Every year, smoking claims almost 500,000 lives in the U.S. alone and 8 million lives worldwide. You’ve been told a million times that smoking is bad for your health, which is a fact. Furthermore, did you know that smoking can affect your mental well-being as well? If you quit smoking now, it can relieve your stress, improve your mood, also reduce mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression.
People who quit smoking have a more positive outlook and better quality of life. If you want to improve your mental health and want to stop smoking now, read further. Learn how smoking cigarettes affects your mental well-being and the tips on how to stop now.
The Mental Health Benefits Of Quitting Smoking
Results of systematic reviews show that quitting smoking produces positive improvement in mental health in just several weeks. There are reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, to those who quit smoking. And for those don’t? A decline in mental health.
These findings alone give motivation to millions of people looking for a lifestyle change and quit smoking. Why stop yourself from fears and let negative feelings overrun you to quit smoking? You know so well how quitting smoking can be beneficial for you physical and mental health.
The Role Of Nicotine And Dopamine
Nicotine is the active ingredient found in cigarettes. Nicotine can briefly improve the mood; that’s why many smokers get hooked. But this temporary mood improvement from smoking does not help you long-term. If you inhale smoke from a cigarette, it takes 10-20 seconds for the nicotine to reach the brain and release dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that produces positive feelings. Dopamine improves a person’s mood, reduces stress, and relaxes muscles. But these feelings after smoking wears off almost immediately. Then your body gets stuck in a cycle where you crave for smoking to feel relaxed, and you get addicted.
But what does this do to your body? You get dependent on smoking cigarettes to relieve your stress. What’s next? You get hooked to cigarettes, become a chain smoker, you’re putting yourself at risk of developing different kinds of physical health conditions, and lastly, your mental well-being gets affected.
Does Smoking Cessation Help With Anxiety And Depression?
Yes, smoking cessation or quitting smoking reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. And doing the opposite can worsen any mental health problem. Do studies back this claim? Yes! Studies have shown the link between smoking and mental health. The results concluded that smokers who suffer from mental health smoke 2-4x more than those without a mental health condition.
Depression is also one of the main risk factors for nicotine addiction. That’s why the vicious cycle is so hard to break. You get depressed, and you smoke more. As you smoke more, you feel more depressed.
How Does Smoking Affect The Mood?
People who smoke can attest that after one cigarette, they feel calmer, focused, and energized. That’s because nicotine is a stimulant. Here’s what you should know about how smoking affects your mood:
Since tobacco is classified as a stimulant, it quickly boosts energy and helps with getting focused. But all these effects are short-term and wears off after a few minutes. As the effects start to wear off, withdrawal symptoms may be felt. The craving for another cigarette also follows, making a person anxious, restless, or upset until the next cigarette.
Mental Health Conditions
People who smoke and have a mental illness use cigarettes to offset the side effects of antidepressant medications. Also, people who experience panic attacks resort to smoking to calm down. Do you know someone who just heard a bad news or in panic mode who wants to light a cigarette?
Puffing a away all that smoke, one stick after the other, until they calm down. Because they believe smoking may calm them down, which is true but just temporarily. Is it better this way? Of course not! It’s always better to resort to a healthy coping mechanism if you experience a mental health decline rather than being dependent on killer tobacco to calm down.
Facts About Smokers With Mental Health Disorders
Here are interesting facts about smokers who have mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia:
- People with mental health problems are more likely to smoke more than those who do not have a mental illness.
- Smokers with psychological issues have a shorter life expectancy (10-20 years earlier) than those who are otherwise.
- Smokers who are under psychiatric medications need higher doses of the medicines because it interferes with the efficiency of the medications. Higher doses also mean more unpleasant side effects of antidepressant medications.
- Smoking cessation is also as effective as antidepressant medications.
- Evidence shows that smokers with mental health problems who quit smoking have a better quality of life.
- Stopping smoking has many beneficial effects in dealing with anxiety, depression, and stress.
What Smoking Cessation Studies Show
Smoking cessation studies show that quitting smoke does not worsen the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. This is despite the fears and beliefs of smokers that quitting tobacco use may worsen mental illnesses because of the withdrawal symptoms. Multiple research and evidence also show that this promotes positive feelings, improvements in mental health, and positive social well-being when smokers quit.
Although the withdrawal symptoms of tobacco addiction may be uncomfortable at first, it is just a phase. There are many ways to overcome these unpleasant feelings whether with the help of your doctor’s medical advice and other tips.
Tips On Quitting Smoking
Stopping smoking will not only improve your physical health, but it can also save you money and improve your mood. Do you want to stop smoking right now? Here are tips you can follow on quitting smoking and having a better overall mental health well-being.
- Be Motivated For A Reason: Find the motivation to quit smoking. Are you doing this to take care of your physical health? Are you doing this to protect your family from second-hand smoking? Do you want to quit to improve your mental well-being? If you have the reason and motivation to quit, it will be easier for you to achieve your goals. No matter how hard it may seem, having the motivation will keep you going.
- Prepare Yourself: You can’t just quit smoking instantly. Since cigarettes are addictive, there are withdrawal symptoms when you stop. The best thing to do so you can avoid cold turkey is to prepare yourself. Research for smoking cessation classes, apps, medications, counseling, or hypnosis you can try. If it helps, ask your doctor what the things you can do as you quit.
- Quit Gradually: If you quit smoking, decrease the cigarettes you smoke gradually. If you smoke 10 sticks a day, try to reduce it to 5 sticks a day for the first few days. Then slowly reduce it to three sticks a day, then down to 1, then you’ll find yourself not needing to light that cigarette.
- Consider Nicotine Replacement Therapy: Quitting smoking can cause nicotine withdrawal symptoms like headaches, low energy and affect your mood. To address these cravings, you can try nicotine replacement therapy. Research shows that nicotine lozenges, gums, and patches can increase the success rate of smoking cessation.
- Avoid Triggers: Do you want to smoke if you drink alcohol? Or do you smoke more when you feel stressed? If you’re going to quit smoking, you should avoid these triggers. Other people also want to smoke more when drinking coffee because they feel like it’s a good combination. Instead of drinking coffee, which drinking too much can also affect mental health, try drinking tea instead. If you have the urge to smoke after eating a meal, try other alternatives to take your mind off the cigarette cravings, like chewing gum, brushing your teeth, going out for a walk, or take a bath.
- Lifestyle Change: Once you’re dedicated to quitting smoking, commit to a lifestyle change. Throw out all lighters, cigarettes, or ashtray. Clean out any scent from your car, drapes, clothes, or upholstery to get rid of the smoke scents. In addition, change your lifestyle by resorting to healthy coping mechanisms when you’re stressed. Don’t think of smoking or drinking when you feel stressed; instead, you can try healthy coping mechanisms like exercising, walking outdoors, or reading a good book.
- Seek Support: Seeking support from friends, loved ones, and family members who can help you quit smoking. So the next time you intend to light up a cigarette, a loved one can talk you out of it. It may sound annoying at first, but it can help you long-term, and you know this is for your own good.
Seek Support From A Mental Health Professional
If you find it hard to quit smoking because you have a lot of stressors, maybe it’s time to seek support from mental health professionals. You may find it hard to quit smoking when you always find yourself stressed out every day.
Talking to a mental health professional can help you sort out your thoughts, explore your feelings, and learn how to deal with them in a healthy way rather than smoking. Do you want to talk to a therapist or counselor? You can book an appointment for online counseling at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC).