Looking for tips to stop smoking this year? Wise Living asked health and addiction experts for their best advice and self-help solutions – from stop smoking hypnosis programmes to how to create a plan of action to beat cigarette cravings when they strike.
How to stop smoking with hypnosis, support and tips
We’re well into the new year, which means a significant proportion of the population will be battling to uphold their resolution to quit smoking.
According to the Office For National Statistics, over 70% of people who currently smoke say they want to quit. But anyone who has tried to kick the habit will know – ditching cigarettes for good can be much easier said than done. And according to research by the Change Incorporated Quit Cigarettes mission, more than half (56%) of smokers are trying to quit this new year – and more than half (53%) admit they’re feeling anxious or nervous about it.
Quitting can be a hard journey – but if you started the year with a resolution to prioritise your health, giving up smoking is one of the biggest single things people can do – and there are lots of tips and tricks you can tap into, to help you reach your goal and reap the benefits.
Read Wise Living’s guide to 5 healthy lifestyle habits that could add a decade to your life.
What are the risks of smoking?
Smoking increases the risk of stroke, heart disease and many types of cancer, and is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK (the NHS estimates that one in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease).
Despite there being compelling health reasons to quit overnight, smoking is addictive and for the majority of people, going ‘cold turkey’ doesn’t work.
In fact, only a small proportion of people succeed with the ‘cold turkey’ method – so don’t beat yourself up if you’re one of the many who attempted to do so but found it too hard. But there are lots of other measures you can try – getting support from your healthcare provider, which may include nicotine replacement patches and gum alongside counselling, can vastly improve your chances for a successful quit.
How to stop smoking
Stopping smoking isn’t easy. In fact, it can be very challenging – but with the right approach and support, it is possible. So if you’re already struggling or previous attempts to quit have failed, maybe it’s time to try a new approach?
Smokers are up to four times more likely to quit for good if they use a combination of stop smoking treatments and support from a medical professional, rather than attempting to go ‘cold turkey’.
The NHS Smokefree website has lots of information about local Stop Smoking Services and treatments, which can include group support, nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum, and even stop smoking hypnosis.
Doctor-turned-TV hypnotherapist Aaron Calvert has teamed up with Change Incorporated to help smokers get into the right mindset to quit, through stop smoking hypnosis, mindfulness and guided breathing exercises. Studies show, he points out, that if you can stay smoke-free for seven days, you’re much more likely to be able to quit for good.
“People who’ve made the decision to quit smoking cigarettes should feel incredibly proud of themselves, and the first thing for them to realise is that they’re not alone,” says Calvert. “There are loads of people all around the world planning quit attempts right now, and I hope the tips and tricks I share make it as easy as possible for people to get through those first seven days as non-smokers.”
Read Wise Living’s guide to 5 ways to lower your risk of high cholesterol.
Tips for stopping smoking
Wise living spoke to addiction and craving experts Steve Clarke and Dr Arun Thiyagarajan to share some top tips to help you quit, along with advice from Aaron Calvert to help 2020 be the year you go smoke-free.
1. Make a stop smoking plan
The first thing you need to do is set a date and stick to it. “No excuses,” says Steve Clarke, a specialist in the psychology of addictive behaviours at Priory’s Life Works hospital in Woking. “Whenever you find yourself in difficulty, tell yourself that the craving will pass, and stick with it until the urge ceases.”
2. Make a smoking relapse prevention plan
Over time, Clarke says cravings drastically recede, but you should initially make a ‘relapse prevention plan’ just in case. “Identify potentially difficult events – like a party, for instance – and plan your escape routes in advance.” If you know you’ll be tempted to light up after a drink or two in the pub, Clarke believes it’s worth temporarily skipping such social occasions until you have your cravings under control.
3. Change your routine to break habitual smoking
Smoking can easily become an automatic behaviour linked to daily routines, such as that afternoon work break. Clarke suggests changing your schedule so that lighting up no longer becomes a ritual. “If that after-meal cigarette was a ritual, it needs breaking,” says Clarke. “Get up and do the dishes straight away, or settle down in a room where you don’t smoke and start reading a book to occupy your mind elsewhere.”
4. Get support from friends and family
Telling friends and family members that you’re serious about giving up can help to keep you accountable. “If someone you know wants to give up too, suggest that you give up together,” suggests Clarke.
Ask close pals to engage in non-smoking activities while you’re kicking the habit – such as exercise or the cinema – and instruct them to stop you from asking around for a cigarette at any social occasions. You may initially feel annoyed when they stop you from lighting up during a night out, but you’ll thank them in the long run when you’re finally smoke-free.
“Tell your loved ones you’re quitting, as they will not only support you but encourage and provide advice to help you. Moreover, telling people forces you to be honest, especially early on in your journey, because you have someone other than yourself to answer to,” says Calvert.
5. Identify when your cravings hit
If you’ve ever tried to give up smoking, you’ll notice that some parts of the day can feel harder than others. Cravings happen because your body misses its regular hits of nicotine and they can be triggered by a cue, such as having a few drinks, or feeling very happy, sad or stressed.
“A craving can last five minutes, so make a list of five-minute strategies that will help you manage this,” says Clarke. For example, you could do a crossword puzzle on your phone, go for a walk, or simply plug in to a podcast for five minutes. If you’re on a night out, go to dance, strike up a non-cigarette related conversation, or leave completely.
“For many people, smoking is a way of tackling stress,” says Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, medical director at Bupa Health Clinics. “If you find yourself using smoking as a way of coping, seek help from your GP, who can advise on healthier ways to tackle the harder times in your life and support you through the quitting process.”
6. Exercise can help you stop smoking
“Studies have found that even a small amount of exercise, such as a five-minute walk or a stretch, can cut cravings,” says Clarke. He suggests joining a local group, such as yoga, mindfulness or walking, that has an enjoyable social element to it, so it feels like less of a chore. You could even use quitting as a chance to take up that skill you’ve always fancied, like salsa dancing, kick boxing or ballet.
As well as keeping your mind busy, that post-workout endorphin high is a great substitute for nicotine, triggering a positive feeling in the body.
Read the Wise Living guide to yoga for the over 50s.
You might not be able to see the benefits of giving up smoking on the inside of your body, but once you see the beginnings of a six-pack forming, you’ll be all the more inclined to stick to your new habits.
7. Make non-smoking friends
A pretty common ‘mistake’ while attempting to give up smoking is surrounding yourself with temptation. “When you’re at a party, stick with the non-smokers,” advises Clarke. “Don’t join the smokers in their huddle and pretend it’ll be OK, as chances are, it won’t.
“You’ll only increase the stimuli and exposure to cigarettes and cravings will, in all likelihood, increase. After all, we don’t visit a barber without getting a haircut, right?”
8. Keep your hands and mouth busy
If you like holding a cigarette, Clarke says you should keep a pen or another cigarette-shaped object handy for times when you’re tempted. “When you’re out, try putting your drink in the hand that usually holds a cigarette, or drink from a straw to keep your mouth busy,” he adds.
9. Think of the wider benefits
“Smoking isn’t just detrimental to your own health, it can also be damaging to those around you,” says Dr Thiyagarajan. In other words, quitting isn’t just good for you – it’s good for your loved ones, too. “Also, think of how much you would save if you put aside the money you would normally spend on cigarettes.
“The cost of smoking is creeping up all the time, so see it as an opportunity to save money quickly – and then reward yourself with the savings by buying something you like or need.”
10. Think positive
You might have tried to quit smoking before and not managed it, but don’t let that put you off. “If you have tried unsuccessfully beforehand, look at where you may have not succeeded, and make the changes.” says Clarke. “Remind yourself how good it would feel to have health and financial benefits, and keep a check-list reminding yourself of the reasons why you have chosen to stop smoking.” As for those pesky cravings? Remember, those will soon pass too.
Read Wise Living’s guide to 10 ways to live well for longer.
Stop smoking hypnosis and other treatments
Here, Calvert explains how to use stop smoking hypnosis to quit smoking, along with some other tips to help keep you on track…
11. Stop smoking hypnosis
“Self-hypnosis can be used to help you achieve positive changes in your life, such as quitting smoking. Find a time and place to do your session – make sure it’s somewhere quiet and that you won’t be disturbed.
“Sit or lie down and close your eyes. Take three slow, deep breaths, holding the third breath in for three seconds. And as you breathe out, relax and sink back into the seat. Focus on your breathing, and let your thoughts drift in and out as if attached to your breathing until you’ve cleared your mind.
“Now count backwards from 10 to zero, counting each number as you breathe out and focusing on a different area of your body, allowing it to relax. I start with my toes and work up to my head, but you may find you prefer doing it [from your] head down to your toes. Whatever works.
“By this point you’ll be relaxed, but to help deepen that relaxation, imagine yourself in a tranquil place. I like to use a beach – picture the beach in as much detail as possible. If you hate beaches, try imagining a meadow or a garden, wherever you’d feel most relaxed.
“Now you’re in that state of concentration and relaxation, you can give yourself a suggestion, to feel more confident to give up smoking, or you can visualise your reason for quitting vividly so you feel more motivated to achieve your goal. This is you-time, so use it wisely.
“When it’s time to wake yourself up, simply count yourself back up from zero all the way to 10 and you’ll find yourself wide awake, feeling refreshed and re-energised. If for any reason you need to be instantly awake and alert during your session, you will be, and can naturally allow yourself to wake up. That’s it! It’s really that easy to start making positive changes to your life.”
12. Use distraction techniques
“If you’re tempted to smoke, try texting three friends and make yourself wait for their replies before you give in. By the time they’ve all replied, the temptation will have passed.”
13. Write down your reasons for stopping smoking
“It’s important to be honest with yourself – why are you quitting? Is it to save money, to improve your health or the health of those around you, or is it simply to help you smell better and look younger? Whatever your reason, find yours, write it down – and stick it everywhere you’d normally smoke, to help remind yourself why you’re making this positive change.”
14. Reward yourself
“It’s easy to be over-critical of yourself when you fall back into old habits. Slipping up is normal – learn to accept it, and continue trying to quit. It’s equally important to pat yourself on the back when you succeed. Plan to reward yourself when you reach a milestone period of time without smoking – after the vital first seven days, for instance, which is worth celebrating. Doing so will help motivate you further and give you positive reinforcement.”
15. Avoid craving triggers
“There will be certain things in your daily routine that you associate with smoking. It might be a morning coffee, meeting with certain friends, or during your break at work. For the first few days, avoid your triggers or mix up your routine.”
16. Use straw therapy
“If you’re tempted to smoke, you can replace a cigarette with a straw. Cut down a household straw and use it as you would a cigarette. So much of smoking is anchored to the hand-to-mouth action, the feeling of something in your hands and taking deep breaths. This ‘straw therapy’ can help psychologically trick your body into scratching that craving itch.”
17. Try yoga, breathing or stop smoking hypnosis
“Stopping smoking can make you feel more stressed than normal, so make sure you take some extra time out to relax. Whether it’s going for a run, trying some yoga or using self-hypnosis and breathing exercises, it’s important to make sure you stay on top of your game and keep motivated while you’re quitting.”