“Just stop”, we’re told. Stop smoking, that is, by just deciding to stop. Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? But the fact is that both physiological changes and psychological issues play a role in any stop-smoking program. Even the most determined can rarely just flip a switch and never smoke cigarettes again.
Still, a commitment to do so has to be a part of any program. Only 6% on average will successfully stop smoking their first try. Summoning up the willpower to make that decision permanent is key to succeeding in the long run.
Up your odds by understanding what willpower is and how it functions in a stop smoking program.
In any area of life, we make many small choices. But the big ones are very rarely a matter of snapping the mental fingers and choosing a course of action. It takes more thought and effort than that. Those twin helpers are the link between willpower and achievement of the goal.
Stress is one major factor that starts individuals smoking, and keeps them at it year after year. Some event occurs, it’s evaluated as a negative impact over which we have little control, and we feel stress. The next action is to reach for a cigarette to restore calm.
At several points along that moving train of events it’s possible to interrupt the journey.
Start small. Look for those times when reaching for a cigarette is just a habitual move. You get up in the morning and reach for the first cigarette. Put them out of easy reach and exert willpower to forego the effort of getting them. Delay that cigarette after dinner, first by a few extra minutes then more and more. These small victories will reduce the number of cigarettes per day and strengthen your willpower.
As you gradually gain better control over impulses, your self-confidence grows. You feel in control. That reinforces the feeling that your willpower can be effective, that you can direct events rather than have them direct you.
Now, for the long term plan. Pick a day when you’ll stop smoking. Estimate how many cigarettes you have left so you run out by that date. Just as you would resist buying an item more expensive than you could afford, remind yourself of the high price of smoking – in dollars and health impact.
The first two weeks will be hardest, making the largest demands on your willpower. The cravings are strongest during this period. The chemical changes taking place as your body adjusts to lower levels of dopamine, flushes smoke ingredient-created compounds out of the body and other physical impacts will create the urge to resume.
Help yourself by thinking of the long term consequences. Stimulate your imagination by viewing photos of diseased lungs, remember the time you were short of breath walking up the hill. Assist your willpower in every way you can.
After that, the really hard part starts: sticking to the plan for a lifetime. Willpower isn’t just about choosing an action at the moment, but directing your life toward a better horizo