Each third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society sponsors the Great American Smokeout to encourage smokers to give up smoking. It’s a substantial step toward a healthier life.
Have you considered quitting smoking, but aren’t sure you are ready? Think about why it is important to you:
- Does someone you know suffer from health problems because of smoking?
- Have you started seeing signs of smoking-related health problems, or are you worried about developing issues in the future?
- Are you tired of spending an excessive amount of money on cigarettes each month?
The American Cancer Society provides a number of reasons why quitting benefits your health, including:
- Your blood pressure and heart rate drop within 20 minutes of quitting
- Your lungs start to heal after one month
- Your risk of coronary heart disease drops by half after one year of quitting
In addition, you can save thousands of dollars a year on cigarettes.
Picking your Quit Day
The first step in quitting is to pick a Quit Day.
“This date should be within the next month, which allows you time to prepare, but not enough time to talk yourself out of quitting,” says Heather O’Gorman, behavior change expert and certified health and wellness specialist for Sharp Health Plan. “You can either pick a day with significance, such as a birthday or anniversary, or a random day of the week that is generally low stress for you.”
Once you have picked a date, share your news with friends, co-workers and family to build added support and accountability.
“It’s also a good idea to speak with your doctor about your upcoming quit date, as he or she may be able to offer insight into nicotine replacement therapies or other treatments that may be helpful to you,” says Dr. Cary Shames, chief medical officer for Sharp Health Plan.
Clean your home, car and any other areas that you have smoked in or kept your cigarettes, lighters or ashtrays. You can also join a local support group or tobacco cessation program and learn techniques to help get you through cravings.
When your quit day arrives, it can feel challenging to fight the cravings. Here are a few things that can help:
- Make sure to drink plenty of water or juice to flush out your system
- Keep a list nearby reminding you of why you wanted to quit in the first place
- Avoid situations where you will be tempted to smoke
- Keep cut-up vegetables around so you have something to snack on
- Do things to keep your hands busy such as writing, knitting or finishing crossword puzzles
“Although the cravings may be strong, remember that more than a million people quit smoking every year, and you too have the strength to fight the urge to have ‘just one’,” says O’Gorman.