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12 Practical Tips To Help Quit Smoking

Be Aware that different methods work for different people.

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Ask people you know how they quit or call up one of the organizations listed at Smoking Facts in the resources section and find out what techniques are available. And be persistent. If nicotine gum won't work for you, maybe the nicotine patch will. Maybe you're the type of person who does better quitting on their own or perhaps you're the sort who does better with group support. Try to look at the process of quitting as something you're learning how to do, not something you get once chance to succeed or fail at.

Keep Trying

Most smokers try to quit and fail several times. If you have this experience, you're not alone, and it doesn't mean you'll never succeed. In fact, says the Association of Nonsmokers' Rights, "There's some evidence that the more times a smoker has tried and failed to quit, the better the chance of success the next time."

Pick the right time to quit

If you're totally psyched and ready to go, then that IS the right time, no matter what else is going on. Go for it, and good luck! But if you've got more leeway, choose wisely. The week before a big test, right around holidays, or just as some major, stressful event is coming up is probably the worst possible time to quit. While there's never an ideal time, some times may be worse than others. Try to avoid them as you plan your quitting strategy.

Know Why You Want To Quit

You are your own best ally in the quitting process. Being clear about who you are and what you want is the most powerful thing you can do for yourself. Write your reasons on index cards in beautiful colors and keep them in your pocket or bag, where you can reach for them instead of for a cigarette. Make up little rhymes or special sentences to remind you of what you want.

Know how you smoke.

It might help to keep a smoking journal the week before you plan to quit, or at the very least, pay close attention to your smoking habits. Do you smoke at particular times of the day? Under particular circumstances? Which cigarettes taste great, and which do you smoke only out of habit? The more you know, the more you can "dance" with your habits, figuring out ways of substituting other activities or giving yourself other rewards instead of cigarettes.

As the First Step in the quitting process, lower the amount of nicotine in your system by using low-tar cigarettes.

This point only applies to people who aren't already smoking the lowest possible rating of tar and nicotine. Otherwise, look at your own brand's rating. In your first week, buy a brand that's lower in tar by 30 percent; then, in your second week, by 90 percent. Even though it's true that you may compensate by smoking more deeply, you probably will be cutting back at least some of the nicotine in your system, which should make actual quitting easier. And the process will probably make you more conscious of smoking, which is also helpful.

Go Cold Turkey

When you're done "fading out" the nicotine by using low-tar cigarettes, stop completely. What you want to avoid is a situation where you're dying for a smoke and you have to decide whether or not you get to have one. Knowing that you can't, while harder in the short run, makes it easier to really quit in the long run. Otherwise, your life becomes one long bargaining process with cigarettes and tobacco becomes more important in your life - not less.

Vary your routine

You can't change your entire life, but you can vary it. If you smoke while doing the crossword puzzle, for instance, maybe you could work the puzzle sitting outside on the front step, rather than curled up in your favorite chair. If you smoke after dinner, maybe you could plan a brisk after-dinner walk downtown for some ice cream or for a frozen-fruit popsicle, if you're worried about your weight. If you smoke as soon as you get off the bus, maybe you could get off a stop earlier. Be playful, be creative. Think of your smoking self as a person you don't want to run into for a while. What can you do to throw that smoking self "off the scent"?

Find something else to put into your mouth

Sugarless gum, carrot and celery sticks, or dietetic candy might be good substitutes for tobacco products, and unwrapping and eating them gives you something to do with your hands too. Obviously, you don't want to be loading yourself up with sweets. Aside from the potential weight gain and dental problems, the sugar will make you jumpy, and that's the last thing you need. But giving yourself some substitute for putting a cigarette in your mouth might help.

Take up exercise

If you're already an athlete, you might turn to the kind of physical activity you already enjoy. If you're more the couch-potato type, now is your chance to get physical. Martial arts like tai chi, karate, aikido and yoga are especially good anti-cigarette aids because they emphasize connections between mind and body, rely on deep breathing, and tend to improve concentration and focus. If you start the day with some kind of aerobic exercise or another type of deep breathing, that will rev up your heart and clear you head the way nicotine used to. And if you associate learning a new physical skill with giving up smoking, the more you practice that skill, the more positive reinforcement you'll have for staying away from tobacco.

Eat Wisely

This is hardly the time to go on a diet, but remember that sugar, caffeine, and high-fat foods can make you feel jumpy, irritable, and sluggish. Fresh fruit and vegetables, high-fiber carbs and lean protein can help clean out your system. Dairy products such as milk and cheese help produce mucus, so if you're coughing a lot, ease up on these for a while. Some people claim that a moderate supplement of vitamin C helps with your breathing, while B vitamins are good for combating stress.

Consider the nicotine patch or nicotine gum

Some nicotine products require a doctor's prescription; most nicotine gums don't. However, you probably should work with a doctor or at least consult your pharmacist about the most effective way to use these products regularly if they're going to work for you. And you should know that the nicotine in gum enters your bloodstream through your mouth, not your stomach, so swallowing it will probably make you sick and won't help reduce your craving.

Get support from the people in your life

Most people do better when their loved ones are supporting them. Think of friends or family members that you trust, decide how they can best support you, and then ask for their help. That might range from asking them to offer you sticks of gum every so often to requesting their patience if you see unusually grouchy or upset. You might also need to ask your smoking friends not to smoke when you're there, or to forgive your absence for the next few weeks or so, depending on how hard it is for you to be around other smokers as you yourself are trying to quit.

Does quitting now sound more manageable, or more difficult than ever? Either way, if this is the right decision for you, I urge you to keep at it and not give up until your body is smoke-free. You're not just gaining the physical benefits of giving up smoking. What you lean about yourself as you go through this process will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

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