Six Tips to Staying on the “Quit Smoking” Game Plan.

By: Thomas Hunter

Making the decision to quit smoking, although a huge step; is only the first step in a long journey. Once you have decided to quit, how do you stay on the straight and narrow? Read on to learn six tips for quitting successfully.

1. Make a list of reasons to quit. Make a list of reasons why you want to quit. Or, if you still take a bit more convincing, make a list of pros and cons to smoking. If you’re like the majority of smoking, the cons of smoking will greatly outweigh the pros.

Do you want to quit because you are concerned about health—either you’re own or that of your loved ones? Maybe you realized that the price of smoking is actually costing you a better car, new clothes, or even a house down payment. Whatever your reasons for quitting, write them down and keep them handy to remind yourself when the going gets rough.

2. Anticipate your cravings and formulate a plan of attack. Nicotine is an addictive drug. It’s only a matter of time before you start getting cravings; depending on how often you smoked, it may only be a matter of minutes!

When you are getting ready to quit, pay attention to when you smoke. Is it on a regular schedule? Do you smoke when you are stressed or tired? Note both the times of day and the situations that cause you to reach for a cigarette and think of ways that you can avoid doing that in the future. If being in bars or social situations makes you want to smoke, you may need to spend more time at home until you get your cravings under control. If you miss the smoke breaks at work, be sure to take a break during the day by walking around your building or finding a quiet place and reading a magazine for about the same length of time you would have been out smoking.

Many people also find that medications can help with nicotine withdrawal. Several medications are approved by the U.S. FDA, and are available either over the counter or as a prescription. Talk to your doctor about what medication, if any, may be right for you.

3. Join support groups. Your first support group should be your close family and friends. Let them know that you are going to quit, and ask them to encourage you throughout the process. People who are around you every day also need to be patient, since quitting can often make people irritable. Just ask for their support and understanding, and the people you care about will probably be happy to help you become a healthier person.

Even if you have support from family and friends, temptation still abounds. Former smoking buddies may tempt you to smoke, either because they miss you at the smoke breaks or because they feel guilty for not quitting. What many ex-smokers find helpful is support groups made of others that are currently quitting or who have successfully quit. Many such groups are available online as discussion forums such as WhyQuit, the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking®, and The Quit Smoking Company’s message boards. If you’d prefer in-person support, visit Nicotine Anonymous or Smart Recovery to learn about groups in your area.

4. Don’t let a minor slip-up become a major deterrent. The fact is most people are not successful the first time they try to quit. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you give in to the urge one day and smoke a cigarette. You could use it as an excuse to become a full-time smoker again. Or you could accept that mistakes happen, and try again the next day. Having one or two cigarettes while you’re trying to quit doesn’t negate all of your good efforts.

If you fall off the bandwagon, pull out your list of reasons to quit and re-motivate yourself. Take the time to think about why you smoked and how you could avoid it in the future. If you don’t succeed in quitting the first time and go back to smoking, remember that every day is an opportunity to become a nonsmoker. When you finally succeed in quitting, all those other times will have contributed by giving you practice and reminding you of the benefits of quitting.

5. Make a list of goals. Now that you have your list of reasons why you want to quit, also make a companion list of goals both smoking and nonsmoking related to motivate yourself. Maybe you’ve tried to quit before and had a relapse after one month; therefore, making it past one month this time would be a significant accomplishment. If you are quitting in hopes of achieving better physical fitness, your goals might be finishing a 5k race or playing with your child for an hour without getting tired.

Your goals can be anything, as long as looking at them reminds you of why you wanted to quit in the first place, and motivates you to stick with it.

6. Reward yourself for reaching those goals. Once you’ve reached a goal on your list, take the time to reward yourself for your hard work. Quitting smoking is a difficult process, and rewarding yourself along the way helps keep you motivated and moving forward. As you reward yourself with a new outfit, a night on the town, or a favorite dessert, think about how far you’ve come and what a great feeling it will be when you reach the Big Goal: quitting smoking for good.

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