Quitting smoking is no easy feat; many smokers who make the decision to scrap the bad habit once and for all are met with several mental health obstacles, including bouts of depression and/or anxiety, relationship challenges, extra stress levels, and other major hurdles that need to be overcome in order to finally be a non-smoker for good.
However, the good news is that whilst quitting smoking can have some negative effects on mental health, these are most usually caused by the effects of nicotine withdrawal, and are only temporary. The symptoms of quitting smoking are usually very short-lived, lasting anything from a few days to a few weeks.
On the other hand, the mental health benefits of quitting smoking are far more long-term, and certainly outweigh the temporary issues that many ex-smokers face after stubbing out their final cigarette. Health benefits of smoking are immense; from a decreased risk of lung cancer and heart disease to better skin, hair, nails and teeth. But, it doesn’t just stop at physical health; stopping smoking for good can also have several positive effects on mental health and well-being.
Smokers and Mental Health:
Studies have shown that the correlation between smoking and mental health problems is unusually high. Past research has found that over 40% of smokers tend to have at least one mental health condition, and people affected by mental illness are more likely to take up the habit. To anybody who is familiar with how nicotine affects the body and mind, these numbers are unsurprising – nicotine is a drug that acts as a moderately effective mood stabilizer, which can help people suffering from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression feel calmer and even work to temporarily lift their mood.
However, the positive effects of nicotine on mental health are very short-lived and temporary. Over time, nicotine use can actually increase anxiety, since the smoker will suffer from nicotine withdrawal symptoms if they haven’t had a cigarette for a while, causing stress and even depressive symptoms that can seemingly be only cured by smoking, causing a dependence on the drug. Although there is little evidence to suggest that smoking alone can be a main trigger for mental illness, smokers tend to experience a worsening of pre-existing mental health conditions as a result.
How Quitting Improves Mental Health:
For many smokers, hearing about the negative effects of nicotine withdrawal on the brain and body leaves them feeling frightened of quitting and going through it all themselves. However, whilst there are no grounds to deny that quitting cigarettes is a very challenging experience, it’s important to understand that this challenge is only temporary; once your body and mind is able to get over the reliance on nicotine, you can begin enjoying the immense mental health benefits of being a non-smoker.
In addition, don’t forget that today there are many options available when it comes to gradually quitting and allowing your body to wean itself from nicotine slowly, to help reduce the withdrawal symptoms and avoid negative mental health effects such as stress, anxiety or depression. Vaping, for example, has become an increasingly more popular method of kicking the habit, since e-juice used for vaping contains some nicotine which can be gradually reduced to help you adjust slowly and avoid the strong nicotine cravings that come with going cold turkey. Although you will still be getting nicotine, don’t forget that vaping is a much healthier option – a recent study carried out in the UK found that vapers were at a much lower risk of conditions such as stroke, heart disease and cancer than smokers. Vape liquid wholesale sellers stock a wide range of e-juices with varying nicotine content to allow you to gradually cut down. Vaping still has health risks, you may be interested in reading this article on vaping risks!
Healthy Habits to Improve Mental Health:
If you suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression and are a smoker, then you’ll probably recognize some of the things we’ve discussed, such as the vicious cycle of stressing out when you can’t smoke, only to feel temporarily calmer when you finally have a cigarette. But, whilst smoking can certainly make you feel better for a while, the idea of it being good for your mental health is just an illusion.
If you rely on smoking to keep your mental health issues under control, then it’s very likely going to be much more difficult for you to quit the habit and stick at it. Along with using nicotine replacement therapies such as vaping to help you avoid withdrawal symptoms and gradually reduce your reliance on nicotine, the best way to keep your mental health under control whilst quitting smoking is to try and replace cigarettes with healthier habits.
First, the best thing to do when you are quitting smoking is to get support from friends, family, and health professionals. If you see a therapist to help you with your mental health, then it’s a good idea to inform them of your decision to quit smoking – they will be happy to incorporate this into your therapy and help you change your behavioral patterns and thoughts to make it easier for you to quit the habit for good. Additionally, speaking to your doctor about quitting smoking can also be a wise idea, since they may be able to put you in touch with stop smoking support grounds in your area, for example. You should also speak to your family and friends and ask them for support – they can be there for you and help distract you when the challenge becomes a little too much.
When it comes to choosing a healthier habit to replace cigarettes with, there are many to choose from. Mindfulness meditation, for example, has become increasingly more popular in recent times as a method of controlling mental health issues. Practicing mindfulness meditation can be done from the privacy of your own home, and will help you to feel more at one with yourself which can discourage your desire to smoke. Finding a new hobby is also a good idea, since it will give you something new and exciting to focus on instead. Even things like using a weighted blanket could help ease the symptoms and emotions associated with depression.
Has smoking affected your mental health? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.