Though seven in 10 tobacco smokers want to quit, kicking the habit is considered one of the most challenging new year resolutions to achieve. With any lifestyle change, creating a plan of action must involve manageable shifts in behavior that are based on specific short and long-term goals. Whether it’s in January or July, consider some of the following tips to quit smoking in the new year:
Make a Plan, Write it Down: It often takes eight to 10 attempts to successfully quit smoking. For every individual, a different approach may improve the odds of curbing the habit for good. Planning a day to quit and writing down the specific reasons it’s important is a great place to start. Consider the short and long-term health benefits along with how quitting could help achieve other goals, like saving money or trying a new sport or activity.
Engage Your Support System: Friends and loved ones play a significant role in maintaining motivation and accountability with any behavior change. A strong support system can distract from the urge to smoke and be there to celebrate big and small milestones along the way. In the same vein, a social circle of smokers may make it more difficult to quit, so those who have one should consider temporarily changing their environment to avoid temptation.
Recognize Triggers: Identifying the situations, people and environments that create an impulse to smoke is imperative to quitting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who stop smoking often start again because of withdrawal symptoms, stress and weight gain. If the habit is linked to unavoidable circumstances, like driving or stress, find tactics that distract your mind and body during these times.
Replace the Habit: Filling the void of smoke breaks throughout the day can be difficult, but it’s possible. Start by replacing the habit with something positive that you can look forward to, such as going for a walk, meditating or listening to music. Keeping your mind and body busy can reduce cravings and establish a new normal in the daily routine. One month after quitting, nicotine receptors in the brain will return to normal levels and help break the cycle of addiction.
Be Positive and Patient: Believe it or not, the health benefits of quitting smoking progress quickly. Just 20 minutes after smoking a cigarette, an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure drop as circulation improves. In 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels stabilize and the heart more easily delivers oxygen throughout the body. At the 24-hour mark, the risk of heart disease is significantly lowered. By the time an individual reaches one year without a cigarette, he/she will have improved their breathing, boosted immunity and feel more energized.
Use Your Resources: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 annually. It increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and lung cancer while shortening your life expectancy by more than 11 years. Thankfully, there are a variety of free resources to help individuals quit on their own terms. Connecting with a primary care physician is a great way to learn more about the routes and resources that could be most useful to you. Online tools, support groups and quit plans are also helpful. In some cases, employers will even offer incentivized programming to encourage their workforce to quit.