Dr Mark Atkinson's Blog

2Aug 2010

How to Give Up Smoking

Tomorrow’s National No Smoking Day – the day when over one million Brits attempt to give up their addiction.  I get asked a lot about what is the best way to give up cigarettes, so I thought I would share my professional take on it. In a nutshell their is no one best way to give up – some people can just give up, others will find hypnotherapy will help, others will use nicotine replacement therapy, others might use support groups, nutritional supplementation or a combination of all of these. Sometimes its a bit of trial and error, but the key is always to take some form of action. Here is what I suggest.

1. Take a piece of A4, down the left hand side list all of the negative consequences that have happened, are happening and will happen if you continue to smoke. Down the right hand side of the paper list all of the potential benefits of not smoking – include things like better energy, more energy, more money etc.

2. Next close your eyes and visualise yourself suffering from all of the negative consequences that you have listed.  Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are now feeling. Now repeat the exercise but this time focus on how you will feel and how your life will look when you no longer smoke. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and connect with this alternative smokefree future. Having done this decide whether you want this new smoke free life. If the answer is yes move onto 3. If the answer is no, I would recommend seeking professional help or phoning the NHS smoking help line on 0800 022 4 332

3. Visit the NHS Smokefree website and order yourself a quit kit http://smokefree.nhs.uk/ - its got a lot of useful advice on how to stop. In addition to this you should consider nicotine replacement therapy. A combination of patches and gum appears to increase the likelihood of staying off cigarettes. You can get these free from your GP or your local stop smoking services (details of which are on the NHS website). If you smoke more than 30 a day and more often than not have a cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up, you might also benefit from taking an additional stop smoking drug such as champix or zyban – your doctor will need to prescribe this for you.

4. From an integrated holistic perspective its important to realise that if you have a significant addiction to nicotine, you probably will have addictions to other substances, behaviours or activities – this might include food, alcohol, work, drugs etc. These will almost inevitably get worse when you give up. My suggestion is to take the Promis addiction questionnaire (click here) to help you identify what other addictive tendencies you have. Then take a look at my coaching programme as to the kind of actions you will need to take to tackle the underlying propensity to addictions. For example learning new ways to manage your stress and emotions and improving the way you take care of body is an essential part of recovering from addictions and improving your health.

5. I have also found over the years that its important to be eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep and rest prior to and after giving up smoking. I encourage all of my patients to come off stimulants (caffeine and sugar), and to start eating a blood-sugar balancing diet with an emphasis on slow-releasing carbs with foods rich in protein for at least three to four weeks prior to giving up smoking. I also suggest taking a high quality multivitamin-mineral, essential fatty acids, vitamin C  3000 mg and the stimulating amino-acid l-tyrosine 1000mg twice a day in between meals.

6. Whilst some people can stop all of the cigarettes in one go, most benefit from reducing the number they smoke over a period of a couple of weeks prior to the giving up date and also switching to low nicotine cigarettes (should contain less than 2mg per cigarette). Alternatively switch to nicotine replacement therapy. I also recommend recording a list of situations and issues that are associated with your smoking. Managing these once you give up will be an important part of your recovery process.

7. Once you quit,  I have found that the emotional freedom technique can help reduce cravings (click here). If your sleep becomes disturbed consider taking valerian or 5-HTP (don’t take the latter if you are on antidepressants).

In a nutshell – giving up nicotine can be very challenging, but millions of people have successfully given up cigarettes, so you can as well. I hope this helps.

Do you have any suggestions or tips for giving up?

Author: Mark Atkinson