Best Quit Smoking Way
Another great strategy for stress management, health, personal development, mood management and just about everything is exercise. There haven't been a lot of studies done on exercise and addiction, but what research there is suggests that exercise is a powerful way to help you stop smoking for good.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Exercise helps to normalise your brain chemistry and smooth out your moods. You'll feel better on average and won't miss the cigarettes as much.
- Exercise promotes good breathing. Part of the hit you get from a cigarette is because you're pulling oxygen deeply into your lungs. Deep breathing is a good strategy to help cravings pass off.
- Exercise is good for your body. It stresses your body just a bit, enough to stimulate it to grow and strengthen but not enough to harm it (if you're doing the right exercise at the right intensity). This can help your body heal from the negative health effects of smoking.
- Movement is a good distraction. Especially early on in your process of becoming smokefree, moving around is a good way to distract your mind and body from cravings and other stop-smoking withdrawal symptoms.
- Exercise gives you a better reward. Nicotine fools the pleasure and reward mechanisms of your brain, but exercise stimulates them too, and replaces a false reward with a real one.
Besides all that, succeeding at one challenge helps give you confidence to succeed at another. Your goal of stopping smoking and your exercise goals can support each other.
Talk to your doctor before you take on more than mild exercise. (The doctor is unlikely to discourage you, but may have suggestions about what kind of exercise is most appropriate.) And talk to a local gym, personal trainer or health coach about your goals and a plan for achieving them.
Teaming Up: Getting a Group Together
Group support is one of the things that helps people stop smoking. Why not organise a group in your local area – or even on Facebook or some other website? (There was a recent study that suggested a social network group online did help people quit smoking.)
Here are some simple tips for a successful stop-smoking group.
- Publicise it in the right places. That might be flyers on lamp-posts, a community noticeboard, a website or in a publication like a local newspaper or newsletter. Think about where people like you who want to stop smoking are likely to see it. You don't need a big advertising budget – some community publications will publicise it for free if you make it an interesting story.
- Be decisive. If you're all wishy-washy and try to find out when people are free and what time suits them and where would be a good place and how should we run it, it'll never get off the ground. Decide on a time and place and format that suit you, and advertise that. Give people something definite to respond to.
- Have a simple format. If nothing is planned, people will sit around staring at each other uncomfortably. If everything is planned with a stopwatch, it'll be too much. Make sure you cover the basics: Everyone gets to talk (going round the circle), maybe you or someone else does a brief presentation (you can use any of the material in this blog – tell them where you got it!), and there should be some social time before or after with basic refreshments available.
- Make a safe space. The group should be somewhere that people feel comfortable being honest if they're having a tough time (or if they're having a great time), without feeling that they're going to be put down or disrespected for whatever they're experiencing. Talking genuinely about how you feel is a great way of dealing with all kinds of emotions, and it brings a group together.
- It's over when it's over. It's a good idea to have a pre-announced period of time that the group will meet – every night for a week or two weeks, or every week for six or eight weeks, for example, depending on what kind of people you are targeting and how much time they have. You can always decide to extend it if it's going well and people want to keep meeting. But if nobody's coming any more or the group has served its purpose, let it finish.
Picking Yourself Up Again
Not everyone will tell you this, because they don't want to get you thinking about the possibility of “failure”. But most people who successfully stop smoking need several goes at it (the average is about 5). Of course, the more and better your stop-smoking resources, the better your chances of beating that average.
I have three more things to say about that.
- There is no such thing as one cigarette. One is too many and a thousand aren't enough. If you start smoking again, particularly within a couple of years, you reactivate all of the parts of your brain that like getting nicotine, and they will take charge of you again. You don't want that.
- Having said that, starting smoking again is not failure. It's feedback. It's letting you know that there is still something you need to sort out in order to reach your goal of being smokefree. Learn from it, and don't be ashamed to go back and ask for more help from the people who helped you before. (Go and watch the videos I made with my client Sarah James if you want some inspiration.)
- If you start again, stop again. Treat it as a new beginning. Dive back into the resources you have, maybe try another method, get some extra help, but beat it one way or another.
Where I grew up, in the western part of Auckland, New Zealand, there are a lot of immigrant families from what is now Croatia. A lot of them have vineyards and orchards, and my father used to buy wine from a particular old fellow called Tony. Now Tony used to always have a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, but one day Dad noticed that he didn't have one, and said something about it to him.
“Ya,” he said in his heavy accent. “Every morning, cough, cough, cough, think lungs come up. One day I look at cigarette packet and I say, This basta' boss or I boss? Then I throw him in rubbish tin, never touch him again.”
Not everyone can quit smoking just like that. But I tell that story because of old Tony's eloquent words of inspiration for everyone who wants to stop smoking. You have to ask yourself: This basta' boss or I boss? And don't stop until you've beaten it. If you find this post interesting, please share it with your friends. To find out more, you can check out Best Quit Smoking Way.
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