How to Quit Smoking Forever

Yesterday, my father in law saw his physician and got some exciting news.  His lung capacity increased from 38 to 68 over the past couple of months!  Why was this such a big deal?  He quit smoking.  Finally.  After years of chain smoking, he is now smoke free and living to tell the story.

Smoking can be one of the most difficult addictions for some people to kick, particularly those who have ADHD or who tend to be chronically anxious or uptight (or both).  There are two reasons for this:  nicotine is kind of a weird substance in that it both relaxes and stimulates the user at once.   Picture of Smoking Cigarette - Free Pictures -

Conversely, nicotine is also a stimulant.  Smoking increases dopamine and sharpens cognitive focus.  This is the reason that smokers in the process of quitting feel mentally dull and unmotivated.  In fact, research has shown that the greatest number of accidents in the work place occur on the day of the Great American Smoke Out!

What helps?  First and foremost, motivation to quit is the most powerful predictor of successful smoking cessation.  Did you know that the average smoker has to quit an average of 20 times before finally quitting?  Keep quitting until you quit for good.  Consider this:  There are more people in the US who have quit smoking than there are smokers, and that is a sign that it’s possible for anyone to quit.

The 2nd most important tool for smoking cessation is exercise.  Here are the reasons that you should use exercise when you quit smoking:

  1. Exercise increases dopamine to offer stimulation and sharpened cognition.  This helps replace the stimulant effect, especially for those who need help with sharpened focus and motivation.
  2. Exercise decreases tension and anxiety, both of which can trigger cravings.  This effect can also help smokers feel less homicidal while quitting.
  3. Exercise can fend off cigarette cravings for approximately 50 minutes, which doubles or triples the intervals between cigarettes.  In other words, this is an excellent way to begin quitting and continue to decrease your number of daily cigarettes.
  4. Exercise will help prevent any weight gain associated with smoking cessation, which is one of the primary reasons that women fail to quit smoking.
  5. Exercise rebalances mood related neurotransmitters, which can help buffer the mood related triggers to smoke.
  6. Exercise gives you a measure of perceived control.  You can DO something instead of trying to regain will power to overcome smoking triggers.  Increased perception of personal control is the one factor that helps all of us feel better-fast.

Find some type of exercise that’s fast, easy, and accessible.  Jumping rope, running, or even burpees come to mind.  Yes, you may work up a sweat in the middle of a workday and have to take a 2nd shower.  But hey, which is worse?  Shower or chemo?  Shower, not so bad.  Chemo would really suck.

If you happen to be a heavy smoker, use nicotine replacement to help decrease physical withdrawal effects and urges to smoke.  Chew the gum, use the patch, or use it all at once.

Identify your triggers-the biggest ones are usually coffee, alcohol, and boredom.  Plan for these times.  If you generally smoke on the way home from work, call a few friends or have satellite radio installed in your car so that you can listen to a few of your favorite shows instead.  Anything that you can plug into your lifestyle to replace your smoking habit will help.

Consider using amino acids to help replace the neurotransmitter increases that occur with smoking.  L-Tyrosine can help increase dopamine levels, while 5-HTP can boost serotonin levels.  Check with your doc before doing this to avoid any interactions with your other meds.

Lastly, medications like Wellbutrin can help alleviate some cravings and give you a little energy kick to boot.  I would reserve this option for those of you who have been heavy smokers for a long period of time with many failed attempts.

Don’t stop quitting until you quit for good.  Use intense exercise as many times a day as needed.  Each day will bring fewer triggers until one day, you won’t have them.  You can do it!  I know you can.

That’s all for today, folks.  It’s scorching hot here, but the sun is out again.  We had a few long weeks of rain, which we really needed.  I’m pretty sure that means good things for the local farmers here.  Ta-ta for now!

That’s all for today, folks.