Your Resolve to Quit Smoking: Will You Fail or Succeed?
When we first decide to quit smoking, we are usually excited about the prospect and thinking about all the ways our lives will be better without cigarettes. We may tell our friends and family about our new resolution and bask in their encouragement.
After getting through the first few rough days, we find that life can place many obstacles in our way that threaten to interfere with our resolve to stay smoke-free. We let our thoughts turn to the comfort of a cigarette and think longingly of having “just one, to help me get through this day.”
As soon as we start thinking that having a cigarette will somehow make us feel better, we begin the erosion of our commitment to quit. We may hear the little voice inside say things like “it’s too hard to quit, I’ve tried so many times and each time I fail.”
One trick to avoid a relapse is to “play the tape.” This means we need to think through the entire process of what our lives will be like after the relapse. It’s too easy to only think as far as the momentary relief that one cigarette will bring to us.
Instead, try thinking about how you’ll feel 20 minutes after your relapse. Do you think you’ll want another cigarette later? Do you see yourself back to your old patterns in no time? This is usually what happens - at least it did for me, time and time again.
There is a new study out that shows positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement at encouraging quitters to stay quit (see Business Week’s summary of this study or the full report at the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The study indicated that people who called a quit line and received words of encouragement that focused on the benefits of quitting were more successful at quitting than those who received the standard feedback, which focused on potential losses from continuing to smoke as well as the benefits of quitting.
Apparently, when we are struggling to stay smoke-free, we respond more positively to hearing about the benefits of quitting than to the risks of smoking.
I know many people used to ask me how I could possibly keep smoking when I knew all the bad things it could do to me. I would smile wryly and agree, but I would keep on puffing. Once I focused more on what I could get out of life as a nonsmoker, it became easer to “play the tape” and avoid relapse.
Today I can look back at almost 9 years as an ex-smoker. I finally succeeded after about 25 years of smoking, and I can tell you that success did not come easy. But I never gave up on quitting and one day I realized I wanted freedom more than I wanted the temporary comfort of a smoke.
Write yourself a list of all the benefits of being an ex-smoker, and study that list really hard the next time you consider a relapse. And if you do relapse, just keep quitting until it works - good luck!