It's science; nicotine makes smoking addictive. Once inside the brain, it triggers the release of dopamine that makes you feel good and thus, crave more. This vicious cycle makes it immensely tough to quit smoking cigarettes. But it isn't impossible. No matter how bad your cravings get, no matter how often you smoke, you can easily overcome (or at least reduce) the urge to smoke by implementing a few lifestyle changes and eating the right food. The effects of this are beneficial, to say the least, as you end up improving your sense of taste and smell, lowering the frequency of respiratory infections, boosting your energy levels, and improving your general well-being.
Here are some tweaks that you can make to your lifestyle to get over your addiction.
Plan a healthy strategy: If you have often smoked in high-stress situations or when you felt the nerves, chances are, continued stress can cause more cravings, making it more difficult to quit smoking. Finding alternative ways to manage stress is critical during the quitting phase. Practice stress-management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, or indulge in your favourite hobbies to keep yourself occupied. Regular meditation practices can help you deal with stress and minimise your desire to smoke.
Regular physical activity: Engaging in regular physical activity offers numerous advantages when it comes to quitting smoking. Exercise can help reduce nicotine cravings, manage stress, and enhance mood. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Choose activities that you enjoy such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, or working out in the gym.
Surround yourself with a friendly social network: Knowing you have a network of supportive people around you will boost your efforts to quit smoking. Inform your friends, family, and co-workers of your decision and seek their help. Avoid spending time with people who are not supportive of your quitting journey. Consider joining a support group to connect with those who may have had the experience of overcoming this habit.
Avoid smoking triggers: Recognise and avoid situations or actions that make you want to smoke. This could involve spending time with friends who smoke, visiting places where smoking is prevalent, or engaging in activities associated with smoking. If these cannot be avoided altogether, devise coping methods or modify your routine.
Remember, quitting smoking is a personal experience and each person's method will be different. These lifestyle modifications can help you quit smoking, but it's crucial to find out what works best for you. Seek advice from healthcare specialists or smoking cessation programmes to build a plan tailored to your specific needs.
Adopting a healthy and nutritious diet can help minimise the cravings for a cigarette to a great extent, and this, in turn, will enhance your general well-being. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables, sprouts, nuts, beans, lentils, healthy whole grains, and lean proteins in your meals. Caffeine, sugary foods, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and any other stimulants should be avoided because they can trigger cravings. Instead of heading out for a smoke, reach out for wholesome snacks like fresh fruits or almonds and keep a stock of this handy to munch on.
Cinnamon Sticks: Cinnamon sticks deliver a very strong taste and a spicy aroma that aids in suppressing the urge to smoke. Additionally, they also boost brain activity and reduce nervous tension and memory loss—all of which are side effects of quitting smoking.
Veggies: Vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, etc. are all foods that can reduce your urge to smoke on account of their crunchiness which is known to reduce the nicotine craving.
Ginseng Tea: Ginseng is effective in minimising the effects of nicotine which aid by reducing the appeal to smoke, thereby making it easier to get rid of the unhealthy habit of smoking.
Nuts: Crunchy and loaded with nutrients, nuts help curb the anxiety that usually comes in when you quit smoking.
Frozen berries: It is common to crave sweets when you quit smoking as they are also responsible for the release of the hormone Dopamine. So rather than reaching for that next cigarette, you could try eating what you crave.
Having said that, overconsumption of sweets such as cookies, desserts, and cream is not healthy and could lead to excessive weight gain. Instead, you could opt for frozen berries. The sweetness of the berries can aid in curbing sugar cravings and will keep you satiated for longer.
Inputs by Tanisha Bawa, Founder of TAN|365, award-winning gut health expert and certified nutrition coach, and Dr. Manoj Kutteri, Medical Director & CEO of Atmantan Wellness Centre