Why Quitting Smoking is Worth the Effort?
Smoking is a highly addictive behavior that can be difficult to quit. And like other addictions, smoking is maintained by powerful reinforcing mechanism that allow a person to mask, escape or move away from a bad, painful feeling and provide almost instantaneous relief and avoidance by replacing the painful emotions with pleasurable ones.
Nicotine, the primary addictive substance in cigarettes, stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, which creates pleasurable feelings and reinforces the desire to smoke.
Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to the nicotine and develops a tolerance to its effects. This is why, like in any addiction, smokers find it difficult to quit smoking and experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.
In addition to the addictive properties of nicotine, smoking is often associated with social and psychological factors that can make it even more difficult to quit. For example, smoking may be associated with certain social situations, such as drinking alcohol or socializing with friends who smoke. Additionally, smoking may be used as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety.
Quitting smoking can improve your mental health by breaking the cycle of nicotine dependence. Research shows ex-smokers who have quit for at least 6 weeks have improved mental well-being than those who continue to smoke.
If you’re looking to improve your mental health and are considering to stop smoking, read further.
Why Is Quitting Smoking So Difficult?
Addictions are difficult to break, and smoking is no different. People may seem to pick up this habit without obvious reason, however like any addiction, the habit of smoking is most likely rooted deep within us, and maintained by a reinforcing contingency, i.e. it is simply providing relief, satisfaction, escape or another element that is reinforcing enough to that person to be maintained over a certain period of time, making it a habit that is hard to break, as in other addictions. At the root cause of smoking is a deep sense of not enoughness and inability to cope with our emotions.
Once the level of nicotine available in your bloodstream is reduced, several withdrawal symptoms occur and include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, headaches, and intense cravings for nicotine. These symptoms can be challenging to manage and may cause smokers to relapse and resume their habit. Overcoming the physical withdrawal symptoms like headaches and fatigue can be difficult.
The role or function that smoking has in various social settings poses a challenge to quitting. Many people who smoke may have based their friendships on that or became part of that social circle because of this shared interest, and fear losing friendships.
People experiencing mental health issues can be especially prone to nicotine addiction because of nicotine’s mood-altering abilities. It is also true that with mental health conditions such as depression, smoking rates are not only higher, but depressed individuals are less likely to stop smoking.
Tips on Quitting Smoking
Do it for the Right Reasons
Like any addiction, willpower alone may not be enough, especially for the long run. To help you with that, sometimes having a strong valid reason to quit may be enough to motivate you to quit smoking and keep you on track. A strong motivating goal would be one that does not typically involve short-term or tangible targets. For example, you may find it difficult to quit (and less likely to stick to quitting) if your goal was to get rid of the bad cigarette smell or to whiten your teeth. Once this goal is met, you may find it ok to resume smoking. Whereas if your motivating target involved taking care of your physical health or protecting your family from second-hand smoke, you would most likely quit and stick to quitting!
Cold Turkey or Quit Gradually?
I always repeat it to the clients I work with: find what works for you. Some people find that gradually decreasing the number of cigarettes they smoke each day is an effective way to quit. But this strategy doesn’t work for everyone. You may find it’s better for you to go “cold turkey” and stop smoking all at once. There is no rule, as long as the plan fits your needs.
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
These my include cleaning out old scents from your car, drapes, clothes, or upholstery to get rid of the smoky smells, cutting out stress from your life, taking a break from those friends who can’t seem to do without the cigarettes or shisha, signing up with a social support group, …
In addition, you can make some lifestyle changes by adopting healthy coping strategies when you’re stressed, such as going for a quick jog, enrolling in a dance class, trying a new hobby, reading or listening to soothing music.
Quitting smoking is no easy task. This is exactly why you need to remember to tap yourself on the back often enough and give yourself a well-deserved reward! Set aside the money you usually spend on cigarettes. When you have stayed tobacco-free for a defined period of time that you set, reward yourself automatically with what make sense to you and what keeps you motivated. It could be a preferred gift card, a movie outing, a shopping spree. And don’t forget to celebrate your milestones every smoke-free year. You earned it.
Seek a professional help
Many people who quit smoking will relapse at some point. Don’t be put off trying again. Use it as an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong. Seeking a therapist to help you with that goal is normal. Nowadays, therapies such as behavior modification can help you regulate your environment to fit your needs. It also teaches you how to adjust what is not working for you in order to avoid smoking and reduce that unwanted behavior. Other therapies such as Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) work deeply to allow you to understand what is truly maintaining your smoking addiction, and how to powerfully get rid of it. You can access both modalities with Dr. Carla, and plan out a healing journey that fits your needs.