While many people have successfully quit smoking, they will tell you it wasn’t easy. Many other people – perhaps you – have tried to quit more than once but have not yet been successful. But don’t give up. There are reasons why it’s so hard, and when you address those reasons, you can quit. BCHIP has a free online Quit Smoking Program for residents of Bucks County that will help you address the issues and succeed the next time you try.
Biological reasons why quitting is hard
Most people know that smoking is addictive and that nicotine is the main culprit. Nicotine stimulates the parts of the brain that release chemicals that make you feel good. When you feed your brain nicotine frequently, the nicotine changes the way your brain works, and eventually your brain will need nicotine in order to release these feel-good chemicals. We call this requirement an addiction.
If you don’t have the nicotine when your brain thinks it needs it, you will feel irritable or jittery, anxious or low. You may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. These feelings are what we call withdrawal, which is one of the reasons why it’s so hard to quit. Naturally, in order to feel well again, you will be tempted to reach for a cigarette (or whatever nicotine product you use).
The good news is that, once your brain is starved of nicotine for a few weeks, it goes back to being able to operate just fine without it, and you won’t need a cigarette to feel well or to concentrate anymore.
Social and lifestyle reasons why quitting is hard
The other reason why it’s so hard to quit smoking is because, if you’ve been smoking for a while, you will associate many of your activities with smoking. This includes routine activities such as eating or drinking, work activities such as concentrating on a difficult project or staying late at the office, and relaxation activities, such as hanging out with friends or relaxing with a drink and a cigarette.
An even bigger challenge than saying “no” to your brain is saying “not anymore” to your lifestyle. You’ll have to start doing things differently, and you’ll want to enlist friends and family to help you. You’ll need to change your routines at least a little, so you can send a signal to your brain that “this is new; we’re doing things differently now” and you won’t automatically associate the activity with smoking anymore.
One of the things we teach you in the smoking cessation program is to brainstorm simple changes to your daily rituals. For instance, if you usually sit at the kitchen table in the morning and have a cigarette with your morning coffee, instead try tea or an energy smoothie that wouldn’t taste good with a cigarette. Still want your coffee in the morning? Then change your setting. Instead of the kitchen, sit on the patio. Eat pretzel sticks or baby carrots instead of smoking a cigarette.
The other benefit of our Quit Smoking Program is that we show you how to build support among your friends and family. If your friends are smokers, you’ll need to tell them you’re trying to quit and that you’ll need to back off for a while until you succeed, so you’re not around the smell of smoke. That will be hard, but good friends will support you in this. Your family will also want to help you improve your health by quitting smoking.
Motivation to quit
Another important part of quitting smoking is having a really good reason to do so. Is it because you’re tired of smelling like smoke and having discolored teeth? Is it because you feel like you’re always coughing or catching every illness going around, or because you get winded going up the steps? Or is it so you can be there for your children in 20 years? Pick your motivation and put reminders where you’ll see them.
In the BCHIP Quit Smoking Program, we’ll help you get on track to success, providing education, tools, and the support you need from others who are undertaking the same challenge.