Six ways to kick smoking for good
While cigarette smoking has decreased significantly in the U.S. over the last few decades, it is still one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking accounts for roughly one out of every five deaths each year. That’s scary news for the 42 million Americans who smoke.
But while the reasons to quit smoking are obvious, there are physical and mental hurdles that may prevent you from stopping. The main struggle is that it’s difficult to kick your body’s dependency on nicotine once you become addicted, which can happen even if you’ve only taken in a small amount of tobacco. Once this dependency sets in, quitting smoking (and avoiding nicotine) can lead to increased irritability and hunger, among other side effects. Also, smoking cigarettes can become a part of your daily routine, so you may feel anxiety without your regular smoke breaks.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to make kicking the habit a little easier:
- Physical activity: Adding regular exercise to your daily routine, whether it’s time at the gym or relaxing activities like yoga or meditation, can help distract from cravings. Additionally, exercise can help diminish the symptoms of withdrawal that come while quitting, including irritability and anxiety.
- Diet: Studies show that certain foods and drinks, like red meat and coffee, make smoking more appealing, while healthier options like fruits and vegetables can reduce cravings.
- Nicotine replacement: There are many FDA-approved alternative sources of nicotine to help wean you off of cigarettes, including nasal sprays, inhalers, patches and gum. Of course, always consult with your doctor to see how these may interact with any medication you currently take.
- Chew on something healthy: When quitting cigarettes, you may find yourself missing the physical action of smoking. To satisfy this urge and replace the act of smoking, try chewing on a healthy alternative, like carrots or sugarless gum.
- Timing: It may be more difficult to quit smoking if you’re also attempting to overhaul your diet or exercise plan. While eating healthy and exercising can both help you quit, as mentioned above, introducing too many drastic changes to your routine might overwhelm your system, making it difficult to follow through.
- Support groups: As with many things in life, it’s easier to quit smoking with a little help. A study from researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey showed that 41 percent of smokers were able to quit after six months when they participated in regular support group meetings. There are many resources and support groups around Michigan to give you the help you need.
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Photo credit: Bhima Bramantika