July 6, 2022

One More Reason to Quit Smoking: Better Mental Health

“I can’t quit smoking now. My life is too stressful.”

“It relaxes me.”

Some of the most common excuses to continue smoking are myths. It can be a hard habit to break – that’s true. But people often think that smoking will help them calm down or help them relax.

They reach for a cigarette when they’re stressed.

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What Research Says about Quitting Smoking

But research has shown that quitting smoking actually reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, and improves overall mental well-being.

Really? Yep. Researchers explain,

“There is a common perception that smoking generally helps people to manage stress, and may be a form of ‘self‐medication’ in people with mental health conditions. However, there are biologically plausible reasons why smoking may worsen mental health through neuroadaptations arising from chronic smoking, leading to frequent nicotine withdrawal symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression, irritability), in which case smoking cessation may help to improve rather than worsen mental health.”

Did you catch that? Smoking can worsen mental health. Quitting can improve it.

So, when you quit smoking, you are gaining better physical and psychological health!

The Results Are In

There’s quite a bit of research to back this up. Studies have shown that smoking increases anxiety and tension.

Smoking may seem to relieve tension when you first light up, but that feeling is short-lived. It only leads to future withdrawal symptoms and more cravings. And those cravings are stressful in themselves.

And there’s actual science behind all this. Smoking encourages the brain to turn off its dopamine-producing mechanism.

Smoking encourages the brain to turn off its dopamine-producing mechanism. So, the more you smoke, the harder it is to have a healthy, happy mental state.

So, the more you smoke, the harder it is to have a healthy, happy mental state.

Research also shows that using cigarettes to cope with stress and difficult emotions “makes it harder for us to cope with difficult emotions on our own.”

A recent research review found that “people who stopped smoking had greater reductions in depression, anxiety, and stress compared with people who had continued smoking. Those who ceased smoking also had more positive feelings and better mental well-being.”

What Am I Supposed to Do if I Quit Smoking?

“If I didn’t smoke, what else would I do?”

“Smoking helps me socialize.”

And for those who view smoking as a social activity, these research findings are important for you, too.

Researchers found that “stopping smoking was associated with small to moderate improvements in mood.” And they discovered that quitting “did not hurt social well-being…but may have slightly enhanced it.”

Researchers found that “stopping smoking was associated with small to moderate improvements in mood.” And they discovered that quitting “did not hurt social well-being…but may have slightly enhanced it.”

This makes sense. If you’re less stressed, less anxious, and less depressed, your mood will probably be better. And that, in turn, would help you be more sociable, not less.

And your improved mental state could enhance your social time and relationships.

So, How Can You Improve Your Mental Health?

Once you quit smoking and no longer have cravings, you’ll feel less stressed. And you can enjoy better mental health. How can you get there?

Try these helpful steps to kick butts to the curb:

  • Pick a date: Choose a date to quit smoking. Then stick to it.
  • Remember your motivation: Before your “quit day,” write down all the reasons for quitting. And don’t forget to include “better mental health.” Then review these reasons every day.
  • Remember your triggers: Write down why you smoke, when you usually smoke, and what you’re usually doing when you reach for a cigarette. These are the triggers you need to avoid in the future.
  • Ease into it: Before you fully stop, quit smoking in certain circumstances. Some situations may be after dinner or during your work break, for example.
  • Choose some alternatives: Figure out what you can do instead of smoking. Make a list of possible activities. Some examples: chewing gum or taking a walk.
  • Curb cravings: Check with your doctor about nicotine patches or gum that can help you when cravings hit.
  • Get support: You don’t need to do this alone. Join a support group. Tell your friends and family about your plan so they can help and encourage you.

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Quit Smoking: the Right Move for Mental Health

Another helpful tip? When you crave a cigarette – wait 10 minutes. Take some deep breaths and do something else for just a few minutes to distract you. The cravings will usually pass.

By quitting smoking, you’re doing more than just improving your physical health. Your mental health will get a boost as well.

Filling your life with other, more fulfilling hobbies can improve your mental health and your physical health. It can be hard at first to find something else, especially if you’re a social smoker. But your life will improve once you make this choice.

For information about treatment options for you or a loved one, call 800-661-1690 (Who Answers?) today.

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