The Government’s national Stoptober campaign starts on Monday, which is a 28 day challenge aimed at stopping people smoking. Middlesex University psychology expert Mark Coulson argues that smokers must remember that smoking is a dependency as well as an addiction. Therefore giving up has physical as well as psychological effects, and they should be prepared for both. While smokers may replace nicotine with a patch or gum to help with the physical side of things, the psychological side is often neglected.
Here are Middlesex University psychology expert Mark Coulson’s top psychological tips for surviving Stoptober:
First rule: Limber up. If you go from 20 a day to nothing, bad things are going to happen. Ease into the process so the shock of withdrawal doesn’t make you fall at the first hurdle.
Second rule: Recidivism does not equal failure. Chances are, at some point you will smoke a cigarette during Stoptober. That’s fine – few people manage to give up without the occasional slip.
Third rule: Don’t label yourself. Labels are for cigarette packets (have you read them, by the way?) Just because you have one cigarette does not mean you will never be able to give up. Giving in to temptation is not something that only happens to you. You are not a hopeless cause. You do not have an addictive personality. You do not lack willpower. You are pretty similar to most other people, so don’t be precious about your struggle.
Fourth rule: Positive rewards. Every time you don’t smoke when you might normally have lit up, celebrate! Sharing positive emotions with others amplifies them, so give yourself a metaphorical pat on the back, and let others know you resisted the temptation once more. We associate giving up with negative experiences, but people don’t really learn from negative experiences. Make the experience of resisting a positive one and you will find the whole process a whole lot easier.
Fifth rule: Don’t count the days until the end of Stoptober. You’re not holding your breath until it’s all over, you’re learning how to breathe underwater.”
Mark Coulson is a Psychology Reader at Middlesex University