Actually, it’s crazy: people who smoke are well aware that they are spending a lot of money on a habit that ultimately harms them. Nevertheless, it is very difficult for many people to stop smoking. "One reason is that the negative consequences for health lie in the future", says Dr. Heike Winter, psychological psychotherapist at the Center for Psychotherapy at the Goethe University Frankfurt.
Nicotine on the other hand works very quickly. "It is an extremely highly potent drug", says the expert. While the risks seem far in the future, taking a drag on a cigarette causes you to feel quickly awake and focused. At the same time, the body relaxes. There are also other aspects: For many, smoking also represents taking a short break at work and switching off for a moment. "When it comes to health risks, however, most people assume that "nothing will happen to them", says Winter. You want to stop smoking? Find out what happens when you decide to quit and what tips are helpful for the first few days here. (Constantly tired and exhausted? That helps!)
Quitting smoking: This is how the body changes
Once you have started smoking, it is often difficult to get rid of it. "Many smokers want to quit, but don’t quite manage it", says Winter. The body changes quite fast in a positive way, if the smoking stop succeeds: After about 20 minutes, the values of pulse of blood pressure already normalize. Twelve hours after the last cigarette, physical performance improves. All organs are better supplied with oxygen.
Two weeks to three months after stopping smoking, the circulation stabilizes and the lung function improves noticeably. "So stopping smoking is worthwhile in every case.", says Winter. The effects are felt very quickly. One to nine months after the last cigarette, coughing fits and shortness of breath recede, and the sinuses, which are often clogged in smokers, become clear. It also breaks down mucus in the lungs, which helps cleanse them and also leads to a reduced risk of infection.
These are the benefits of quitting smoking
Why should you stop smoking? After about a year, the risk of coronary artery disease – narrowing of the coronary arteries due to arteriosclerosis, which can lead to chest pain, heartache, and even heart attack and sudden cardiac death – is also halved. After five years, the risk of cancer in the oral cavity and esophagus as well as in the throat and urinary bladder is halved.
The risk of suffering a stroke can even drop to non-smoker levels by then. Ten years after quitting smoking, the risk of dying from lung cancer is reduced by half, and the risk of developing cancer of the larynx and pancreas is reduced. Finally, after 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is just as high as for a non-smoker. (Harvard Study: Cigarettes, Alcohol or Coffee? This disturbs sleep the most)
When it’s best to stop smoking?
If you want to quit smoking, it is first important to make a conscious decision not to smoke anymore. "You shouldn’t wait for a particularly good day to do this", advises Winter. A better strategy is to stop immediately, or at least to set a specific time to do so.
The biggest problem in quitting smoking is often dealing with negative thoughts. "A lot of people are worried they won’t make it, or they’re afraid of nicotine withdrawal.", says psychotherapist Winter. Others may be worried that they will gain a lot of weight after quitting smoking. "The important thing is to give yourself courage and be confident.", advises Winter. "Catastrophic thoughts do not help."
What to do about withdrawal symptoms?
When you quit smoking, you go through different stages of withdrawal. The page smoke-free-info.de of the Federal Center for Health Education lists "strong desire to smoke, nervousness, aggressiveness, sleep disturbances, increased appetite and poor or depressed mood" among the withdrawal symptoms. But these symptoms would subside after seven to ten days and are already completely gone after a few weeks.
And it’s not hard at all to do something about the withdrawal symptoms. These simple tips against cravings and tips against withdrawal symptoms can help with smoking cessation: Feelings of frustration, for example, can be relieved with relaxation exercises (Here’s how to get your happy hormones going), and if you’re tired, it’s best to take a short walk outside for some fresh air. "You should know your personal triggers", says Dr. Winter. At what moment do you reach for a cigarette in everyday life?? When do cravings set in? "For example, if you always smoke with coffee, you should ask yourself how important coffee is to you. It may be a good idea to switch to tea instead."
How to stop smoking? These tips really help
The German Federal Center for Health Education also advises the "Four As" when quitting smoking: avoid, run away, distract and postpone. One should avoid situations, in which one usually always smoked. It can help to leave the place in question. Distraction can also be beneficial – instead of smoking, you can chew gum, for example. "In addition, it helps to "postpone the need", says Winter. The craving increases briefly and then subsides again.
In practical terms, it can help in this situation to close your eyes and take ten deep breaths, for example. (Meditation: Strengthen the whole body in just 10 minutes). What definitely always helps is to do sports. Almost any type of sport is suitable, although the federal center particularly advises aqua gymnastics, jogging, cycling and swimming. And for those who like a more leisurely pace, walking might be to their liking. Why does sport help to quit smoking?? Simply because you can’t smoke during them and you probably won’t feel like smoking immediately afterwards.
If you decide to finally become a non-smoker, the first three weeks in particular can be stressful. "It can help not to take possible symptoms so seriously", advises psychologist Winter. If you feel withdrawal symptoms, observe as calmly as possible how they come and go away again.
Winter doesn’t think much of nicotine sprays and other nicotine replacement products. "You’re following the basic conviction that you can’t do it without nicotine," says Winter, she says. "It would be like trying to run a marathon and having a ticket for the subway in your pocket the whole time." She thinks it is much better to stop smoking on your own. According to a guidebook brochure published jointly by the German Cancer Aid and the German Cancer Society, however, substitute medications can certainly be of benefit.
For example, nicotine gum may help smokers with low to moderate dependence (daily consumption of 15 cigarettes or less) who smoke primarily in certain situations, such as in company, to quit, and nicotine patches are for smokers with moderate to severe tobacco dependence and a "relatively high consumption (10 to 40 cigarettes) evenly distributed throughout the day" Suitable.
The experts from Stiftung Warentest concluded in their research that the use of nicotine preparations makes it more likely to get rid of the addiction. To support smoking cessation, most preparations have been deemed "suitable" but not nicotine patches, which do not remain on the skin for the whole day but only for 16 hours. "The 16-hour patches (nicorette TX) are considered ,also suitable' because there is evidence that they dampen smokers’ cravings for cigarettes – especially after the first one in the morning – less than the 24-hour patches", according to Stiftung Warentest.