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Breaking the Habit: Effective Strategies to Stop Smoking

Wellness Watch 04/10/23 Yanique Barnett-Brown

We understand that quitting smoking can be a challenging journey, but it's one of the best decisions you can make for your health.

Why is it so hard to quit smoking?

Quitting smoking is no easy task. Nicotine addiction, combined with the habitual nature of smoking, makes it incredibly difficult to break the habit. Nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in cigarettes, stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, creating a pleasurable sensation. This pleasurable feeling reinforces the habit, making it hard to give up.

Moreover, smoking becomes deeply ingrained in our daily routines and social activities. Whether it's taking a smoke break at work or lighting up after a meal, the association between smoking and certain situations can be incredibly powerful. These associations can trigger cravings, making it challenging to resist the urge to smoke.

The benefits of quitting smoking

Although quitting smoking is tough, the benefits of doing so are immense. When you quit smoking, your body begins to heal and repair itself. Within just 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure start to decrease. After 24 hours, the carbon monoxide levels in your body decrease, allowing your lungs to function better.

Long-term health benefits are also significant. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing various diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory infections. It also improves your overall lung function and increases life expectancy. Not to mention the financial savings from no longer purchasing cigarettes, which can be substantial.

What happens to your body when you quit smoking?

When you quit smoking, your body undergoes a series of changes as it recovers from the damage caused by smoking. Within a few days, your sense of taste and smell improve, and breathing becomes easier. Your circulation improves, leading to better skin health and a reduced risk of developing wrinkles.

As time goes on, your lungs begin to repair themselves. Coughing and shortness of breath decrease, and lung capacity gradually increases. Over several months, the risk of heart attack drops significantly, and the risk of lung cancer continues to decrease.

Quitting smoking is a journey, and the improvements to your health will continue for years. It's never too late to quit and start reaping the benefits of a smoke-free life.

Effective strategies to quit smoking

  1. Set a quit date: Choose a specific date to quit smoking and mark it on your calendar. Having a target date helps you mentally prepare and commit to quitting.

  2. Find support: Inform your friends, family, and colleagues about your decision to quit smoking. Surrounding yourself with supportive individuals can provide encouragement and accountability throughout your quitting journey.

  3. Consider nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches, gum, or lozenges, can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

  4. Explore behavioral therapies: Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or counseling, can be effective in helping you change your smoking habits. These therapies address the psychological aspects of addiction and provide coping strategies for cravings.

  5. Keep yourself busy: Distract yourself from cravings by engaging in activities that keep your hands and mind occupied. Exercise, hobbies, or spending time with non-smoking friends can help you stay focused on your goal.

Dealing with withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are a common challenge when quitting smoking. These symptoms occur as your body adjusts to the absence of nicotine. Common withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and intense cravings. While withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, they are temporary and a sign that your body is healing.

To manage withdrawal symptoms:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps flush nicotine and other toxins out of your system, reducing cravings and helping you feel better overall.

  2. Practice deep breathing: Deep breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Take slow, deep breaths whenever you feel a craving or withdrawal symptom.

  3. Stay active: Regular exercise not only distracts you from cravings but also releases endorphins, which improve your mood and reduce withdrawal symptoms.

  4. Seek support: Reach out to support groups or online communities of individuals who are also quitting smoking. Sharing experiences and receiving encouragement can make the journey easier.

Tips to stay smoke-free

  1. Avoid triggers: Identify situations or activities that trigger your urge to smoke and find ways to avoid or modify them. For example, if you usually smoke during a coffee break, switch to herbal tea instead.

  2. Reward yourself: Celebrate milestones and achievements along your smoke-free journey. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a massage or a new book, as a way to reinforce your progress.

  3. Practice stress management: Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Smoking may have been your way of coping with stress in the past, but there are healthier alternatives.

  4. Create a support system: Surround yourself with people who support your smoke-free lifestyle. Share your goals and challenges with them, and lean on them when you need encouragement.

Resources and tools to help you quit smoking

  1. National Health Service (NHS): The NHS offers a range of resources, including smoking cessation clinics, helplines, and online support. Visit their website or speak to your healthcare professional for more information.

  2. Quitline: Many countries have dedicated quitlines that provide free support and guidance to individuals looking to quit smoking. These helplines offer personalized advice and can connect you with local resources.

  3. Mobile apps: Numerous mobile apps are designed to support individuals in their journey to quit smoking. Some apps offer features like tracking your progress, providing motivation, and offering tips and strategies.


Quitting smoking is undoubtedly challenging, but the benefits of doing so are worth it. The journey to becoming smoke-free starts with a strong commitment and effective strategies. By understanding the difficulties of quitting, harnessing support, managing withdrawal symptoms, and staying motivated, you can break the habit and enjoy a healthier, smoke-free life. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources available to help you on your journey to quit smoking.

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