With the New Year approaching, are you now planning to quit smoking? Maybe stopping smoking will be your New Year Resolution or maybe you've just decided that you no longer want to be a slave to the cigarettes and the toil they reap on your health.

If you want to successfully stop smoking for good then you can start to stack the odds in your favour even before you quit smoking. Your smoking feeds off your current habitual behaviours and associations around smoking as well as the impact of the nicotine and all the rest of the chemicals on your body.

Just trying to sort out your smoking habit alone can lead to increased stress and irritability and so you eat more or go back to smoking to cope. And just swapping cigarettes for another nicotine form doesn't address the habitual relationship you have with smoking. As one stop smoking client told me yesterday: even with nicotine patches he still felt the need to hold a cigarette and smoke and he ended up feeling dizzy and sick from increasing his nicotine intake.

If you've tried to stop smoking in the past then you may already be anticipating a struggle with your latest attempt to take back control. 

Stop Smoking Success 

So how do you stack the stop smoking odds in your favour to strengthen your ability to successfully quit? 

Here are four things you can do before you stop smoking: 

1) KNOW YOUR SMOKING BEAST

For two weeks before you plan to stop, keep a diary of EVERY cigarette you smoke. Keep a record of where you were, who was there, how you were feeling (e.g. bored or stressed) - know the beast before you tame it.

What are the places and situations and who are the people that trigger your smoking habit?

Armed with this information you can identify the main environmental and emotional triggers so you can plan what you will do in your smoking free future. 

2) TAMING THE HABIT

Smoking thrives on habit - that automatic action that you've practised so many times that you don't need to stop and think about it. You just reach for the cigarette and before you know it you've smoked it (some smokers can even light several cigratettes in different rooms and have them all on the go at the same time). Your mind is very powerful and helpfully carries out the actions without you having to invest time paying attention to the action.

So to strengthen your smoke free future, start taming that habit by making some small changes in how you do things - this will force your mind to pay attention as things will be different and old habitual patterns can't function in the same old way.

Here's what to do:

a) In the two weeks before you quit smoking for good, make sure you smoke 'mindfully'. That is, pay attention to each and every cigarette, your actions, the feel of the cigarette in your hand and mouth, the feeling as you puff and so on. Really pay attention and expose the habit - and make sure that when you smoke you aren't distracted doing other things at the same time (no talking, watching TV, driving etc). Take the time to notice what it is exactly that you are saying goodbye to.

b) In the week before you stop smoking for good, hold the cigarette in the other hand, go and stand somewhere different and switch to a different brand.

Start taking back control by changing things as you loosen the grip of the smoking habit.

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3) ADDRESS THE NEED TO SMOKE

Start planning now how you will address the situations and emotions you have been using smoking to fill. For example, many smokers use cigarettes as a reason to take a break at work so plan what you will do differently - will you grab a drink, go and stand somewhere else and relax or do something else? if you use smoking to tackle boredom or stress, plan what else you can do to fill that time or allow you to relax. Weaken the need to smoke and start directing your life in a healthier direction.

4) MAX THE MOTIVATION 

Why do you want to stop smoking? And why else? Don't fall into the trap of planning to stop just because you know it's a good thing to do - really focus on what it will mean to you to be smoke free. Is it so you look younger and small nicer? Is it to save money? Do you want to be a role model for your kids and grandkids? Do you want to prove to yourself you can do it? Or is it because you want to live longer, be healthier and have more puff in your lungs?

When you have all your reasons that are personal to you, write them down - keep a copy on you at all times and refer to it regularly. Pin a copy up where you will see it every day - the cigarettes and nicotine will take any opportunity to trick you to carry on smoking so get your motivations in place. If you prefer, record a short message to yourself reminding you to stay strong and listing your reasons so you can watch this back if you need to do up your motivation (or maybe get your kids to record something). Make it impossible to slide back into smoking.  

And as you consider these four steps, be honest with yourself, if you aren't motivated enough to put the effort in now, how motivated are you really to stop smoking for the rest of your life?

To your smoking freedom,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy Ely & Newmarket

www.danreganhypnotherapy.co.uk/issues/stop-smoking