A New Year’s resolution to go smoke-free could be the best decision you ever make.
It’s well known that smoking is harmful, but we are also very aware of how difficult it can be to quit.
The overwhelming cravings and the desperate desire to have just one more, alongside peer pressure, can often result in the battle to go smoke-free seeming far too difficult.
However, for those wanting to make that vow to stop smoking this month, all is not lost.
Below, leading psychologist Jo Hemmings offers some invaluable advice on how to cope with the many powerful cravings and temptations you may face over the coming weeks.
1. Set yourself little goals - and reward yourself
Jo says: “January is a tough month for everyone. The days are notoriously long, dark and cold, and we all crave a little treat.
“And despite it being a quiet month socially, reducing the amount of temptation, we still all need some comfort – just don’t let cigarettes be your choice.
“Set yourself little goals and reward yourself when you reach them. Maybe a nice meal out after a week, and again after a month. Then when you get to six months or a year, treat yourself to a holiday.
“As human beings, we all need rewards. This stems from biological responses in our brain that seek out things that cause us pleasure. The reward centre sends out an initial positive message when we give in to cravings such as cigarettes, and so it becomes incredibly difficult to resist.”
2. Recognise your triggers
Jo says: “Remember it’s probably an old habit you’re trying to break, so if you feel your resolve weakening, it might help to recognise your triggers and reduce your exposure to them.
“Try to work out what kind of mood you’re in when you feel the need to reach for a cigarette or what you’re most vulnerable moments are.
“Maybe it’s having a drink after work or just making or taking a phone call when at home. Even being with a particular person or being in a certain place can trigger those associations with a cigarette.”
“Write down those trigger moments – not only will this act as a distraction, you will see a pattern emerge which you can then work on changing.
“I’d also recommend doing something else in those situations. For example, you could maybe eat fruit while on social media, have a snack bar when you leave work or endeavour to make your phone calls in a place where you can’t or wouldn’t normally smoke.
“Changing your response to those cues can make a huge difference.”
3. Remove all smoking paraphernalia from your home
Jo says have a clear out and consign any squirrelled away cigarettes to the bin.
4. Get friends and family to help you
Jo firmly believes positive moral support from family and friends can be invaluable. She says having someone gently encouraging in a non-judgemental manner is incredibly beneficial.
It’s been well documented that one-to-one support is the most popular tool for quitting smoking.
The Hold My Light campaign is centred on enrolling friends, family or colleagues to help you. It offers a choice of ways to go smoke free.
Jo adds: “Struggling to quit on your own might be the very thing that prevents you from being successful.
“It’s very easy to have a ‘clandestine’ cigarette – on your own or in company – when you haven’t let others know that you are serious about giving up for good.
“And that can make you feel so guilty that the temptation to give up your New Year’s resolution can be overwhelming.
“So spread the word to family, friends and loved ones. The non-smokers or those who have already quit are likely to be the most supportive and empathetic – especially those who have also quit – on your journey.
“It can be incredibly helpful to join forces with a friend who is also quitting at the same time.”
5 - Explain to your pals how vital their support can be
Speaking directly to those who could offer support, Jo says: “Many smokers are on the cusp of giving up – with your encouragement and understanding, you could help someone to quit along with you, and be there for each other, during your more vulnerable moments.”
Hold My Light encourages those around you to support you and help you go completely smoke-free.
With that encouragement, you can go completely smoke-free either through sheer willpower or by using smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine patches and gums.
However, if you’ve tried to quit but you still continue to smoke, consider switching to smoke-free alternatives.