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11 Ways to Keep Your New Year's Resolution to Quit Smoking
By Fred H. Kelley
December 22, 1997
Every year about this time, people begin thinking about the new year and the changes it will bring. Some people make New Year�s resolutions to lose weight, get a better job, get married, or simply to get a life. Millions of Americans will also make the resolution to quit smoking.
Nearly 48 million Americans aged 18 years and older smoke. Of these, fully 70%--nearly 34 million smokers--want to quit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. This year 1.3 million of these smokers will quit successfully. Why do tens of millions want to quit but only a fraction actually succeeds? The answer is that most people just do not know how to go about quitting.
Follow the 11 simple steps outlined below to assure your quit-smoking success.
1. Decide Right Now to Believe that You CAN Quit Smoking
Studies of smokers who successfully quit smoking show that one of the most important traits of a successful quitter is their belief that they have the ability to quit smoking.
Do you believe that you can quit? If you don't, you will have a much harder time trying to quit. The best action you can take right now to start the quitting process is to fix in your mind the belief that you have the ability to quit smoking. You might say that you can't change your belief, but you can.
Believing you can quit is so important because your belief will guide everything you do in your attempt to quit. The way you think, the research you do, the steps you take, the people you talk to, the help you seek--all these will be influenced by the belief you have in your ability to give up cigarettes.
If you don't truly believe you can quit, you'll probably find yourself saying, "What's one little cigarette? I've got a headache. I just can't quit like other people." If you believe you can quit, instead you'll be saying "My head is hurting from withdrawal, but I can make it through this. I know the headache and other withdrawal symptoms will go away in a few days. My life is more important than a stupid cigarette."
Believing shapes everything you do. So does not believing. If you believe something strongly enough your mind will give you the correct thoughts to help your body take you in the direction of your belief.
Can you imagine what life would be like if Thomas Edison hadn't believed that he could invent the incandescent light bulb? If Edison had begun his search for the solution without really believing he could create a light bulb that worked, he would have quit long before finding the answer. Edison tested more than 10,000 combinations of materials before finding the right one to create a light bulb! You must believe that you can quit smoking, even if it takes 10,000 attempts.
Fixing in your mind a belief that you can quit smoking may sound impossible if you now believe that you don't have the ability. Here are some tips to help you change your beliefs:
- Realize that your old belief was founded on old ideas and circumstances and that your new belief is based on new information and your newfound desire to quit smoking now.
- On 3X5 cards, write out several positive statements about your ability to quit. Read your cards three times a day: morning, noon and bedtime. Some statements to use: "I believe that I have the ability to quit smoking," "I am a non-smoker," "I no longer need cigarettes in my life," "I happily quit smoking," "It's easy to quit smoking," "I am a powerful, self-directed person," "I control my own life." Make up some of your own statements. Make them positive, as if you have already completed the task.
- Post a sign on your bathroom mirror with one of the above statements on it.
- Repeat the above statements to yourself, whenever you have a free moment.
- Use visualization techniques (see Step 7 below) to visualize yourself mastering your smoking habit and winning the fight.
- Ask your family and friends to encourage you with positive statements about your ability to quit smoking (See Step 5 below).
2. Create a "Quit Plan"
Successful people in all walks of life become successful through planning. The same is true for smokers who successfully quit smoking. You must create a plan that you will follow daily, so that you quit smoking purposefully, not haphazardly.
Put your plan on paper. Write each of these steps in your plan:
- Study this report and write down how you will mentally prepare yourself to quit smoking. Don't try to quit until you feel you are ready.
- Decide on a specific date that you will quit. Write down your "quit date." Make sure your quit date comes after you have completed step "a" above. Also, choose a quit date that occurs during a relatively low stress time. Don't try to quit during a stressful time at work or during the break-up of a relationship, for example.
Quitting on a specific date is preferable to slowly reducing the number of cigarettes that you smoke. By going "cold turkey" you won't have to keep track of how many cigarettes you smoked yesterday and how many you will smoke today. You will also remove the temptation to cheat and smoke too many. By using this report to prepare yourself for your quit date you will be ready to quit, and going cold turkey won't be so difficult.
- Write down all the things you will enjoy doing after you quit smoking (long walks, eating out without being restricted to the smoking section, taking a vacation with the money you will save, etc.). This step is very important, so spend extra time dreaming up your "smoke-free future."
- Write down the times and occasions when you are most likely to smoke. Write down what "triggers" your desire to smoke (See Step 8 below). You may be surprised to find that you have organized your day around smoking.
- Write down five to ten things you will do instead of smoking, whenever you feel a cigarette craving coming on. For example, you might drink a glass of water, go for a short walk, type a letter, do some filing, call a friend, read a book, or mow the grass. Plan how you will distract yourself. Try to distract yourself with something healthy and/or beneficial. Match the distractions you've created in this step with the times and occasions your wrote down in step "d" above.
- Write down the names of three people whom you trust to support your efforts to quit smoking. Contact them and ask for their support. Make sure you tell them that you want only positive support. Ask them to call you each day and give you positive encouragement. Also, ask them if you can call them if you need help.
- Write down a list of all the items that you use when smoking: cigarettes, lighters, matches, ashtrays, etc. Make notes about where every single item is. Then on your "quit date" track down each item and throw them away. Don't forget to clean out your car and your office at work.
- Write down a list of rewards that you will give yourself. Be sure to reward yourself as you go longer and longer without smoking. For example: End of Day One -- long, hot bubble bath. End of Week One -- see a Movie. End of Week Three -- dinner at an exclusive restaurant. End of Month Two -- take a day off from work. End of Six Months -- take a weekend getaway. End of Year One -- take a 7-day vacation. Whenever possible, write down the specific date that you will reward yourself. By the way, these rewards won't cost you much, if anything, because you'll be saving hundreds of dollars by not smoking!
- Make an appointment to see your doctor (See Step 6 below).
3. Take Action
You can't win the battle if you don't start the battle. The problem with too many unmet goals and plans is that no action was ever taken to start down the road to achieving the goal or plan. If you created your "Quit Plan" in Step 2 above (you did create a "Quit Plan", didn't you?) you now have a plan for quitting. What is step "a" of your Quit Plan? Have you done it yet? Do it now! You must put your plan into action.
If you ever studied physics in high school you've probably heard of inertia. Inertia is the characteristic of an object (you) wanting to maintain its current state. In other words, objects at rest (doing nothing, not moving) tend to want to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to want to stay in motion.
Anytime you have to slam on your car's brakes you experience inertia. When your car slows down rapidly, what happens to you and your passengers? Your bodies lunge forward before they are (hopefully) restrained by a seatbelt. If not restrained you could go right through the windshield. The point is this: if you begin taking action--even the smallest action--to quit smoking, you'll start a chain reaction, carrying you forward to the next step in your quit smoking action plan. Getting started on your plan is difficult, but once you get started it's hard to stop. So get started today!
4. Prepare Yourself Mentally
While most of the media attention surrounding the smoking addiction focuses on chemical addictions to nicotine, you are in reality "multi-addicted." You are addicted to the feel of the cigarette in your hand and mouth. You are addicted to the actions of lighting your cigarette, moving your cigarette up to your mouth, flicking ashes from the cigarette and holding your cigarette between your fingers. You've also become addicted to the visual appeal of cigarettes: the flame, the smoke, even a dirty ashtray. You're also addicted to the deep inhalations and exhalations you take as you puff on your cigarettes. You may have become addicted to smoking buddies at your workplace. All these stimuli serve to meet some physical, psychological or emotional need within you.
Part of preparing yourself mentally is understanding, studying and attacking your addictions. Think about the pleasures you derive from smoking. Does it make you feel "cool"? Do you get a lift or relax? Do you need to have something in your mouth or hands? Do you enjoy breathing deeply when you smoke? Do you feel a compulsion to head out to socialize with your smoking buddies every morning at 10:30?
Think through how you feel when you smoke. Are you happy, sad, soothed, or more alert? The next time you smoke a cigarette, notice all these things. Jot down your observations, then re-read them regularly. Study your own addiction so you understand what you must overcome. As Socrates said, "Know thyself."
5. Get Help and Support from Family and Friends
Sometimes our family and friends can be our worst enemies when we are attempting something very difficult or "different." If your family or friends don't smoke, they may not understand your desire to quit. Nor will they understand the extreme difficulty of overcoming your addiction.
If your family and friends do smoke, they may have attempted to quit themselves, but failed. Or they may not want to quit at all, thereby placing pressure on you not to quit also. Human nature causes people to try to "hold others back" when someone close to them begins to move in a direction different from the norm. If you quit, you will place pressure and the spotlight on family and friends who are still smoking.
Your challenge will be to let others around you know that you are doing this for YOU. Let them know that if they will not encourage you, then they should "keep quiet while you quit." But by all means encourage others to encourage you.
Ask your family and friends to give you positive encouragement. Make sure they know that you do not want them to point out your faults, mistakes and slips. Ask them to praise your victories, large or small. Ask them to be understanding during the times that you may be less than friendly or patient. Ask them to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
6. Get Help From Your Doctor
Research shows that smokers who quit with assistance and support from a physician have higher rates of success. Even patients who received only minimal instruction and encouragement from their doctor showed improved "quitting" results.
Your doctor can give you the medical facts regarding the effect of cigarettes, plus tell you the benefits of quitting cigarettes. Also, he or she may prescribe some of the latest prescription-only quit-smoking medications.
Your doctor can also help you determine steps you can take to give up cigarettes and improve your health. Part of improving your health involves changing your diet and exercising. A doctor can test your current physical fitness and give you a plan for getting more fit (See Step 9 below).
Contact your doctor today. If he or she can't or won't help you, ask for a referral to a doctor who can and will help you.
7. Visualize Your Way to Quit Smoking Success
Your mind is a powerful "device." This device can be used for positive or negative purposes. You win or lose in life based on the way you "run" your mind. Much of running your mind involves visualizing--visualizing what has already happened in your life, as well as what may happen, good or bad.
Visualization is very similar to what our teachers and parents may have called "day dreaming." Children excel at day dreaming and playing "make believe." As we grow older, we tend to suppress our daydreams because of pressures to conform to society's practical approach. Day dreaming or visualization allows us to create bright, fun, fantastic futures for ourselves. Unfortunately, visualization for adults becomes scenarios of unfounded fears, drudgery, regretful memories or just plain darkness.
You never lose your ability to visualize. Instead, you change your visualization to "practical" and logical thoughts. And often, adults do have vivid visualizations but of the negative doom and gloom, "the worst thing that can happen" variety. How often have you let your mind race with pictures of disaster and destruction? You see yourself lashed to a whipping post, being beaten by an IRS auditor, or you see your doctor telling you the pain in your head is a malignant brain tumor.
Your mind can just as easily show you a refund check from the IRS or a "clean bill of health" from the routine physical.
The problem and the opportunity with visualization is that your mind doesn't know truth from fiction when it evaluates the visions in your mind. Your mind simply accepts the visualization as reality.
An example of this is the effect a scary movie may have on you. When the movie Jaws came out in 1975 many people were so frightened by it that they would go nowhere near a beach or lake. Some people were even afraid to take a bath or shower. The mental images of this monster shark took over the mind's rational ability to think and allowed people to imagine sharks coming out of the showerhead. For these people the experience was so real that they changed their actions in the physical world. This is an extreme example, yet it is typical of the way that imagination and visualization can affect your physical existence.
In your mind you can create many different scenarios for yourself. You can visualize good or bad events. Your mind tends to act on these visualizations. Whatever you imagine, your mind will accept as real. In time your mind will work to "fulfill" your thoughts, creating them in reality. Think negative thoughts, create negative results. Think positive thoughts, create positive results.
Much has been written on visualization, and you should seek some more in-depth information on visualization techniques.
Here are some quick tips for using visualization to help you quit smoking:
Visualization often begins with affirmations--positive statements you make to yourself. State your affirmations positively and as if you already have what you are affirming. If possible, state your affirmations aloud, five to ten times.
Some examples of positive affirmations include: "I enjoy breathing easily and deeply," "I am free from any desire to smoke," "My hands and teeth are clean and smoke free," "I enjoy being around non-smokers," and "I am relaxed and calm."
Write down some goals for yourself, relating to smoking. For example, "I will quit smoking by the last day of March," or "My body no longer desires nicotine," or "I will take a vacation to Mexico next year with the money I save by not smoking."
To create deep visualizations that can profoundly affect you, relaxation is very important. To relax you should sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Begin breathing long, deep breaths. Imagine yourself at the top of a staircase. Count down from ten to one, breathing once per number. As you count down, imagine yourself walking or even floating down the stairs. In between breaths repeat statements like "I'm getting very relaxed," and "going deeper."
Once you reach the count of "one" (and the bottom of the steps), let your mind wander for a minute or two. Then begin focusing on the affirmations and goals you have created for yourself. Don't be concerned if you don't immediately see anything. You may only see cloudy or fleeting images. That's okay. With practice your visualizations will become more vivid.
Focus on controlling the images, however faint they may be. If you have set a goal to quit smoking by the end of March, see yourself throwing all your cigarettes and ashtrays away on March 31. Try visualizing a package of cigarettes, then make it "explode." Visualize your lungs as very clean and healthy. Visualize socializing with non-smokers. Visualize yourself effortlessly running a marathon. Visualize your friends and loved ones honoring you at a quit-smoking banquet. Create your visualizations from the goals and affirmations you have written down.
Don't "push" your visualization. Lee Pulos, author of The Power of Visualization suggests that your "visualizations should be no more than 30 seconds at one time."
Pulos suggests doing your visualizations in an enthusiastic, excited state as if you have already achieved your goal.
8. Know Your Triggers
Your next step toward self-knowledge and quitting is learning what triggers your smoking. A trigger is anything that instantly engenders within you a desire to smoke. For example, the end of a meal may be a signal (trigger) to your mind and body that it's time for a cigarette. In part "d" of Step 2 above you wrote down what triggers your desire to smoke. After reading the following, go back to your written plan and add to it if necessary.
Common triggers include people, places, events and stress.
People: when you are with other smokers you are more likely to light up. Also, certain people may put you under stress, encouraging you to reach for a cigarette.
Places: certain places are synonymous with smoking, such as bars or restaurants. Your smoking may also be triggered when you are in a place where you have smoked before or a place where you smoke regularly, such as a designated smoking area at your office.
Events: stressful or extraordinary events such as a family member's illness or death can trigger stress, which consequently triggers your smoking. You may also tend to light up at sporting events, parties, or as mentioned earlier, the end of a meal.
Stress: As mentioned above, stress can be a trigger, causing you to reach for a cigarette. Cigarettes do have a legitimate calming effect on many smokers, encouraging the use of cigarettes as tranquilizers.
Stress is caused by numerous things in our lives and is most likely a daily influence in your life. Part of your job when giving up cigarettes is learning how to deal with your stress in some way other than smoking. Step 9 below discusses exercise as a stress reliever and quit-smoking method. Meditation and visualization (Step 7 above) are also good stress relievers. Plan how you will reduce stress in your life.
As previously mentioned, exercise is an excellent method for reducing stress. Exercise also can play an important role in helping you to quit smoking.
Research shows that smokers who take up a regular exercise program have a much higher quit-smoking success rate. The higher the level of activity, the higher the success rate. Smoking and exercise simply aren't compatible. A Gallup Poll found that smokers who exercised were twice as likely to quit smoking versus smokers who did not exercise.
Cigarettes do alleviate stress for many smokers. When you give up cigarettes, your stress level likely will rise. Exercise is an excellent stress reliever and can replace your dependence on cigarettes for stress relief.
The many positive effects of exercise are too numerous to mention or explain here. However, here is a list of some of the most common benefits of exercise:
- Reduced stress
- Increased stamina
- Increased feelings of well being and improved health
- Weight loss
- Improved muscle tone and physical appearance
- Increased self-esteem and sense of accomplishment
- Improved sleep
- Improved performance at work
- Improved attitudes and disposition
To get started exercising you need to choose one or two activities that you enjoy. Common exercises include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, tennis, basketball, etc. You may even decide to undertake regular, strenuous yard work for your neighbors.
Try to exercise 20-30 minutes at a time, three to four times per week. If you are out of shape, give yourself time to work up to this regular exercise schedule. Consult your doctor before beginning your exercise program.
For many people, exercise is drudgery. Be sure you pick an exercise that you enjoy, and consider exercising with a buddy. Your buddy can encourage you to "keep moving" when you want to stop. You'll also be more likely to exercise when another person is depending upon you to be there. The next Step discusses quitting smoking with a "Quit Buddy." Your exercise buddy also may be your "Quit Buddy."
10. Find a Quit Buddy
Chances are you know another smoker who wants to quit. Suggest to that smoker that you help each other "douse the flames" forever. Studies show that smokers who partner with a Quit Buddy to provide mutual support are more successful when giving up cigarettes than are smokers who try to quit on their own.
If you can't readily find a Quit Buddy, try contacting some of the resources listed at the end of this report. Also, many local hospitals and churches have quit-smoking programs and you may be able to find a Quit Buddy or even a Quit Group there.
Quit Buddies can provide support by way of daily or even hourly phone calls. Make yourself available to your Buddy whenever he or she needs help making it through the tougher moments. Provide positive encouragement when your Buddy succeeds. Do your best to ignore any relapse your Buddy may have. Don't try to "shame" or coerce your Buddy into quitting. Studies show that negative feedback does not improve quit-smoking success rates.
Plan outings and activities together. As previously mentioned, you might exercise with your Quit Buddy. Sign contracts with each other stating that you will quit smoking and provide your Buddy with support while they quit.
11. Don't Give Up
Many smokers who have successfully given up cigarettes have made several attempts to quit before they finally kicked the habit. You should know going in that quitting may be a lengthy, or even life-long, process. There is no failure as long as you follow Step 1 above (Believe). If you believe you will quit, you will! It may take three or four attempts before your quitting "sticks." If you quit for a short time then resume smoking, you are one step closer to quitting for good. Just quit again. Keep doing it Until. Until you win, until you quit for life.
You may find that after a first or second attempt to quit you have reduced the number of cigarettes that you smoke each day. That's great! You are no longer as dependent! Now, go for the gold!
The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to decide or "resolve" to quit smoking. Use this report to formulate your quit smoking plan. Share the report and your plan with your family, friends and other smokers.
Please let me know about your quit-smoking successes (and troubles). I would like to learn from you about the effectiveness of this report as well as effective tips and methods that you create yourself. Here's how you can reach me:
Fred H. Kelley
** Article Copyright Fred Kelley of QuitSmoking.com. Visit the web site at http://www.quitsmoking.com for great information and products designed to help you quit smoking.