Smoking claims almost 500,000 lives in the US alone and 8 million lives worldwide every year. You’ve been told a million times that smoking is bad for your health, which is a fact. But did you know that smoking can affect your mental well-being as well?
If you quit smoking now, it can relieve stress, improve your mood, and reduce mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression. This is why 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 smoking now.
The Mental Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Results of systematic reviews show that quitting smoking results in improved mental health in just several weeks. There are reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in people who quit smoking. Those who don’t eventually experience a decline in mental health.
These findings motivate millions of people to change their lifestyle and quit smoking. Do not let your fears and negative feelings weaken your resolve to quit smoking. All the effort is worth it because quitting smoking can benefit your physical and mental health.
Nicotine is the active ingredient found in cigarettes. It can temporarily improve a smoker’s mood, which is why people get hooked on cigarettes. But this short-lived mood improvement from smoking does not help you long-term.
It takes 10–20 seconds for the nicotine to reach the brain and release dopamine after inhaling cigarette smoke. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that produces positive feelings. It improves a person’s mood, reduces stress, and relaxes muscles.
However. these feelings wear off almost immediately after smoking. Then your body gets stuck in a cycle where you crave smoking to feel relaxed, and you get addicted.
But what does smoking really do to your body? You become dependent on smoking cigarettes to relieve your stress. Then you get hooked on cigarettes, become a chain smoker, and risk developing different kinds of physical health conditions. Lastly, your mental well-being gets affected.
Yes, smoking cessation or quitting smoking reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. And doing the opposite can worsen any mental health problem.
Studies have demonstrated the link between smoking and mental health. The results concluded that smokers who suffer from mental health smoke 2–4 times 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.
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 improving focus. But all these effects are short-term and wear 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.
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. This is why some individuals who just heard bad news or are in panic mode want to light a cigarette.
They smoke one stick after another until they calm down because they believe smoking can calm them down, which is true but just temporarily. It’s always better to resort to a healthy coping mechanism if you experience mental health decline rather than being dependent on tobacco to calm down.
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 than those who do not have a mental illness.
- Smokers with psychological issues have a shorter life expectancy (10–20 years earlier death) than those who don’t.
- Smokers taking psychiatric medications need higher doses because smoking 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.
Multiple research and evidence show that smoking cessation promotes positive feelings, improvements in mental health, and positive social well-being when smokers quit. Smoking cessation studies have also proven that quitting smoking does not worsen depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms, despite the fears and beliefs of smokers that quitting tobacco use may worsen mental illnesses because of the withdrawal symptoms.
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 or practical strategies that have successfully helped smokers kick the habit for good.
Stopping smoking will not only improve your physical health but also save you money and improve your mood. Do you want to stop smoking right now? Here are tips you can follow in quitting smoking and achieving a better overall mental health well-being.
1. Find Reasons to Be Motivated
Find the motivation to quit smoking. Are you doing this to take care of your physical health and protect your family from second-hand smoke? 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.
2. Prepare Yourself
You can’t just quit smoking instantly. Since cigarettes are addictive, there are withdrawal symptoms you have to deal with when you stop.
The best thing to do so you can avoid cold turkey is to prepare yourself. Look for smoking cessation classes, apps, medications, counseling, or hypnosis to help you quit. If it helps, ask your doctor what you can do to quit for good.
3. 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 3 sticks a day, then down to 1. Eventually, you’ll find yourself not needing to light a cigarette.
4. Consider Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Quitting smoking can cause nicotine withdrawal symptoms like headaches, low energy, and low 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.
5. 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.
Some people also want to smoke more when drinking coffee because they feel like it’s a good combination. Instead of drinking coffee, which, if consumed too much, can also affect mental health, try drinking tea.
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 taking a bath.
6. Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
Once you’re dedicated to quitting smoking, commit to a lifestyle change. Throw out all lighters, cigarettes, or ashtrays. Clean out any scent from your car, drapes, clothes, or upholstery to get rid of the smokey smells.
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.
7. Seek Support
Seeking support from friends, loved ones, and family members can help you quit smoking. So the next time you feel like lighting up a cigarette, a loved one can talk you out of it. It may sound annoying at first, but you know this is for your own good and that it can help you in the long term.
If you find it hard to quit smoking because you have a lot of stressors, maybe it’s time to see a 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 if you live in Kentucky or Ohio.