In my previously I talked about some of the reasons why it would be a good idea to stop smoking. I busted one of the myths I hear that makes me really cross. “It’s not too late” – it’s never too late – the damage caused by smoking can often be undone. Now I am going to be busting some of the myths about quitting smoking that hold you stuck in the habit.

Why is it so difficult to stop smoking?

Because although it is simple, it is not easy!

Being ‘not easy’ isn’t the problem; it’s what you believe about your ability, yourself, smoking and the level of difficulty that counts.

You can decide that it is not a good idea to continue smoking. You can read about and actually see the facts all around you. Yet you find it easy to procrastinate and put it off.

Thinking about quitting smoking
What you believe makes all the difference to quitting easily

The decision in your mind is that you will/want to quit smoking. The next things is to start thinking about the how and when. This is when you start to hesitate. You can be influenced by the thoughts that go rattling around your mind. They can be your own made up untruths. Or they can be what you hear from well meaning friends and family. Perhaps all mixed with what you see, read and hear in the media.

Understanding the stories, you could tell yourself, can help you bust through the beliefs that can hold you back.

The fiction

There are many myths that we tell ourselves or have been told by others. Now is the time to realise that these are just stories and beliefs that we and others have created.

Myth – Withdrawal is agony

Okay so it’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world. I would say that using the word agony is an emotionally loaded word. It is uncomfortable there is no denying that. But having a pair of shoes that don’t fit is uncomfortable too yet we will still continue to wear them. There are many ways that you can distract yourself.

It can be more the frequency of the symptoms. Nicotine will have left your body in around 48-72 hours. During that time while smoking you may have had about 200 hits of nicotine. It is no surprise that your body and mind will remind you of that habit you used to have. The withdrawal from nicotine itself will reach it’s peak around 3 days. From then onwards it becomes more about the habit and your beliefs and it becomes more easy.

Myth – Fear of missing out

It won’t be the same, I can’t do or go, how will I cope? This is the fear of missing out (FOMO). There is neurochemistry that can affect your thinking. The chemicals in your brain released by the change you made by quitting smoking can create and change your thinking as a few things will happen.

Firstly, cortisol will be released urging you to go back to what was your normal. Avoiding change and different at a neural level it is part of your survival. There may be thoughts about missing out on something and you’ll want to go back to smoking and all the things that you ‘believe’ to be positive for smoking.

It will also be a craving for a dopamine release that may change your thinking, the anticipation of pleasure. The pleasure is a myth as all you are seeking to do is relieve the discomfort of craving nicotine.

Myth – I will miss my friends

Ladies smoking together outside a door.
Your smoking tribe. You can still be friends.

Then there is the feeling of not being part of your tribe. That you can’t be friends with the people that you associate with that are smokers. This again comes from the oldest part of our brains, it creates the fear of being excluded from a group. Back in the day of sabre tooth tigers; if you had left our tribe it was really unlikely that you would survive on your own. It’s your brains way of saying, no don’t leave, stay safe and secure.

Again, this is another of the myths about quitting smoking. You can be friends still but you just might need to adjust where you meet up for your chats. It will only be for a while just while you create a new way of thinking. Then you can go for a smoke break and not even notice they are still smoking. That is if you still want to stand outside on a cold wet or windy day.

Myth – I’ve tried and failed so many times

I’ll never manage to stop smoking because I have failed every time before. Oh, that is so not true. The more times you try to stop, the more likely it is that you will stop eventually. Again, this is a story that you tell yourself. The reality is you haven’t failed. Each time you have tried you have leant what your triggers are and you are practising for the big day. Every time is preparing you for success. Whether you stopped for half a day, one day or just a week you have proved that you can do it. It’s sustaining it that can be worked on next.

Myth – I have to smoke

It helps me keep calm, concentrate, relax, focus, it makes me happy, gives me pleasure and relieves stress. Really? So that same cigarette gives you the energy to focus and direct your energy as you concentrate. Yet it also calms you down and relaxes you. Take a look at the cigarettes in your packet. Do you know which one to take to have any of these feelings I’ve mentioned?

How can one stick of tobacco have some many different effects on how you feel! You managed to experience all those feelings before you smoked so it can’t be just the smoking that creates them.

Myth – I will need lots of willpower

You won’t need lots but you will need some willpower. The motivation to stop smoking has to come from within you. You know the real reasons why you want to stop smoking. This can be motivation enough. The change becomes easy when you understand how your thoughts influence your feelings. You know that your beliefs shape your experience and behaviour. When you have a robust plan. That you are fully prepared it will become a process for you to work through. It soon becomes your new normal, the new habit of not smoking. You can do this, you will realise, that freedom from cigarettes is what you really want. This is what causes willpower to emerge and you will reclaim your power.

Myth – Once a smoker always a smoker

Through my life I have heard people saying that they always miss smoking. That you never really stop wanting to smoke. The reality is that it is not the truth. Since quitting I have found I still like the smell of ‘fresh’ tobacco smoke. Yes on rare ‘occasions’ I might think that it would be nice if …. But honestly by the time I have thought that thought I have already forgotten it. It’s more about remembering fondly what it was like when I smoked, usually through rose tinted spectacles.

Smoking a cigerette is good, no it's just seems that way in your memory. It is a myth.
What, wait – it was this good?

Myth – One day I will just stop

I will stop one day, if I decide to stop then I’ll just quit. When you hear people talking about their experiences of ‘just quitting’. They didn’t just wake up and say I’m quitting today. It’s just one more of those myths about quitting smoking. They have often just reached a point in their lives when they realise that it’s doing more harm than good.

In my case it was a heart attack. It’s really not the wakeup call that I want for anyone else. But it was what made the difference to me. You could say I just stopped once I had logically decided but in all honesty that was not the case. Once I was out of the Cath lab where I had 3 stents inserted in my artery. I was made comfortable in intensive care the reality sunk in. The horror hit me in the conscious, emotional, instinctive and unconscious parts of my brain. It was literally a no brainer. as there was no imbalance between them. On all levels there was only one way and that was to quit smoking.

And the myths you tell yourself

There many more myths about quitting smoking and how difficult it will be to stop. There are, of course, many more facts too. The reality is that it will be as easy or as difficult as you believe it will be. At the end of the day quitting won’t kill you but continuing to smoke just might.

What next

Look out for more of my thoughts around smoking and quitting. I hope you found busting the myths about quitting smoking interesting.

My takeaway for you today is to remember it is ‘different strokes for different folks’. If you have tried before using one technique or idea, keep confident and decide to try another method.

I am sure you are already deciding that you want to stop smoking, otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far.

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