In this blog, I always try not to go down the route of preaching. I think it's a much better strategy to motivate people to better themselves instead of telling them why the actions they are currently taking are bad. So smoking is something which is difficult for me. I've never been a smoker, and due to my early life running bars and nightclubs - and having to pick up, and deal with the remenants of other peoples cigarettes, smoking in any form has always bothered me. Add to this the numerous friends and relatives of mine who have had health issues due to smoking it creates a cocktail of scorn in my mind for anyone who even considers lighting up. But ultimately it is a thing people do, for many an addiction, and for many a joy. So appologies if the following does sound preachy, I'll try my best not to.
October is the month where the nhs runs its annual stoptober campaign, getting people to give up smoking for one month. I think it's a great idea, and there is a lot of studies behing why it is a good idea, and it's the same principles we use in fitness to get people to exercise more. Giving something up, just like forming a new habit is something that does not happen in one moment, it is a process that takes time - yes, you do need that moment to start but the crucial thing is consistancy. In fitness we always say "It is motivation that gets you started, it's habit that keeps you there".
For smoking if we look at the reverse of the process, when you started smoking. How many of you smokers out there took your first ever puff and thought "this is absolutely delicious!" I'm willing to bet not many of you, but (for whatever reason) it was reinforced and you decided to continue, to try again until it became something you enjoyed, and more importantly, it became a habit.
I remember the first time I drank a beer, I can tell you it was not the enjoyable experience that I thought it would be. A friend and I were given half a pint of guinness each. That first sip went down and I remember thinking "this is absolutely disgusting - why on earth don't we just drink a coke instead!" I probably got through another 2-3 sips before giving it to my friend. However, as I got older and had the social reinforcement from people and situations around me, I drank more and more until it became something I enjoyed and eventually something I would do on a nightly basis.
Well like starting exercise setting yourself an achieveable goal is a good start, here are my tips to try and reach the end of October without another cigarette...
1. LIST YOUR REASONS TO QUIT
Cost, health, family, the future – whatever the reasons, keep reminding yourself why you decided to quit. Make a list to read when you need support.
2. TELL PEOPLE YOU'RE QUITTING
Quitting smoking is easier with people supporting you, so let family and friends know you're planning to quit. Ask them to check in on you and help distract you if cravings strike.
3. REMEMBER WHAT WORKED
Don't be put off if you've tried to quit before – you will have learnt a lot from that experience. Write down what worked well and keep a record of your progress. Create a Personal Quit Plan to see what might work best for you this time.
4. USE STOP SMOKING AIDS
Stop smoking aids increase your chances of quitting successfully compared to willpower alone. From prescription tablets to nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and e-cigarettes, your local Stop Smoking Service, GP or pharmacist can help find the mix that's right for you.
5. HAVE A PLAN
If you have a potentially stressful event, like a wedding or important day at work, plan what you will do if you're tempted to smoke. If you're using an e-cigarette or NRT, make sure you have them with you.
6. CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE
List your smoking triggers and think about how to avoid them. If you usually smoke at certain times – after food, with a coffee or after putting the kids to bed – decide ahead what to do instead of lighting up.
7. KEEP BUSY
When cravings come, go for a walk, play a game on your mobile or phone a friend to keep busy. If you have NRT or an e-cigarette, use them as much as necessary to keep cravings at bay.
8. EXERCISE AWAY THE URGE
Physical activity may help reduce your nicotine cravings. When you have the urge to smoke, do something active instead. Go to the gym or for a swim, or do a little gentle exercise like a short walk.
9. LEARN FROM OTHERS
Everyone's quitting journey is different but you're never alone. There are lots of groups out there but also, why not try and quit at the same time as a friend for inspiration, support and advice from others who have quit or are trying to quit just like you.
… AND GOOD LUCK!
Don't forget to throw away all your cigarettes before you start. Remember, there is never "just one". You can do it!