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why is it so difficult to quit smoking

You already know. Even so, lots of people keep smoking. So why should you quit? The logic is simple: You ll improve the quality and length of your life and the lives of the people around you. Even so, quitting is very difficult. One way to prepare to successfully launch your smoke-free life is to understand why you smoke and what happens when you stop. Why is it so hard to quit? It s hard to tackle the physical addiction to nicotine. Cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance found naturally in tobacco. It travels quickly to the brain when it is inhaled and can cause a feeling of temporary relaxation and/or stress relief. Nicotine can also elevate your mood and your heart rate. But this feeling is only temporary. After your body rids itself of the drug, you start to crave another cigarette. Shortly after you finish smoking a cigarette, your body starts to show signs of withdrawal. You start to crave another cigarette to overcome these symptoms, starting a vicious cycle of dependency. It may seem challenging to find new ways to handle your stress. Do you grab a cigarette when you feel stressed or anxious? Stress, whether it s from your job, relationships, caregiving burdens or just plain fast-paced living, can cause you to look for fast and easy relief. But in the long run, smoking will only add to your stress by taking away your good health. To successfully quit smoking, you may need to think through your stress-management options before you quit. Stop and take a deep breath. Taking five to 10 deep breaths is a good start to stress relief. You also get the benefit of inhaling clean air into your lungs without those harmful chemicals! Go for a walk. Physical activity can release a chemical in your body that improves your mood and relieves stress. Walking for 30 minutes a day can be a healthy distraction, burn extra calories and help your heart. Try to relax. Stress can make your muscles tense. Relax them by stretching, deep breathing, doing yoga, getting a message or even closing your eyes and visualizing yourself in a peaceful place. Call a friend. Talking through your highs and lows with family, friends or even a support group can give you comfort and positive reinforcement.

Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase your heart rate and your anxiety. When you re trying to manage your stress, caffeine can make you tense, keep you up at night and may even cause you to want to smoke. Take care of your body. Drink lots of water, eat healthy and get enough sleep. You ll feel more energized and ready to handle stress. Here are some other questions to consider as you plan your smoke-free life. Does smoking: Provide a way to meet people or hang out with a group? Distract you when you feel lonely? Help you control your weight? Boost your confidence? Give you something to do with your hands or other physical habits? Serve as a companion to coffee or alcohol or seem like the thing to do after a meal? Give you something to do while you are driving? Rethink your social breaks. If you smoke with friends to be social or with co-workers on your lunch break, it is important to tell them that you are trying to quit and invite them to join you. If it becomes too difficult to spend time in these places where you normally smoke, think about changing your schedule or taking your breaks with nonsmokers. Keep yourself busy. Go for walks, read a book or listen to music. Keep your hands and your mouth busy. Chew gum, eat a healthy snack, squeeze a stress ball or play with putty. After a meal,
get up immediately from the table and engage in a pleasurable activity. If coffee is your trigger, change something about the way you drink it. Change the mug you drink from or when and where you indulge. Start a new habit! If you smoke in your car, remove your ashtray and replace it with potpourri or notes to remind you why you want to quit smoking. At parties, try to stay away from smoking areas. Stay indoors or distance yourself from people who are smoking. This might be hard, but stay with it! You might also need to cut back on alcohol. It s hard to have will power and stay focused on your commitment when you ve had too much to drink. Knowing yourself and discovering why you smoke will help you make a plan to quit.

Your heart will thank you for years to come! Sign up for our monthly! Every smoker's relationship with cigarettes is different. And though people quit for different reasons and relapse for different reasons, it may surprise you to learn that each quit attempt will be unique you may find some things easier, others more difficult. So to remind you of what you're dealing with, we're going to look at the three strands to your addiction, the three sources of cravings: physical, social and psychological dependency. As you know, nicotine is a stimulant. It increases the activity of the brain in the same way as caffeine and cocaine. Did you enjoy that first cigarette? What about the next? And after that? Smokers and relapsers alike often say they no longer enjoy cigarettes, yet are unable to commit to a smoke-free life. Craving something, even though you don't enjoy is because you are dependent on it. This is what addiction is all about: you try something, you're not mad keen, but you give it another go. You carry on sporadically or at a low level and you enjoy it. It becomes part of your daily life. Your body now relies on it to get through the day. It affects your mood and emotions. If you try to stop, you experience all sorts of problems. This is the vicious circle of addiction, and nicotine is one of the most dependency-inducing drugs. Nicotine causes your physical addiction to cigarettes and so is responsible for the withdrawal symptoms you first experienced when quitting. The earlier you relapsed in your quit, the more likely physical dependency caused you to cave in this is because the physical withdrawal symptoms such as, irritability and restlessness are strongest in the first weeks. Most people want to 'fit in' or belong, and smoking means you automatically belong to a group. It has been part of your social identity and a way of communicating for example, when cigarettes are handed round. Social pressures are one of the most powerful reasons we start smoking. Most people tried their first cigarette with friends or at a party. And because smoking is then associated with our social lives, which are a source of relaxation and fun, smoking takes on these attributes too.

We're not suggesting it's the only reason cigarettes are enjoyable, but it's a part of the mental hold cigarettes have over you. Perhaps you weren't prepared for the effect of quitting on your social life. We're not going to lie there's no easy way of coping with the need for a cigarette on a night out, in the company of new people or the suspicion that you are somehow less fun. You will feel as though you are 'missing out'. This is why the transition from smoker to non-smoker is such a difficult one. Breaking the psychological hold of smoking is the hardest thing to master. It's why, after years of giving up, an ex-smoker can go back to smoking with just one puff. It's why some ex-smokers never consider themselves as non-smokers, no matter how long since their last cigarette. It's why smokers who are faced with amputation unless they quit, don't. For a non-smoker, such a choice is beyond reason. It's why you are on this programme. This is because no matter how or why you started smoking, over time you form habits. Certain situations trigger the urge to have a cigarette, eg you light up as you walk out the front door. You also incorporate small rituals such as the way you open the packet or hold a cigarette. Rituals and triggers stay long after the cravings have gone. They are easy to re-activate, even after years. As well as these triggers, it's easy to smoke in a certain situation and then attribute how you felt to the cigarette. Cigarettes may seem a handy coping mechanism, but they are no more effective in dealing with crisis than cuddling a teddy bear or stroking a favourite blanket. Sound ludicrous? That's how non-smokers see you when you light up to 'cope with' your latest problem. It's your mind that elevates a cigarette's worth as your body calls out for its fix. : tackling physical and psychological addiction. : medicines can double your chances of quitting. : weight gain usually happens in the first months of quitting. Last updated 17. 09. 2012

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