68% of smokers want to quit but only 7.5% succeed (CDC). Often it takes multiple tries so don’t be discouraged. You can increase success of abstinence to ~32.5% with help. You don’t need anyone to tell you the reasons to quit or lecture you about your habit. If you are intrinsically motivated to make a change, Sensibly would like to provide some information to help.
Research shows the combination of coaching and medication is more effective for smoking cessation than either alone. Secondly, there is a strong relation between the number of sessions of coaching, when it is combined with medication, and the likelihood of quitting for good. More specifically, more than 8 coaching sessions maximize your chances for success (estimated abstinence rate ~32.5%). See this paper for the data.
Here are a series of steps that have proven to be effective for helping others quit:
- Using the power of positive suggestion, write down the positive benefits of becoming a nonsmoker. It is important not to use fear tactics such as the dangers of smoking as this may trigger the urge to smoke. Examples of positive consequences of your decision to quit include the air around me will be cleaner, I will have more funds for nice vacations, I will have more stamina and energy, my lungs will become strong, and my blood pressure will improve.
- Develop a personalized quit plan and a set definitive quit date 1 to 2 weeks away so your motivation stays strong, yet you have time to prepare.
- Identify triggers that will make you more likely to smoke. Then develop strategies to avoid specific triggers and deal with others when they occur. Changing your environment to encourage behaviors you desire by making them easy can have a profound effect. For example, have sliced carrots on hand that can help replace the hand to mouth habit with a positive, healthy one.
- Find ways to manage withdrawal symptoms that can last a few days to a few weeks. One method is nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and there are many options available without a prescription. You can also speak to your primary care provider. Teens and pregnant women should speak to a doctor before using NRT.
- Identify friends and relatives who can support you on your journey. There is nothing like a community that encourages and inspires you when you encounter challenges. You can also tell them your quit date to increase the likelihood you will follow through on your commitment.
- Explore additional resources to help. For example, you can speak to an expert, use an app, or use an on-line program developed in partnership with Mayo Clinic. Here are additional free websites to help: Smokefree.gov, CDC, and Truth Initiative / Mayo Clinic.
- People often rely on smoking to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and/or boredom. Think of alternative methods to deal with stress and emotions in a healthier way.
- Setup a reward system for achieving specific milestones. For example, treat yourself to a special dinner with friends after your first full day being smoke free. Create a calendar of events to celebrate the small wins along the way.
- Leverage a coach that can help you increase the belief you can be successful and draw out your intrinsic motivation. Coaches act as a guide to help you discover solutions and leverage strengths without telling you what to do.
- At the start of quit day, visualize your favorite, relaxing place. Maybe it’s skiing fresh powder in Alaska or on a beach in the Mediterranean. As you imagine this place, do a muscle relaxation exercise of flexing then relaxing each muscle in your body starting with your toes working your way to the shoulders and neck. Let all the tension and stress flow from your body. While fully relaxed in this imaginary scene, visualize you have become a nonsmoker. Repeat all the benefits you listed in step 1 incorporating elements of the scene. I can ski effortlessly with strong lungs and increased aerobic capability. The air in the mountains is clean, crisp, and refreshing. With my extra savings, I can make this a yearly excursion. Do this each night before bed or when you get a strong craving to smoke.
- Leverage the power of prayer. This can be an extremely powerful source for those who seek.
Steps 1 and 3 were adapted from a technique developed by Dr. David Burns, MD, retired clinical psychologist, and published in Feeling Good. Step 2 is the consensus of various resources on smoking cessation. Furthermore, you can Google your state and smoking cessation and there is likely many options there as well. Most states provide up to four coaching sessions for free.
If you would prefer to work with a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach in partnership with your primary care physician on a plan to quit smoking and make other behavior changes at the same time, Sensibly is here to help.