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Quitting smoking involves creating new habits and turning to healthier options. DepositPhotos. 
Quitting smoking involves creating new habits and turning to healthier options. DepositPhotos. 

The importance of habits to quit smoking

Giving up smoking is one of the most popular resolutions for 2019. But how do you start?

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It was 1964 when U.S. Surgeon General Luther Therry publicly announced that smoking kills and causes both cancer and heart problems. Since then, almost 55 years ago, Americans have continuously been informed about the dangers of tobacco. First there was the information printed on cigarette boxes. Then came the impacting images, accompanied by a rise in the price of cigarettes. All this translated to a progressive decrease in the number of smokers.

According to government figures, 14 percent of American adults were smokers in 2017, compared to 16 percent, during the previous year. Despite the significant decrease in the number of smokers, these figures indicate that there are still 30 million adult smokers in the US.

We are currently at a crucial time of the year for smokers. Or at least for those who at some time in their life have thought about kicking this habit. The thing is that the end of the year necessarily leads to an assessment of the year that is coming to an end and to new resolutions for the year to come. There is always a stellar resolution among these: to quit smoking.

How do we put an end to this habit? Is there some magical formula?  Experts assure us there is no perfect system to stop smoking, nor a specific technique that works for all smokers. Giving up smoking is something that must be addressed individually and, if necessary, should be done accompanied by a specialist. Physicians agree that putting an end to this damaging habit involves replacing it with others that have a positive effect on our health.

New Habits

For smokers, lighting one cigarette after another is but another daily habit. Normally each smoker associates this with a series of routines. For example, one person could be accustomed to smoking a cigarette after breakfast, on the way to work, or with coffee. When a person decides to quit smoking, it is precisely these moments that are the most difficult to overcome, given that the former smoker feels lost, not knowing how to fill these periods of time. Therefore, it is important to take into account that some of the habits presented below must begin before the date we have set to quit smoking.

Farewell Excuses

Tobacco creates not only a physical dependency, but also a psychological one. Arming ourselves with excuses to defend such a health-hazardous problem is normal before we make the decision to quit. Phrases such as “I only smoke one a day,” “I can quit whenever I want.” or “smoking relaxes me” actually hide a psychological dependence on nicotine. The best thing we can do to fight this is implement a new rule in our life. A new habit consisting of something as simple as not inventing excuses, not only relating to tobacco but to any activity developing in our life.

The Now

People who stop smoking usually suffer from anxiety and stress during the first weeks that they stop smoking. This is a common symptom during the tobacco withdrawal process.  This can even lead many people to break their promise and once again take up this damaging habit. To make these weeks less excruciating, experts recommend starting to create the habit of thinking about the present moment. How long it’s been since you stopped smoking or figuring out how not to smoke on New Year’s Eve is insignificant. What matters is how you feel today and how to get through this day without smoking.

Drink Water

One of the big issues people face when they decide to quite smoking is the fear of gaining weight. The anxiety and stress brought on when you quit smoking increases your junk food intake and, in many cases, that of alcoholoic beverages. To avoid weight-gain issues, we recommend starting a new habit weeks before you quit smoking.

This habit consists of eating five light meals a day. This calorie intake rate helps keep sugar levels steady and thus avoid binge eating, caused by anxiety. Experts also recommend that you refrain --at least for some time-- from drinking stimulant drinks, such as coffee and alcohol. This is because smokers tend to accompany these types of beverages with a cigarette. Therefore, if you reduce their intake, this will have a direct impact on your daily tobacco consumption.

Be Positive

No one ever said that giving up smoking was easy. That’s why it is important to continue to be positive throughout the process. Start making the habit of laughing frequently and thinking about how life will improve when you reach the end of the process. Some psychologists claim that in order to feel something we have to begin by believing it is so. If it is still difficult to stay positive, lean on your friends and family members who have experience with the process you are going through.

Don’t Lose Track of the Benefits

On the Spanish Heart Foundation webpage, Dr. Jose Luis Palma Gámiz --Vice President of such foundation-- narrates how one of his colleagues confessed that the best tactic to help in the process to quit smoking was to tell his patients the benefits they would enjoy during and at the end of the process. The tactic is a bit unusual in a world such as ours where we are used to receiving bad news instead of good news.

Therefore, following the adivce of this professional, instead of concentrating on the fact that we must quit smoking because of the negative effects that smoking has on our health, we should do so because after two days of not smoking the risk of suffering a myocardial infarction will be notably reduced. Additionally, three days after eliminating nicotine from our body, we will have recovered our sense of smell and taste. Surprising, right? Well the benefits don’t stop there. After six months coughing will recede, and so will the suffocation and exhaustion typical of smokers. Five years later, the risk of suffering a stroke will be the same as that of a person who has never smoked and fifteen years after you stop smoking the possibilities of having a heart attack will also be the same as that of a non-smoker.  

The above are only a few of the health benefits that giving up smoking has on your health. This, in addition to substantial economic savings not only on tobacco, lighters and ashtrays, but also on medical and treatment expenses. If your resolution for 2019 is to quit smoking, first think about switching habits and on how to implement new habits that can help you successfully work through the process.

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