There are a range of ways to quit smoking, and each person needs to find what works for them.
There are a range of ways to quit smoking, and each person needs to find what works for them. Warren Lynam

Dealing with mind games when quitting smoking is tough

QUITTING smoking is as tough on the mind as it is on the body.

Paul Grant, of Gladstone Psychology Services, said the body went through unpleasant changes when a regular smoker quits, but the mind games could be worse.

"It is the psychological factors which are often most difficult for people," he said.

Mr Grant said the changes to the body took place in the first few hours or days, but the long-lasting changes in mood, behaviour and thinking were mostly driven by psychological factors.

When a smoker tries to quit, the mind needs to break a pattern.

"For a regular smoker, smoking is a strongly learnt habit which they reinforce regularly," Mr Grant said. "Changing any strongly learnt behaviour is difficult.

"If you associate smoking with feeling relaxed, stopping smoking may make it difficult to feel relaxed, resulting in higher levels of tension and anxiety.

"Often, smokers associate smoking with activities they value, such as talking with friends or putting their feet up at the end of a long work day.

"These activities can trigger strong cigarette cravings in those who are trying to quit, especially in the first couple of weeks.

"Eventually, the link between these activities and smoking will be broken and these activities will not trigger cravings to the same extent they did early on."

 

Everyone needs to find what works for them

Mr Grant said there was no single method to quit smoking, but there were some useful strategies to use.

"Each person needs to find what works for them in terms of quitting smoking," he said.

"Being clear about why you want to quit is important. Focusing on why you want to quit, and the benefits that you will get from quitting, can help you to keep up your motivation to quit.

"Understanding what you get out of smoking can also help you to find other ways to get these benefits.

"Most smokers report that they get a number of benefits from smoking, like it helps them to feel more relaxed, or to feel more comfortable in social situations, or to avoid cravings for cigarettes.

"Understanding a bit more about smoking and about quitting can make it easier to develop effective strategies to support your attempts to quit.

"Picking a good time to quit is often helpful. Generally, trying to quit at especially stressful times can make it much more difficult.

"If you have other health problems, consulting your general practitioner beforehand is important.

"Sometimes nicotine can affect the action of other drugs and substances on the body, and your doctor can provide advice on these issues.

"Learning from previous attempts to quit can give people an advantage when they try again.

"The strategies or ideas that worked well when trying to quit previously can be useful inclusions in future attempts to quit."

What technique would you recommend for people giving up smoking?

This poll ended on 08 February 2013.

Current Results

Cold turkey.

55%

Mind over matter.

9%

Nicotine patches.

11%

Hypnosis.

11%

A set program worked out by a doctor or pharmacist.

11%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

 

Q&A with Gladstone Psychology Services' Paul Grant

 

Do you get many people asking for advice on quitting smoking?

We do get people come to us seeking assistance with quitting smoking, although most people who are trying to quit smoking don't see a psychologist.

Psychologists can provide people wanting to quit with strategies that increase their chances of success.

 

How much of quitting smoking is physical and how much psychological?

There are physiological changes which occur in the bodies of regular smokers when they stop smoking, and these changes can be experienced as unpleasant, but it is the psychological factors which are often most difficult for people.

Many of the physiological adjustments that the body needs to make to an abrupt cessation of smoking will occur within the first few hours or first few days.

Changes in mood, behavior and thinking which last longer than this are mostly being driven by psychological factors.

 

What happens psychologically when an addicted smoker tries to quit?

For a regular smoker, smoking is a strongly learnt habit which they reinforce regularly. Changing any strongly learnt behavior is difficult.

If you associate smoking with feeling relaxed, stopping smoking may make it difficult to feel relaxed, resulting in higher levels of tension and anxiety. This may lead to feeling restless and unsettled.

Many people report an increase in irritability for a short period after stopping smoking. 

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to quit smoking.
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to quit smoking. Contributed

Some people find their sleep may be disrupted or they may dream more than usual, and this in turn can also contribute to their daytime levels of tension or irritability.

Most of these changes will settle within one to three weeks of quitting.

Often, smokers associate smoking with activities they value, such as talking with friends or putting their feet up at the end of a long work day.

These activities can trigger strong cigarette cravings in those that are trying to quit, especially in the first couple of weeks after quitting.

Eventually, the link between these activities and smoking will be broken and these activities will not trigger cravings to the same extent they did early on.

 

Are there some basic psychological methods people can use to boost their chances of successfully quitting?

Each person needs to find what works for them in terms of quitting smoking. There is not one way or approach that works for everyone.

Being clear about what you want to quit is important. Focusing on why you want to quit, and the benefits that you will get from quitting, can help you to keep up your motivation to quit.

Understanding what you get out of smoking can also help you to find other ways to get these benefits.

Most smokers report that they get a number of benefits from smoking, like it helps them to feel more relaxed, or to feel more comfortable in social situations, or to avoid cravings for cigarettes.

Understanding a bit more about smoking and about quitting can make it easier to develop effective strategies to support your attempts to quit.

Picking a good time to quit is often helpful. Generally, trying to quit at especially stressful times can make it much more difficult.

If you have other health problems, consulting your general practitioner beforehand is important.

Sometimes nicotine can affect the action of other drugs and substances on the body, and your doctor can provide advice on these issues.

Making a plan can help people to quit. Plan for things like when you will quit, how you will keep yourself busy, how you will deal with cravings, what you will do to keep your hands occupied, and what you will do if you do relapse and smoke a cigarette.

For some people, support from their family and friends makes a big difference.

Telling your family friends you intend to quit and asking for their help is quite positive for some people. For some individuals, having someone else who is trying to quit at the same time can be a source of mutual support.

Learning from previous attempts to quit can give people an advantage when they try again. The strategies or ideas that worked well when trying to quit previously can be useful inclusions in future attempts to quit.

Most people who have successfully quit smoking didn't manage to do so the first time they tried.

Many successful quitters had tried numerous times before they eventually succeeded.

If you aren't successful with your next attempt, this does not mean you can't quit smoking.

Being persistent and being prepared to have another go increases your likelihood of success.
 



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