Prepare for the battle

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So before you take the plunge:

Remember you’re fighting for a just cause
Define your reasons for wanting to give up. Write them down and keep that list to hand whenever you need reminding. Each person’s reasons will be different, but will often include the following:

  • Personal health – the number one reason most people want to quit.
  • The health of others, especially your children.
  • The financial cost of smoking.
  • The satisfaction of freeing yourself from addiction.

Try to make an equivalent list of the ‘Benefits of smoking’ – it’s unlikely to be a long one. Then throw that list away and focus firmly on the advantages, not on what you might miss.

Know your enemy

Form a clear picture of why and how much you smoke. Recognising and understanding your specific smoking patterns will help you formulate effective ways to change them. Analysing your habit in this way also makes you hyper-aware of it and less likely to deny it or to continue smoking automatically. It’s very helpful to keep a ‘smoker’s diary’ for a few days, in which you record the number of cigarettes you smoke, when and under which circumstances, and any emotional or other triggers that make you want to smoke. Take the quiz ‘What do your cigarettes mean to you?’

Assemble an arsenal against temptation
Draw up a list of what you plan to do instead of reaching for a cigarette when the urge hits. This could be anything from taking deep breaths and visualising your new clean lungs, to taking up a new hobby to occupy your hands. Think seriously about what might help in your case, and speak to ex-smokers about what worked for them.

Muster your allies
Generally your chances of success will be greater if you involve other people. This is why many smokers join or form their own groups to support and encourage each other. Be picky about who you form a quit-smoking group with, though: you want committed types, not people who’re unlikely to take the effort seriously and backslide – possibly taking you with them!

Remember that non-smokers (especially the successful ex-smokers) will be some of your staunchest allies; you’ll find yourself instantly much more popular with them when you announce your decision to quit. And make sure you do announce it, and the specific date you plan to go smoke-free, to as many people as possible. Not only does this reaffirm your intention to yourself, the embarrassment of everyone knowing if you fail, might just make sure that you don’t.

Also, don’t forget to ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice and support. They will be simply delighted with you.

- Olivia Rose-Innes, Health24, updated April 2012

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