the director of Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center (NDC) has posted a regular blog on EX.

Dr. J. Taylor Hays, M.D., is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and is the current director of the NDC. He authors a weekly blog on the site to share information and guidance from his experience working with quitters at the Mayo Clinic, a world leader in tobacco dependence treatment.

If you are quitting smoking, here are three pieces of advice from some of Dr. Hays’ most popular blog posts:

Embrace a new non-smoker identity

Once you create a quit plan (see our recent article “10 Steps to Successfully Make a Plan to Quit Smoking”), you are on your way to becoming a non-smoker. The quitting process often means a shift in the way you think about yourself.

“For those who have become addicted to tobacco, smoking not only integrates itself into their daily life, but may be viewed as a piece of their identity,” Dr. Hays explains.

He suggests several approaches to enable you to see yourself in a new tobacco-free light. One example from his blog post: write a goodbye letter to cigarettes that ends the relationship you’ve had and provides you with a sense of closure. (You could even write the letter as a blog post on BecomeAnEX!)

Learn to cope with withdrawal

“Withdrawal symptoms are often considered one of the greatest hurdles for folks trying to stop smoking,” Dr. Hays writes.

Having some strategies if symptoms emerge can help. Dr. Hays has four strategies for coping with withdrawal. The first: exercise, 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.”

Reward yourself

According to Dr. Hays, experts consider cigarettes to be “the most efficient drug delivery device in existence, a device that provides an intense kick within five to seven heartbeats of being used.”

Since that kick is associated with the “reward center” of the brain, “it is helpful to identify little ways to replace the unhealthy reward of a cigarette with things that give you personal and private satisfaction,” he says.

Listening to music, eating a favorite food or spending time on a hobby or favorite activity are just some of the ways you can get a good boost. How will you reward yourself?

For more tips from Dr. Hays, visit his blog on, where you can also register and create your own free quit plan and blog about your personal quitting journey.