There are no two ways about it – quitting smoking is hard. But you’re not alone. There are lots of tips and tricks available to help make the quitting process faster and potentially easier for you to manage. And whilst traditional methods often focus on nicotine replacement alone, there are plenty of natural remedies and thought process changes you can try to help you overcome this tricky addiction too.
Let’s take a look at some natural and fast ways to help you kick your smoking addiction in no time at all…
So, what makes smoking so addictive and what happens when you quit? Tobacco contains nicotine, and it’s found in many vape liquids, too. Inhaling or smoking the substance is said to release dopamine in the brain, causing a feel-good hit of chemicals that can quickly become addictive.
Over time, the brain learns to expect the nicotine and dopamine release – it becomes part of everyday life with your mental baseline adjusting to accommodate it. So, when you try to quit and no longer get that hit, the brain panics and sends a craving signal to try and make you smoke again.
Is vaping better than smoking cigarettes?
Using vape pens or e-cigarettes is far better on your lungs, as these devices do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, which are two of the most dangerous elements of smoking cigarettes. The liquid and vapour used in e-cigarettes are not harmless, though they are thought to pose less risk to your health.
While they do contain nicotine, it’s usually far less than the 6 to 12 mg in a cigarette. Using these lower dosed vapes and liquids can help control your nicotine intake, but you may wish to quit nicotine altogether. So, let’s look at some natural remedies to help you completely kick the habit.
1. St John’s Wort
St John’s Wort is a herb derived from the flower ‘Hypericum perforatum’. It’s been used for centuries to treat various medical conditions like depression and insomnia, but some studies suggest that taking two capsules of 450mg per day could help to reduce smoking cravings. The main concern is how it interacts with other medications, so check with your GP before giving it a try.
Ginseng is a herbal supplement regarded as an adaptogen. It’s known for helping people adapt to stress, boost energy levels and combat anxiety. When it comes to smoking, it’s believed that taking Ginseng can help smokers to kick the habit faster and reduce the negative mental symptoms of withdrawal. It’s also been said that it helps regulate your dopamine production, meaning that your brain won’t want that extra hit all the time.
Peppermint has a relaxing effect on the digestive system, which is particularly useful if you’re quitting smoking. After all, no one likes feeling nauseous with symptoms of gastric distress. Drinking peppermint tea can help relax your nerves and promote feelings of relaxation while settling your stomach.
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting tiny, hair-like needles into certain pressure points on the body. Focusing the needles on the pressure points around the ear and cranial nerves is believed to stimulate the nervous system and help suppress cravings. Acupuncture can also help the body relax overall, which may reduce other symptoms and make it easier to quit the habit.
Mindfulness is a practice that becomes more useful over time and can help you become aware of the thoughts and feelings that cause (or contribute to) nicotine cravings. When you have a smoking habit, a cycle takes place:
- You feel something within the body or mind that signals to your brain you need to have a cigarette to alleviate these uncomfortable feelings.
- You smoke, momentarily relieving the feelings.
- Your brain learns that dopamine can help and signals you more and more to provide it.
With mindfulness, you would instead focus on the feeling and stay with it, becoming aware of the cycle and allowing the sensations to exist without action. You might notice feelings of stress and anxiety coming up or frustration and irritability – this is normal. But instead of smoking a cigarette to make yourself feel better, maybe take a walk or practise deep breathing or sit with your feelings until they subside.
Mindfulness gets easier the more you do it, so don’t be disappointed if nothing particularly astonishing happens at first. Over time, you will become more in tune with your feelings and accepting of them, which will help reduce the urge to have a cigarette.
Clinical hypnotherapy is thought to be very useful for addressing a wide range of mental issues such as trauma, addiction, depression and phobias. It works by getting your brain into a more relaxed or meditative state where it’s easier to address and change your thought cycles.
Methods vary from practitioner to practitioner, but they will generally focus on weakening your desire to smoke, strengthening your will to quit and addressing feelings or emotions that cause stress and cravings. Sessions can last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, and some practitioners may recommend several appointments to help you kick the habit for good.
7. Lifestyle changes
Several studies show links between unhealthy lifestyle choices and an increased likelihood of smoking – things like eating junk food, consuming lots of caffeine and not drinking enough water throughout the day. To give yourself the best chance of quitting smoking successfully, you should examine your day-to-day habits to see if there’s anything you could improve or change.
The urge to smoke can sometimes arise out of boredom, so ensure you have plenty of activities planned to keep your brain distracted during this tricky time. Consider taking up a new hobby, meeting up with friends or incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Keeping your hands busy is a great idea too.
8. Face the cravings head-on
Did you know that cigarette cravings only last for about 5 minutes? To tackle them directly, make a list of 5-minute activities to try and distract yourself. For example, if you’re at your desk at work and get a craving, get up and walk around for 5 minutes, make a drink or commit to replying to emails.
Over time, your brain will realise that you are not responding to cravings with nicotine, and they will subside. Quitting is just getting through a collection of 5-minute bursts.
Quitting is hard, but with patience, consistency, and potential help from some natural remedies, smoking cigarettes will be a thing of the past. Which method will you try first?