If you smoke, this is for you. If you have ever thought about quitting smoking, or are too scared to take the leap, even more so. Even if you have tried quitting a few times and decided to stop trying, this one’s still for you!
As someone who smoked for years, I get it! So many reasons not to give up. I used to write pro and con lists about quitting smoking because I had considered it quite a few times until I did it. And let’s be honest, the cons of quitting were racking up the same as the pros… if you are a smoker, you can most likely relate…
These were my reasons to continue smoking:
- I valued the social aspect of smoking.
- Smoking would calm me down in stressful situations.
- Smoking gave me structure (think about your habitual lunchtime ciggies or after-work ciggies).
- Smoking had a ritualistic meaning.
So let’s talk about the benefits of ditching that ciggy habit!
We all know that quitting smoking is great for your body – your pulse improves, your breathing is better, you reduce the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, you get to do more at the gym and live longer of course…
But what are the benefits for your mental health? Here’s a few!
1. You Become More Resilient to Stress!
Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine, the hormone responsible for pleasure. Naturally, that will make you reach for a cigarette more often than not when you are low, stressed, anxious etc. By doing that, you are essentially telling your body that you are supplying the dopamine, so it becomes ‘lazy’ in releasing it itself!
Find yourself rolling as soon as you finish that stressful meeting or know there is going to be a difficult conversation with a family member? That means your body is completely relying on you for bringing itself into calm.
Don’t worry, when you quit, your body looks for new balance – you get to find ways to calm yourself ‘naturally’. When I quit, it was hard at first, but within 10 days I realised I don’t actually need much to calm down – my body has found a new way.
2. You Become Less Anxious or Depressed!
You having downregulated your dopamine production can seriously mess with your mental health in the long term. It has been found that if you smoke, you are more likely to develop depression over time.
Quitting is associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and stress and improved positive mood and quality of life!
Let’s be honest, you may experience intense cravings, and withdrawals at first (this could be insomnia, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, irritability, and low mood) which you could easily mistake for worsening mental health. Keep going, it’s going to get better – I know it did for me!
3. Your Meds Work Better!
Apparently, nicotine restricts the effectiveness of some medications that we take for mental health! If you have a mental health diagnosis and prescribed meds, you may be surprised to realise that you may now need a lower dose after quitting smoking!
According to NHS, stopping smoking can have a similar effect to medication taken for anxiety and depression! How cool is that?
4. You are Able to Do More With Your Body!
The physical effects of long-term smoking such as lung and heart problems can make you less able to enjoy the things in life that you used to. I would find myself struggling through some of my favourite workouts just because I smoked. Because I used exercise to improve my mental health, I knew it was making me feel low.
When you quit, you give yourself an opportunity to get back into hormonal balance as well as there is one less thing standing in the way of your physical abilities. And we all know how important movement is for our mental health!
5. You Get to Reevaluate Your Time and Friendships!
If you are a smoker, you know there are certain things that revolve around smoking – set times, habits, people you normally smoke with. Truth is, it’s going to be difficult to chat to your colleague who you normally go out for a lunchtime cigarette with, and it may be hard to walk to the car without rolling yourself a ciggy if that’s what you have done for so long.
You will find that a lot of those things are unnecessary – perhaps smoking was the only thing you had in common with some people and you actually don’t benefit from these relationships. Or maybe you actually prefer to listen to music or just get yourself a cup of tea instead of constantly rolling… Trust the process – you will find new habits and things that make your life better!
Here Are a Few Tips If You Are Trying to Quit:
- Talk to people about it, even if it’s just an intention at this point!
- Make a pros and cons list!
- Delay your cigarettes as much as possible – your cravings only last a few minutes at a time!
- Find replacement activities that help you delay or skip – ring a friend, make yourself a cuppa, watch a video!
- Exercise to fight the urge and release the dopamine!
- Use the local help – NHS provides a smoking cessation service, and perhaps there are some other clinics that can support you!
And most importantly – believe in yourself! Good luck!