The Psychology of Quitting Smoking


Many experts believe smoking is only about 10% physical addiction and a whopping 90% psychological addiction. Your body will recover fairly quickly from nicotine withdrawals (the worst symptoms usually abate in three days or less), but your psychological dependency on cigarettes can be much more difficult to defeat.

One way to combat this is to do a bit of self-analysis before giving up cigarettes.

Make a list with two columns. Label column one “Why I Started Smoking” and label column two “Why I Want To Quit Smoking.”

In column one, list all the reasons you can remember as to why you started smoking in the first place. Was it peer pressure? Rebellion? Did you think it made you look cool? Did it make you feel like a grown-up? Really try to remember the exact reasons why you started smoking and write them all down.

Now look over that list. Do any of those reasons still apply in your life today? Probably not.

If you’re like most people, you will see that your reasons for becoming a smoker are no longer valid, are often just silly, and are easily outweighed by the risks to your health and your family’s well-being.

So let’s move on to column two… Why do you want to quit smoking?

This one may seem obvious, but it can be a bit tricky. You really need to take some time and think hard about this. Don’t just list the obvious health reasons. You’ve been reading the Surgeon General’s warnings for years with little effect, so you need to come up with reasons that truly have meaning for you.

The things most people write down will NOT help you quit smoking…

  • I don’t want to get lung cancer.
  • I don’t want to have a heart attack or a stroke.
  • I’d like to live long enough to see my grandchildren grow up.

Those are all good reasons to quit smoking, certainly… but they deal in “possibilities” rather than in specifics.

Sure you MIGHT get lung cancer, you MIGHT have a heart attack or a stroke, you MIGHT die young and miss out on seeing your grandchildren grow up…

...or you MIGHT NOT! You’re not likely to break a strong psychological addiction based on what MIGHT happen. Your mind will work hard to convince you that it won’t happen to you! Instead, list health problems that you are already experiencing.

Your list should point out things in your life that you are actively unhappy about and are STRONGLY MOTIVATED to change. In order to break your psychological addiction, you need an arsenal of new thoughts and desires that are stronger than your desire to smoke!

Here are the types of things you want to put in column two…

Why Do I Want To Quit Smoking?

  1. Health Reasons
    • I get so out of breath when I exert myself even a little bit. Just vacuuming the house makes me pant and gasp.
    • My feet are always cold. This could be due to high blood pressure and poor circulation associated with smoking.
    • I have a nasty wet cough and I have to blow my nose way too often. Mucus build-up is the body’s reaction to all the toxins and chemicals in cigarette smoke and could be a precursor to serious respiratory disease. Even if I don’t get cancer, I don’t want to be one of those people who has to tote oxygen bottles around everywhere.
    • I’m always tired. Could it be that my body is using up all its energy trying to eliminate the toxins and chemicals from cigarettes?
  2.  

  3. Vanity Reasons

    • Smoking causes premature aging and drying of the skin. I don’t want to look like a wrinkled up old prune!
    • My fingers, fingernails and teeth are all tobacco stained. Disgusting! How embarrassing.
    • When I get on the elevator after a smoke break at work, everyone wrinkles their nose and tries to edge away from me because I reek of cigarette smoke. I feel like a pariah. It’s embarrassing to always be the big “stinker” on the elevator. I feel like I have no self-control.
    • My breath is awful. Kissing me must be like kissing an ashtray. I spend a fortune on breath mints
  4. .

  5. Financial Reasons

    • If I save all the money I used to spend on cigarettes, I’ll have enough to take a vacation in Cancun (or some other warm tropical place) every winter!
    • I could use the money to pay off my credit cards!
    • I could donate money to my favorite charity or sponsor a child. My cigarette money could make the world a better place!
  6.  

  7. Family Reasons

    • My family can stop worrying about me.
    • My spouse will have to find something new to nag me about. Just kidding, honey!
    • My children will be proud of me and (hopefully) they’ll never start smoking themselves, having seen firsthand what a nasty destructive habit it is.
  8.  

  9. Cleanliness Reasons

    • The walls used to be white. Now they’re a nasty dirty-looking brown. I need to repaint… again!
    • I stink, my car stinks, my house stinks, everything I own reeks of cigarette smoke. I can’t even lend a book to a non-smoking friend because they can’t stand the smell of smoke permeating the pages!

Do you see yourself in any of the items listed? You may have many more reasons of your own. Find as many compelling and emotional reasons to pursue smoking cessation as you can think of and write them all down. To quit smoking, you need YOUR reason to kick the nicotine habit.

If you can re-train your mind to think of smoking as a silly and self-destructive thing to do, then you’re almost sure to succeed. And if you need something to do with your hands… try knitting!

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