Ninety nine percent of smokers know that, at some point in their life they will stop smoking. Their reasons for stopping will vary and the time they choose to stop will also vary. But we know that health scares to themselves and or close family members, as a result of smoking, along with government health warnings, anti-smoking campaigns and the Surgeon's General warnings on cigarette packs, do not usually convince you or the many others out there to pack it in.
Your reasons for stopping smoking will be yours and yours alone. You may have many reasons or just a couple but, when you arrive at the decision to stop smoking you will go through five general phases.
Phases of Stopping Smoking
Pre-contemplation: This is the first phase, you are not thinking seriously about stopping smoking in the near future, although you know that you will at some point.
Contemplation: In this phase you are actively thinking about stopping but you are not usually quite ready enough to make a serious attempt yet. You may say things to yourself such as – "Yes, I'm ready to stop smoking but, I'm under a lot of stress and I do not want to gain weight" or "I'm not sure if I can do it. "
Preparation: During this phase you are serious about stopping inside the next month and, you may even have tried to stop in the past 12 months. You will usually have some sort of plan on how to stop – be it with patches, a hypnotherapist, gum, acupuncture, will power etc.
Action – Stopping Smoking with Help (Stage 1): This is the first 6 months when you are actively finding ways to kick the habit. Once you've found your way, you set a date and promise yourself that – "This is it." Many people fail to even reach this phase because of the pitfalls that we outlined in the sections before.
Staying Stopped (Stage 2): This is the period of 1 week to 5 years after stopping when you are aware of the danger of relapse and sometimes actively take steps to avoid it.
Unfortunately most smokers only get as far as phase 4 – stopping smoking, but they are completely neglect or are unaware that to successfully quit smoking they must prevent relapse and stay stopped.
So once the decision to quit smoking has been made, it is very important to follow through with the Two main Stages to quitting smoking. Both stages involve a lot of detail and some well thought through planning and preparation – when it comes to smoking the old phrase – 'failing to plan is planning to fail', is extremely appropriate.
In Stage One – Stopping smoking, you need to look at the things that make you smoke – not just addiction. You need to find out what are your main reasons for smoking, many of them are individual to you. For example, do you smoke mainly due to stress, do you smoke mostly out of habit, do you light up when you are bored, do smoke mostly as a social activity, is smoking your main / biggest / only pleasure, do you frequently use it as an excuse to leave a boring, uncomfortable situation.
These factors play a huge role in your smoking behavior. When you do stop – these situations and times will arise again, and if you do not plan on how to deal with them your mind will automatically remind you to smoke. So it is important that you find out what each of these situations are.
The best way to do it is to write down every single cigarette you smoke and why you smoke it, for a few days. Then analyze the results and plan on how you are going to break those links and ensure that they can no longer be a valid reason for you to smoke. For example, if you smoke due to stress, find two main ways to reduce stress in your life.
Firstly, find something that you can do quickly at the time of stress, for example, you may like to use a variety of breathing techniques, a stress ball, you may want to take a short break and go for a walk, or you may want to lie down or just scream out at the top of your lungs if it is convenient to do so.
Secondly you need to set time away every day specifically for relaxation and stress relief. Find out the one thing, other than smoking, which completely relaxes you. Maybe it's a trip top the gym, half an hour in the sauna, reading a book, a jigsaw puzzle, a walk on the beach with your dog etc.
Make sure the activity takes up at least half an hour to an hour each day – you probably spend at least an hour a day smoking, so you need to experience the same pleasure / result for the same amount of time each day.
You should also plan to have a weekend break often or plan on spending a few hours every weekend dedicated to relaxing. They key here and the objective is to firstly show yourself that you can relax without smoking, and you can actually relax much more without smoking.
When you have done this you have effectively removed relaxation and stress relief as one of your main reasons for smoking, then you move onto the next reason. They key is to remove and completely break your reasons for smoking – if you do not have a reason to smoke, why smoke?
Stage one also involves looking at your reasons for stopping smoking – are they your reasons or are they general or other people's reasons? That is, are you stopping because you know that it is going to 'kill you' or because your family / friends are pushing you into it? It is important to have your own specific goals – you should want to quit smoking for yourself and for the things that YOU will get when you quit.
For example, you personally may want to improve your sports performance – so quitting will help you get fitter and therefore improve. Or you may be concerned about the smell of smoke on and around you. So by quitting, you will personally smell better, you will no longer be worried that other people are noticing how your hair and clothes smell and you will be able to smell and taste food better.
These reasons are positive and they provide real motivation for you – these are the things that will help you. By combining the two points you are effectively tipping your smoking scales in your favor. You are making your reasons for smoking much weaker and less in number, while increasing and strengthening your reasons for stopping smoking.
In Stage Two of stopping smoking you need to actively take steps to prevent relapse. In a major of cases relapse is due to one of three main reasons – weight gain, withdrawal symptoms or the pitfalls that come from constantly thinking about cigarettes.
Weight gain and withdrawal symptoms can pretty much be beaten by taking the same steps. Weight gain is due to excess eating. So why do smokers eat so much when they quit? There are several reasons – snacking easily replace the habit of fidgeting with a cigarettes every half an hour or so, your appetite increases – as there is no longer nicotine in your system to suppress your appetite, and eating feels good. When we feel depressed, sorry for ourselves, split up from a partner, get bad news or lose our jobs, most of us turn to food – it's a natural comforter.
To beat the weight gain you need to stop eating as much – easier said than done perhaps. However, the reason smokers eat a lot is because their body is crying out for the vitamins and minerals that it has been missing out on through a lack of food. And as today's frozen, processed, pre-prepared and fast foods do not contain as much of the daily vitamins and minerals as they should, a smoker's body wants more food – so a smoker will eat more to get the foods he needs.
The simple solution is to eat a lot of fruit and veg, eat more cooked meals drink lots of fresh fruit juice (which also helps in the extraction of nicotine) and to take several vitamin and mineral supplements. These four strategies will have smokers eating less and will reduce the body's cravings for food – which can often be confused as withdrawal symptoms.
Drinking lost of fresh fruit juice is especially important as it will top up your blood sugar levels – something your body specifically did – by smoking every half hour or hour. When you smoke your body takes in more nicotine which suppresses your appetite, and you do this every half hour to hour of the day – by drinking fresh juice you do this naturally and beat off withdrawal symptoms.
A focus on cigarettes is extremely harmful for smokers when they quit. Do not fall into the following common trap of seeing someone else smoking and thinking to yourself – 'That cigarette looks soooooo good, I wish I could have one' or thinking to yourself 'I can not believe I've gone twenty hours without a cigarette, and now I'm going to have to go for the rest of my life without them, this is so hard '
These thoughts simply rub cigarettes and smoking in your face and show you what you are 'missing out on' or having to 'give up'. It's the same reason diets do not work – because a diet concentrates and focuses on the very things people want! You can not have chocolate or greasy chicken or burgers. When you think about smoking in a similar manner you are telling yourself that you 'can not have a cigarette'. And what is the one thing that you want? A cigarette!
It is not a good idea to find yourself in this situation. Think about it, when do you most want a cigarette? Is it when you are watching TV, in town, driving or is it when you are half way through a three hour film at the cinema, when you are on a long haul flight, when you are at a family gathering with the children around and when you are in an important meeting?
You want cigarettes when you can not have them. So focusing on them will only lead to relapse – do not try to force yourself to watch other people smoke – 'because you have will power and are stronger than cigarettes'. You've not been stronger than them in the past so what makes you think that you are stronger now?
Forget about cigarettes and focus on a new hobby – something you can get your teeth into and something that gives you real motivation to stop smoking.
When you have completed Steps One and Two of quitting smoking you can be sure that you are on your way. But remember, you smoked for probably over a hundred different reasons
– be aware that there will be other things that will make you think about smoking
– plan on how you are going to death with them and your quit will be ten times easier with preparation.