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Developing the Will to Quit Smoking Permanently

How to Quit Smoking and Make it Stick

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Updated June 24, 2010

Developing the Will to Quit Smoking Permanently
Photo © Stockxpert
A part of me desperately wants to quit smoking, and I know I should quit smoking, but do I feel I must quit. Truthfully, I love smoking, and know that I'll be miserable without my cigarettes. They've become a part of me, and I almost can't bear the thought of giving them up. Yet I know I have to...

Sound familiar? Does your mind bounce back and forth on the issue of smoking cessation? Or do you quit, only to find yourself smoking again within days, or at most, a few weeks? Does your smoking habit make you feel weak? Powerless? Do you wonder if you'll ever find a way to quit smoking for good?

You're not alone.

Nicotine addiction is powerful, and smoking cessation involves a lot of work for most people -- it's not handed to us on a silver platter. You can, however, quit smoking successfully, and the good news is that thousands of people do just that every year. They've found their way out of the prison of nicotine addiction. And most of them thought, just as you do, that they couldn't quit.

How did they do it?

How did they turn a feeling of should into the certainty of must? How did they turn dreams of quitting into a reality in their lives?

While there is no magic bullet that makes smoking cessation easy and pain free, there are steps you can take to develop the commitment necessary to quit smoking permanently.

If you want to change your life, change your mind.

As smokers, we often think of lighting up as an enjoyable pastime. Cigarettes offer comfort, entertainment and companionship -- or so we think. At the same time, we relate smoking cessation to feelings of pain, misery and sacrifice, and for most of us, these opposing feelings exist and are reinforced on a subconscious level. They're below the surface of our thoughts, and the result is that we adopt unhealthy and inaccurate beliefs as facts of life when in reality they are only our distorted perceptions of the truth.

It’s been said that the average person has approximately 60,000 thoughts a day; a significant percentage of those thoughts are negative and usually directed at ourselves. We're almost always our own worst critics. A first step in successfully developing the will it takes to quit smoking involves learning how to pay attention to what we tell ourselves and correct false statements as soon as they occur. It takes practice and patience, but if you keep at it, listening in consciously on the thoughts that go through your mind on a daily basis will become second nature, as will correcting those that don't serve you.

Mental Conditioning

Just as we condition our bodies to build strength and endurance, conditioning our minds is an exercise in building new associations that will help us put smoking permanently in the past.

Work with the thoughts that don't serve your best interests, and do it as soon as they crop up. Change the language. Restructure your thoughts in terms that will help you. For instance, if you tell yourself:

    "I won't enjoy the party, because I can't smoke. I'll be miserable and hate every minute of it. In fact, I'm already miserable just thinking about it."
What will be the result? At a minimum, you'll feel deprived and unhappy at the party. The stage is set for a smoking relapse, because on a subconscious level, you are giving yourself the message that smoking cessation is a sacrifice. Shift your focus and correct the language by countering with something, such as this:
    "Going to the party smoke-free will be a challenge, and I may feel uncomfortable, but it will provide me with the practice I need to learn how to live my life without leaning on cigarettes. After all, practice makes perfect. I know these discomforts are a temporary stage of healing from nicotine addiction."
Positive self-talk is a stepping stone to positive action. Once you manage the event without smoking, you'll find it easier to believe the positive corrections you're making the next time around.

When you say:

    "My friends get to smoke; why I can't I?"
Remind yourself that your friends don't get to smoke, they have to smoke because they're addicted to nicotine. Give yourself a positive mental cue by counteracting your feelings of self-pity with:
    "My friends wish they could quit smoking like I have. I remember how desperately I wanted to quit every time I lit up. It was a vicious cycle that I'm free of now."
Or when you start reflecting fondly on your old smoking habit with thoughts, such as:
    "I'm bored without my cigarettes. Life isn't fun without them."
Adjust your mind-set by looking at it from another angle:
    "At 10 minutes smoking time per cigarette, I used to waste nearly 3 hours every single day smoking! It's no wonder I feel a little fidgety and empty. I'll take up a hobby and do something productive with the time I used to spend smoking."
And, when you're feeling the discomforts of nicotine withdrawal, be careful to reinforce that the pain you're feeling is because of smoking, not quitting:
    "I feel so irritable without my smokes. I'm impatient and angry without cigarettes."
Reinforce this way:
    "Cigarettes did this to me. Once I’m free of this addiction, I’m never going back to the slavery that nicotine forced me in to again."
Or if you say:
    "I think about smoking nonstop! My day feels like one long, incessant craving!"
Add this statement:
    "I know that nicotine withdrawal is a temporary phase of the recovery process. The discomforts won't last forever. I'm growing stronger with every smoke-free day."
You get the idea. Replace thoughts that don't help you with ones that do. Train yourself to change the way you think and feel about smoking. If you persist and work with yourself enough, consciously trained thoughts will ultimately lead you to a new set of beliefs, and from there, you can make changes that will stick -- permanently.

Quit Aids and Support

Fortify the resolve you're working to build by considering one of the many quit aids available today and by connecting with like-minded people at the About.com Smoking Cessation support forum.

Smoking cessation is a gift that will reward you with benefits far beyond what you can probably imagine, so be patient and do the work to change your mind about smoking. Believe in yourself. You can do it!
Related Video
How to Effectively Quit Smoking

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