These are based on Adam Eason’s 10 tips, but some of them are different. You’ll find them summarized in my free brochure Becoming Smokefree, Staying Smokefree, but here I’ll go into a little more depth.
These tips apply regardless of what method you use to stop smoking. They are about taking responsibility for your own change, something I believe improves your chances of achieving a lasting smoking free lifestyle.
1. Write down for yourself the things you don’t like about smoking and the benefits of being smokefree. Carry the paper with you as a reminder.
The point of this exercise is to strengthen your motivation, to make the negatives of smoking and the positives of being smokefree conscious, and to keep them in the forefront of your mind.
2. Notice your triggers (the activities that you associate with smoking) and plan how to deal with them. Write down your plan, too. Breaking your routine, even slightly, will help. For example, If you smoke when you have coffee, switch to tea, and drink it in a different chair.
Our brains learn partly by associating things which occur together in time. Research indicates that taking a drug in a consistent setting even affects how the brain responds to that drug. By being aware of your trigger activities and planning consciously so that you notice when you need to be more alert, you are more likely to avoid returning to your old behavior.
3. Remove all tobacco from your house, car, and wherever else you keep it. Don’t replace it or “borrow” from other people.
This is the same principle as not buying food that you know you shouldn’t eat. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it, however much you want to. By making it as inconvenient as possible to get tobacco, you raise the barrier to resuming smoking.
4. Designate smokefree areas like your car, your house etc. Increase them until the world is a smokefree area for you.
This works in with avoiding triggers. If you often smoke while driving, designate your car as smokefree. This will give you successes to build on, even if you aren’t giving up all at once.
5. Imagine yourself in a few years’ time if you go on smoking ??? how unhealthy and unhappy you’ll be. Then imagine what you could do instead if you were smokefree. Decide that the second one is your future, and it starts now.
Make these imaginary pictures as vivid as possible, complete with the sound and feeling of coughing, the smell of smoke all through everything you own, the feel and look of leathery skin and stained teeth, versus the lift of being able to exercise freely and breathe easily, the younger appearance, the freshness of the world, the money you’re saving.
6. Get support from friends and family to stop and stay stopped. (Your friends and relatives who smoke are also much likelier to stop if you do.)
Unsupportive friends and family are a problem for smokers who want to give up. Others around you who smoke may subconsciously resent your attempts and feel that they make them look bad or that you’re abandoning your bond with them. Patiently but firmly explain that you’re giving up because that’s what’s right for you at the moment and that you need them to respect that and not interfere.
7. Write down your rationalizations for smoking and then write down why they aren’t true.
“Cigarettes are my friends.” Friends poison you?
“I can stop any time.” Why not now?
“It’s not really that harmful.” Yes, it is.
8. Reward yourself when you don’t smoke. Replace the fake “reward” of a cigarette with a real reward.
Nicotine affects the reward system of your brain, and fools you that you’ve done a good thing when you smoke. You need to overwrite that by connecting rewards to not smoking.
Try to use a reward that isn’t going to put weight on you. Many people who give up smoking struggle with a desire to eat more sugary things, since one effect of nicotine is to raise blood sugar levels. More on this in my next post.
9. Look for better ways to deal with stress, anxiety and strong emotions. Deep breathing and exercise are good.
I’ve talked about stress comprehensively elsewhere on the site, so I won’t repeat it here. But make sure you have good stress management strategies in place so that you don’t just default back to smoking. (Smoking is a terrible stress management strategy, incidentally. It actually increases the stress response in your body. The only reason it seems to relieve stress is that smoking relieves the withdrawal symptoms that smoking has created.)
10. Get help. It increases your chances of success if you don’t try to go it alone.
Some people (men, usually) proudly state that they gave up smoking on their own, and of course I believe them. Some people can. But for many people, getting some expert help – whether that be from a doctor or nurse, an organization such as the Cancer Society or the Heart Foundation, or a hypnotherapist such as myself – can make the difference between almost stopping and actually stopping, or between stopping temporarily and stopping permanently.