Of the estimated 42 million people that smoke, many are under the impression that cigarettes help them feel more calm and allow them to deal with stress easier.
Smokers often say they can’t kick the habit because it would make them anxious, angry, and even mean, but a 2010 study, published in the journal Addiction, revealed that the opposite is true.
The researchers found that smoking cigarettes creates stress by making smokers feel anxious when they experience the need to light up, giving them a sense of what they believe is relaxation, but is actually withdrawal relief. Their findings show that heavy smokers who quit for good reported lower levels of stress than when they were still addicted to smoking.
The study authors say that because smoking seems to intensify stress, it’s possible that it could even be linked to psychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. They point out that the results of their research should reassure smokers who worry that quitting will make them feel more stress that even those who are trying to quit didn’t experience greater stress – and, those who managed to quit for good saw a significant decrease in stress levels.
If you’re still smoking and using stress as an excuse not to quit, it’s time to cross that one off your list and make that cigarette you just smoked your last. If the health risks haven’t already scared you enough to quit, maybe the realization that you’re worsening your stress level will be enough to convince you.
If you’re thinking you’ll cut down to just one or two cigarettes a day, a study published in the journal Circulation showed that passive smoke, the type that non-smokers get when spending time around smokers, still resulted in unacceptably high levels of mortality. So, just cutting down, or even spending time close to smokers, is still a no-no if you hope to increase your chances of living a long and healthy life.
Of course quitting a cigarette habit is no easy task, but there are ways to make it less challenging, and there is no doubt that the rewards are well-worth the effort.
There are many free resources available to help you quit, such as the American Lung Association’s “Quitter in You” website, which brings smokers trying to quit together for support and to share helpful advice.
There are also free live phone support lines available staffed with trained counselors who can provide a referral list of programs in your community as well as offer advice, such as the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT and 1-800-QUIT NOW.
Exercise can also be an important tool in quitting the habit. A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that physical activity actually triggers brain activity that helps to reduce cravings for cigarettes. The researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which revealed that exercise literally changes the way the brain processes information.
Starting an exercise program and kicking your cigarette habit for good may be one of the best things you can do to relieve stress and enjoy a happy, healthier and higher quality of life.
-The Alternative Daily