WANT 2020 to be the year you finally quit smoking for good? More than half (56 per cent) of smokers have been trying to quit this month, according to research by the Change Incorporated Quit Cigarettes mission – and more than half (53 per cent) admit they're feeling anxious or nervous about it.
Stopping smoking isn't easy. In fact, it can be very challenging – but with the right approach and support, it is possible. So if you're already struggling or previous attempts to quit have failed, maybe it's time to try a new approach?
Smokers are up to four times more likely to quit for good if they use a combination of stop smoking treatments and support from a medical professional, rather than attempting to go 'cold turkey'.
The NHS Smokefree website (nhs.uk/smokefree) has lots of information about local Stop Smoking Services and treatments, which can include group support, nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum, and even hypnotherapy.
Doctor-turned-TV hypnotherapist Aaron Calvert has teamed up with Change Incorporated to help smokers get into the right mindset to quit, through self-hypnosis, mindfulness and guided breathing exercises. Studies show, he points out, that if you can stay smoke-free for seven days, you're much more likely to be able to quit for good.
"People who've made the decision to quit smoking cigarettes should feel incredibly proud of themselves, and the first thing for them to realise is that they're not alone," says Calvert. "There are loads of people all around the world planning quit attempts right now, and I hope the tips and tricks I share make it as easy as possible for people to get through those first seven days as non-smokers."
Here, Calvert explains how to use self-hypnosis to stop smoking, along with some other tips to help keep you on track...
1. Quitting through self-hypnosis
"Self-hypnosis can be used to help you achieve positive changes in your life, such as quitting smoking. Find a time and place to do your session – make sure it's somewhere quiet and that you won't be disturbed.
"Sit or lie down and close your eyes. Take three slow, deep breaths, holding the third breath in for three seconds. And as you breathe out, relax and sink back into the seat. Focus on your breathing, and let your thoughts drift in and out as if attached to your breathing until you've cleared your mind.
"Now count backwards from 10 to zero, counting each number as you breathe out and focusing on a different area of your body, allowing it to relax. I start with my toes and work up to my head, but you may find you prefer doing it [from your] head down to your toes. Whatever works.
"By this point you'll be relaxed, but to help deepen that relaxation, imagine yourself in a tranquil place. I like to use a beach – picture the beach in as much detail as possible. If you hate beaches, try imagining a meadow or a garden, wherever you'd feel most relaxed.
"Now you're in that state of concentration and relaxation, you can give yourself a suggestion, to feel more confident to give up smoking, or you can visualise your reason for quitting vividly so you feel more motivated to achieve your goal. This is you-time, so use it wisely.
"When it's time to wake yourself up, simply count yourself back up from zero all the way to 10 and you'll find yourself wide awake, feeling refreshed and re-energised. If for any reason you need to be instantly awake and alert during your session, you will be, and can naturally allow yourself to wake up. That's it! It's really that easy to start making positive changes to your life."
2. Text three friends
"If you're tempted to smoke, try texting three friends and make yourself wait for their replies before you give in. By the time they've all replied, the temptation will have passed."
3. Choose your support network wisely
"Tell your loved ones you're quitting, as they will not only support you but encourage and provide advice to help you. Moreover, telling people forces you to be honest, especially early on in your journey, because you have someone other than yourself to answer to."
3. Have a plan of action
"Having a plan from the outset means you're more likely to succeed."
4. Know your reason for quitting
"It's important to be honest with yourself – why are you quitting? Is it to save money, to improve your health or the health of those around you, or is it simply to help you smell better and look younger? Whatever your reason, find yours, write it down – and stick it everywhere you'd normally smoke, to help remind yourself why you're making this positive change."
5. Reward yourself
"It's easy to be over-critical of yourself when you fall back into old habits. Slipping up is normal – learn to accept it, and continue trying to quit. It's equally important to pat yourself on the back when you succeed. Plan to reward yourself when you reach a milestone period of time without smoking – after the vital first seven days, for instance, which is worth celebrating. Doing so will help motivate you further and give you positive reinforcement."
6. Stay away from triggers
"There will be certain things in your daily routine that you associate with smoking. It might be a morning coffee, meeting with certain friends, or during your break at work. For the first few days, avoid your triggers or mix up your routine."
7. Try straw therapy
"If you're tempted to smoke, you can replace a cigarette with a straw. Cut down a household straw and use it as you would a cigarette. So much of smoking is anchored to the hand-to-mouth action, the feeling of something in your hands and taking deep breaths. This 'straw therapy' can help psychologically trick your body into scratching that craving itch."
"Stopping smoking can make you feel more stressed than normal, so make sure you take some extra time out to relax. Whether it's going for a run, trying some yoga or using self-hypnosis and breathing exercises, it's important to make sure you stay on top of your game and keep motivated while you're quitting."