Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?
A recent study by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit in Canada, published in the BMJ in 2016, has concluded that, dependent upon the individual’s smoking habit and length of addiction, it may take up to 30 attempts to successfully give up cigarettes or tobacco and to quit smoking altogether.
Of course there are many factors involved in successfully giving up smoking. These include: the number of cigarettes per day smoked; level of nicotine dependence; the number of years spent smoking; the person’s lifestyle; health; enjoyment of the habit; and their psychological profile. All these considerations come into play when assessing the likelihood of success or failure.
For most smokers who have attempted to leave the smoking habit behind, the symptoms associated with withdrawal from nicotine dependence are all too familiar, to one degree or another. Craving for tobacco, irritability and mood swings, increased appetite and weight gain, tiredness, restlessness, sleep problems, anxiety and difficulty in concentrating – these are all side effects of nicotine withdrawal.
How Hypnotherapy can Help
Every therapist has their preferred treatment plan for smoking cessation. Hypnotherapy can ease those nicotine cravings, help bolster commitment to stopping and support the change from perception of self as a smoker to that of non-smoker.
I offer two different routes. The first option is a one off intensive session of around 2-3 hours at a cost of £185.00; while the second option is a gentler 3 sessions of approximately an hour each for the same cost of £185.00. The first option is designed for immediate cessation, while the second option uses a tailing off plan to reduce smoking over the first week and to be smoke free by the second session, with a third session just to reinforce the therapy. For more information or to book a session please use my contact form.
Some of the Nasties in Cigarettes
Clearly nicotine is the major culprit in our addiction to tobacco. This is itself a toxin and carcinogen, impacting on the major organs of the body and significantly increasing the risks of cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. Nicotine depresses the immune system and significantly affects reproductive health (all you couples out there who want to start a family take note). There are many other toxins to be found in cigarettes other than nicotine, which are extremely harmful to the body.
These are some, but by no means an exhaustive list, of the chemicals you voluntarily ingest by smoking tobacco:
- Carbon Monoxide – starves the body of oxygen; leads to cardiovascular disease; combines with blood to prevent proper absorption of oxygen; contributes to low birth weights in babies of smoking mothers.
- Hydrogen Cyanide – paralyses the cilia (the small hairs on the walls of the bronchial tubes which are responsible for cleaning the lungs); interferes with normal use of oxygen by nearly every organ in the body; a chemical warfare agent and is used for fumigation, electroplating, chemical synthesis, mining, production of synthetic fibres, dyes, pesticides and plastics.
- Ammonia – paralyses the cilia; toxin that is corrosive to tissues upon contact; extreme contact can be fatal.
- Nitrogen Dioxide – paralyses the cilia; found in car exhaust fumes; major pollutant; directly damages lung tissue; causes inflammation of the lungs. The body usually produces tiny amounts to carry signals between cells and cause airways to expand to help oxygen absorption. Nitrogen dioxide causes the airways to expand even further to help absorb nicotine and other chemicals. When not smoking, shuts off nitrogen dioxide production in the body, causing difficulty breathing.
- Acreolin – paralyses cilia; major chemical in cigarette smoke; causes DNA damage and is thought to cause cancer; stops our cells repairing DNA damage.
- Formaldehyde – paralyses the cilia; known to cause cancer; used to kill bacteria, preserve dead bodies and to produce other chemicals.
- Napthylamine – cause lung cancer
- Nitrosamines – group of chemicals which directly damage DNA; very strong cancer causing chemicals.
- Lead/nickel/cobalt/beryllium – poison
- DDT – a banned insecticide – used to be used for malaria mosquito control and was banned when it was discovered that it caused severe health problems for humans, such as increased risk of breast cancer, diabetes, spontaneous abortions, decreased sperm quality, impaired neurodevelopment in children, accumulates in the body.
- Methanol – highly toxic; blurred/dim vision or blindness; skin irritation; permanent motor skill impairment; headache, dizziness; giddiness; insomnia; nausea; gastric distress; conjunctivitis; can kill
- Benzene – solvent used to manufacture other chemicals, including petrol; causes cancer.
- Cadmium – metal used mainly to make batteries; causes cancer; damages the kidneys and arterial walls; prevents cells from repairing DNA.
- Polonium 210 – radioactive element which emits alpha radiation which is usually blocked by skin; enters the airways and causes damage directly to surrounding cells.
- Chromium – metal used to make metallic alloys, dyes and paints. Known to cause cancer; allows other cancer causing chemicals to stick more firmly to DNA and damage it.
- Butadiene (BDE) – used to make rubber; some scientists believe that this is the largest overall cancer risk because of the quantity found in cigarette smoke.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) – group of powerful cancer causing chemicals which damage DNA and set cells off on the way to becoming cancerous; one of this group, benzoapyrene (BAP) – directly damages p53, a gene known to protect our body against cancer.
- Arsenic – causes cancer; damages heart and blood vessels; accumulates in the body and interferes with repair of DNA.
- Acetaldehyde – also formed in body tissues from drinking alcohol and is responsible for the symptoms we recognize as hangovers.
- Hydrazine – very toxic chemical used mainly in rocket fuel.
- Toluene – damages brain cells and interferes with their development.
- Hydrogen sulphide and pyridine – irritate airways
- Sulphur dioxide – paralyses cilia allowing other chemicals to accumulate.
Benefits to Stepping away from the Habit
The benefits to quitting smoking are well publicised and any smoker who has reached the decision to change their lifestyle to exclude this toxic habit is usually well aware of the immediate and longer term good news. Within 20 minutes of quitting, blood pressure, temperature and pulse are normal.
After 8 hours without a cigarette, those dangerous carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream have dropped and oxygen has increased. After 24 hours, your chances of heart attack are already decreasing and in only 48 hours, those nerve endings which have been damaged by the smoking habit are starting to repair themselves. Your sense of taste and smell will have already improved.
Three Months Plus
By the end of 3 months, lung function has improved by up to one third; your body’s circulation has improved and exercise becomes easier. Somewhere between 1 and 9 months of non-smoking, your lungs are repairing themselves. The tiny hairs in your respiratory system, the cilia, have begun to work again and the lungs are clearing themselves of the build up of mucus and smoking related residues.
By the time you have been a non-smoker for 1 ½ years, the excess risk of heart disease associated with smoking has halved and recovery rates from heart surgery have doubled. Between 2 ½ years and 5 years after stopping, your risk for many cancers has halved; and by the time you have been clean of tobacco related toxins for 15 years, the risk of your developing lung cancer or heart disease is the same as for someone who has never smoked.
What You Need to Know – Top Tips for Overcoming Addiction
The chances are that what you have already read is far from new to you, although reminding ourselves of the damage caused by smoking is helpful in motivating us to carry through our new found resolution to leave the habit behind us. If you are one of those very lucky people who can simply stop, then you won’t be reading this anyway – so this is for the majority who have to do it the long way.
Because smoking is not just about physical addiction, but also about habit and routine, there are lots of things we can do to increase the chances of a successful outcome to our decision to quit smoking:
1. Get Help
Sounds silly perhaps, but few of us are blessed with the willpower to successfully make the transition to our new chosen lifestyle without a little support here and there. There are endless resources on the internet in the way of information, support groups and tips on how to make the move easier for us. Most GP practices have smoking cessation support in place and can help you to overcome the addiction.
Therapies such as hypnotherapy and CBT, meditation, mindfulness and yoga are used by many people to ease the way and facilitate a new lifestyle. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to successfully stopping is the way we see ourselves as smokers or ex-smokers rather than non-smokers. Changing our self-perception takes a lot of the slog out of gaining our freedom from nicotine.
Find your resolve slipping? Hypnotherapy really does work to help you quit smoking – maintain your determination and can take more than just an edge off the path to being that non-smoker you are aiming for.
2. Keep Busy
Distraction techniques are a very useful way of focusing our attention on things other than that niggling desire to have a cigarette. I know someone who picked up their knitting needles every time they felt the desire for a cigarette – they finished a man’s sweater in a week! Do something that you wouldn’t normally associate with smoking and which keeps those hands, as well as your mind busy with other things.
Physical activity is good – you can’t easily smoke in the swimming pool for instance – if you are someone who always lights up with a cup of coffee, then stop the coffee and switch to herbal teas and water while you go through the initial phases of your newly found non-smokerhood. Interestingly, coffee also increases carbohydrate cravings, so cutting out the caffeine will also help guard against compensatory eating when you quit smoking.
3. Self Talk
You know that little voice inside you that says “If I don’t have a cigarette I’m going to explode at someone”, or “I’m so stressed I just have to have a cigarette”; and all the other negative, self-defeating internal dialogues that happen? They all accumulate and build up to crisis point until we give in.
You can change that self talk. Practice mindfulness as much as you are able and when you catch yourself with that unwanted chain of thoughts starting then simply say “STOP” – in your head or out loud, it doesn’t matter. It will interrupt that flow of negative thoughts and give you the chance to replace it with more useful and positive thoughts – pick anything you like that will mean something to you. It could be affirmations such as “I feel so much better in myself already”, “I can taste my food again already” or “this is far easier today than it was yesterday”.
Talk positively to yourself at every opportunity, praise yourself for doing well and use reminders that you are progressing towards the goal you have set for yourself, which brings me on neatly to the next tip.
4. Have a Goal
I won’t try to convince you that giving up a habit which has fed the chemical factory that is your body with a cocktail of chemicals for perhaps years is a picnic or a pleasure cruise. You are willingly going through withdrawal from a physical, mental and emotional addiction and some days are bound to be easier than others. However, I wouldn’t recommend dwelling on the downside to the process you are going through.
I DO RECOMMEND setting yourself a goal, whatever it may be. Perhaps you have been promising yourself that luxury spa weekend with a friend for ages but have never done it. That would be such a good medium term reward to give to yourself after say a month of being a non-smoker. What about that new phone or computer you have been eying for months now?
Set yourself a target, a timescale, that you need to reach to reward yourself with it. I am not suggesting for a moment that you max out your credit cards by indulging your every impulse. I am suggesting the age old carrot and stick routine. It’s trite and clichéd, but it works. Reward yourself, not punish yourself.
5. Change Your Routines
Identify those danger zones – the places you used to habitually buy your cigarettes and the places and/or times of day that were your “must have a smoke” spots. Change them! If you used to buy cigarettes when you stopped for fuel, then consider paying at the pump. If you are paying cash then get someone else to go in and pay for you or only take enough cash in to the shop to pay for your petrol or diesel. That way you walk out and drive away without the pack you used to ask for almost without thinking about it.
Do you always use the same supermarket for shopping and habitually stopped at the kiosk on the way out? Switch supermarket and choose one where the kiosk is not on the way to the exit. Was your favourite smoke time after lunch, or perhaps before bedtime after the kids were safely tucked up? Change your routine to avoid triggering that old habit. When at work go for a short walk or run an errand either before or after eating, to cut out the time you would otherwise have set aside to smoke.
Use your distraction techniques here too – whether it is to do the crossword or go on social media – anything which occupies you mentally and physically.
6. Put that Cigarette Money Aside
Think about how much you spend every week on cigarettes or tobacco. When you quit smoking, how long would it take you to save up for something really special? Make the effort from the word go to put that money into a savings account or a piggy bank and watch it grow! On a twenty a day habit, you could save yourself around £225 a month or more at today’s prices. Well worth saving!