Whether you are male or female, young or old, giving up cigarettes will make a bigger impact on your health than anything else you can do. Tobacco use causes over 450,000 deaths in the United States each year. Approximately 170,000 of those deaths are from cancer. If you smoke, you have probably heard sobering statistics like these before.
In most cases, smokers are well aware that they are damaging their health and possibly shortening their life spans. Even with this knowledge, quitting smoking is far easier said than done. Here, I’ll share my favorite natural tips for quitting that my patients have used to give up cigarettes for good.
In order to successfully kick the habit, it is crucial to find reasons for quitting that are meaningful to you. It’s true that you will dramatically improve your health in the long term. You will also greatly reduce your risk for lung, as well as thirteen other types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Even if you’ve smoked for decades, it is not too late to reduce these health risks.
For some patients, a healthier body and a longer life expectancy aren’t enough to make them take action. I know it can be hard to appreciate benefits that don’t give you instant health returns. But take my word that if you give up cigarettes today, you will indeed feel healthier by tomorrow. You will have more energy and focus. Your sense of smell will improve and your breath will be fresh. You will be able to breathe easier when performing physical activity.
There are still more reasons to quit smoking that motivate even my most reluctant patients. For some, vanity can spur them to action. Smoking significantly contributes to visible signs of aging. Smokers develop deep wrinkles on their lips and around the mouth from puffing. Cigarette smoke attacks skin’s collagen resulting in sagging skin and discoloration. Finally, some patients are motivated to quit for their partner or children. Imagine how proud they will be when you quit and how good you will feel about yourself. Whatever your reason for quitting, write it down and refer back to it frequently throughout the process.
How to Kick the Habit
Once you know why you’re quitting, it’s time to make a plan. Set a quit date and stop buying cigarettes (as a bonus, you’ll save about $2,500 per year). Then make a list of all the things you can do when a cigarette craving strikes. These might include calling a friend, going for a walk, playing with your pet or children, cooking a meal, going shopping, washing the car or chewing gum. Anything goes if it works for you. Along with distracting yourself from your cravings, try the following natural strategies:
1) Replace “smoke breaks” – If you smoke on breaks at work, try a different fun activity like chatting with a friend, doing a crossword on your computer or grabbing decaf coffee (to avoid jitters) or juice instead of a cigarette.
2) Sip herbal tea – Replace your cigarettes with herbal teas. Since they don’t have caffeine, you can drink as much as you want any time of day. They also hydrate you, staving off food cravings.
3) Pop a mint – Keep a stash of peppermints on hand. Sucking on mints keeps your mouth busy and gives you a fresh taste instead of the bad breath that comes with smoking.
4) Get acupuncture – There is some evidence that this treatment can ease cravings to make quitting easier.
5) Try oat extract – A study showed that 1 ml taken four times per day reduced cigarette consumption. Look for it at health and natural food stores.
6) Add up your cash – Put the money you would be spending on cigarettes in a jar on your nightstand. A visible reminder of the dollars you can now spend on a spa treatment or a fancy dinner can be highly motivational.
7) Change up your routine – Many smokers puff out of habit. If you know you light up every day after lunch, schedule an informal meeting with a colleague right after your lunch break. If you smoke in the car, start listening to books on tape to keep you entertained.
I hope you can adopt some of these strategies and give up smoking for good. Once you define your own personal reason for quitting, you will be unstoppable!
Photo Credit: Francesco Marino