Was quitting smoking top of your New Year’s Resolution list? If you tried and didn’t succeed yet, you’re not alone. More people in the United States are addicted to nicotine than any other drug, and research shows that quitting cigarettes often requires several attempts. Smokers know that their habit is a destructive one and they want to quit: Among all current U.S. adult cigarette smokers, nearly 7 out of every 10 reported in 2015 that they wanted to quit completely, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If you’re ready to quit smoking for good this time, change expert and intervention specialist, Brad Lamm, founder of the Breathe Life Healing Centers and author of Stop It: 4 Steps in 4 Weeks to Quit Smoking, has tips to help you drop this habit for good.
1. Be willing to quit.
If you're reading this article, and you or a loved one wants to quit smoking, know that it can be stressful, but doable to quit. "For right now, all you need to do is this: Be willing to quit. That's all," said Lamm.
2. Claim your quit date.
Your cigarette quit date is not the day you're reading this. Stopping smoking takes planning for change. "Change is not easy and it's not something to take lightly," said Lamm. "Change takes constant dedication, conviction, passion, and courage." This plan will require a proper detox, which includes determining your replacement therapy, learning new breathing techniques, and planning a quit date seven days out.
3. Identify your nicotine replacement therapy.
Quitting cold turkey quitting cigarettes has worked for some people, but it’s not the method Lamm recommended, and its success rate hasn’t worked as well for everyone. Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy doubles the odds that you’ll be successful at quitting, Lamm said. Why? Because physical cravings wired into your body and brain that keep you addicted, and you’ve developed emotional cravings based on the routines that used to comfort and satisfy you.
Determine which Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) you’ll use, Lamm suggested. Look into your options and decide. “I started out using the patch, but found that the lozenge was better for me because it busied my mouth, satisfying my physical and mental cravings, and delivered a chalky, tickle mouthfeel that is reminiscent of smoking without smoking,” he said. If the lozenge doesn't work, use nicotine nose spray, said Lamm. Talk to your doctor about options he or she thinks might help.
4. Be prepared for cravings.
When withdrawing from nicotine addiction, cravings will show up. “I can attest, they ultimately pass more quickly and then they come to an end,” said Lamm. “When you’re in the middle of a craving, it can feel like someone is sawing off your leg with a butter knife! Then the craving passes and you don’t know what all the fuss was about. Eventually, they stop happening at all,” he said.
That’s why you need NRT and a physical technique, called Hand to Mouth.
“The detox affects cravings, which is the primary reason people say ‘forget this!’ and pick up a smoke,” said Lamm. “Using a nicotine replacement therapy to detox greatly increases your odds of staying stopped. It’s more than a patch, lozenge, or the gum; it’s connectedness to the very notion that you no longer smoke.” That’s cause for celebration, he said.
“What you’re about to do isn’t easy, but it is simple,” said Lamm.
5. Practice Hand to Mouth technique.
“Your primary replacement therapy is called Hand to Mouth,” said Lamm. It’s something you will do in place of smoking and it becomes your new fix, he said.
In the first week you’re substituting every third cigarette with hand to mouth technique before you quit cigarettes on Day 7, said Lamm.
“This practice will exercise your lungs and help you develop mindfulness around your body, your hands, your breath and your ability to practice a new self-loving habit,” said Lamm.
“When you would normally have a cigarette, during those schedule cues (upon waking, on a break at work, after a meal, etc.) practice Hand to Mouth automatically.
How to do it:
Make a fist with the hand you typically used for smoking.
Bring that hand to your mouth, closed thumb and forefinger to your lips, inhale deeply, and then exhale. Feel the air move in from outside, through your clenched fist; tightening your fist to create some resistance and a “feel” to your practice.
(It looks like you’re breathing into and out of your fist.)
6. Write down what you can do with healthier lungs.
You know that quitting cigarettes can help reduce your risk of disease and early death. Think about what you want to do when you have healthier, happier lungs. Write down those goals you’ll be able to achieve by quitting. Refer to this list a few times during the month to remember why you’re doing this. Your reasons for quitting might be breathing better, running faster, smelling better, energy to play with your kids or grandkids, creating a healthier environment for loved ones, fewer illnesses, etc.
7. Surround yourself with support.
Let your loved ones know your quit date to make you more accountable.
Letting friends, family and co-workers know about your quit date is important to get the support you need during this challenging time that you’re changing your life. “When you feel your dragonhead rearing up, take a step back, pause, and reframe your reaction. Breathe. You can do this and you will do this,” said Lamm.
“I challenge you to go on social media, claim your stop date and ask for the support of friends and family,” said Lamm. “Given the opportunity to help us and support us in being better, people rise to the occasion. Sometimes it's just talking yourself out of that pity party of, ‘Nobody cares about me.’ Truth is most people do have somebody that wants them to quit.”
You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support.
8. Be a supportive partner.
If you are the non-smoking partner who wants to encourage their partner to quit, change how you approach the conversation about quitting with a partner.
“Begin the conversation with these words, ‘I love you so much and want you to be well that I have a great idea. Let me share it with you,’” said Lamm. “Lead with love. Describe what this is, and say, ‘You know what? I'm going to support you in this and do whatever I can to help you as you start your stop. You can do it. The family and I are going to be here to support you every step of the way, and you can do this.’ There is a social contagion to it, the support that lifts us up, helps us do things that are scary, fearful, and hard,” said Lamm.
9. Establish a healthier eating routine.
Afraid you’ll gain weight once you stop smoking? You won’t necessarily pack on pounds just because you’ve stopped smoking. Why not plan ahead and consider embarking on a new way of eating to complement your quit, suggested Lamm.
“Gaining weight from quitting smoking is trading nicotine for calories, trading a cigarette for a fork. The secret to success is to replace the act of smoking and the nicotine with a different, healthier behavior. Eat carrots. Drink water. Practice Hand to Mouth. Meditate. Take a walk. Play frisbee with the dog. Give your kid a piggyback ride,” said Lamm.
As you’re halfway through the month of your quit, you can expect cravings to keep tapering, said Lamm.
Remind yourself that you’re getting healthier with each cigarette-free day and you want to fuel your body with wholesome foods.
10. Remind yourself that your looks will improve.
“Smoking is rough on your vanity,” said Lamm. Smoking can accelerate the natural aging process of your skin and cause premature wrinkles. Think of all the other ways your looks will benefit when you quit smoking. Not only will you be healthier inside, but your skin will look healthier, you’ll have fresher breath, you can reverse smoking stains on your teeth with professional cleanings, and your blood flow will improve. (And that can certainly improve your sex drive and life.)