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Holiday break from routine helpful when quitting smoking

  Foto: Unsplash/Eric Kane

Foto: Unsplash/Eric Kane

12/07/2018
Anna Snchez-Jurez
Tips for kicking the habit over the summer months include being more active, replacing coffee with fruit juice and using specifically-designed apps

Holidays have been identified as the perfect opportunity to give up smoking, a finding endorsed by psychologist and UOC Faculty of Health Sciences professor Antoni Baena, who is also a researcher for the Tobacco Control Unit of the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO): "It's always a good time to give up smoking, but summer is particularly good because it’s a time when factors that can help you do so successfully are particularly abundant." A change of routine is essential to diverting attention away from smoking, explains the expert, and in that sense, summer represents an ideal moment because it naturally promotes a change in habits.

During the year, smokers associate having a cigarette with getting up, stopping for a coffee break at work and commuting to and from work in the car, among other points in their day; but routines change during the holiday season, which can make quitting easier. "People have more time to relax both the body and mind, get out in the open air, enjoy leisure activities and try new things", says the researcher.
 
Giving up smoking involves tackling a physical, psychological and social dependence on nicotine. Baena recommends keeping a few tips in mind when trying to kick the habit over the holidays. Ask for support from family and friends and, if necessary, seek the help of professionals offering effective treatments, both pharmacological and psychological, to stop smoking. "Only 7% of smokers who quit smoking ask for professional help", says the expert.
 
Doing more physical activity, such as walking, running, dancing, swimming or cycling is also important – making sure, of course, that you steer clear of the hottest hours of the day when sun exposure is at its highest. "Exercise regulates anxiety and generates endorphins that increase feelings of well-being, helping to combat the withdrawal symptoms that can lead us to turn to smoking", says the psychologist.
 
Alcohol is one of the triggers that is liable to derail the efforts of anyone trying to quit smoking, which is why it is advisable to either avoid it all together or drink in moderation. “Another helpful practice is to substitute stimulant drinks, such as coffee or tea, for fruit juices, as it alters daily patterns and promotes a break from the routines we associate with smoking”, the researcher points out.
 
Seeking out smoke-free spaces is key and, as such, when people want to relax and forget about smoking, they would be advised to opt for pools or beaches where smoking is prohibited. Apps can also be good allies: "games or apps specifically aimed at giving up smoking help keep the mind busy," explains Baena.


More energy and less respiratory infections

The positive effects of quitting smoking can be felt within a matter of hours, but it usually takes a few weeks or a month to quit. "Your sense of smell begins to return, the airways into the lungs start to work better allowing for greater intake of air, feelings of tiredness are reduced and people experience less coughs and respiratory infections", explains the UOC professor. "On top of that, in just one month, the brain receptors that have become sensitized to nicotine start to return to normal, becoming completely re-adapted at three months. This helps with breaking the cycle of nicotine addiction".

“Getting back into routine needs careful planning in order to avoid relapsing when the holidays are over. Note down all the benefits you have felt or regained so far, mainly the new ones, and pin them up in a visible place at home, and start afresh as a different person, with new routines and pleasures. But, above all, be careful not to become complacent, ie don’t forget that it takes a bit of time to quit smoking completely", Baena concludes.