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How To Quit For Good This National No Smoking Day, 11th March 2021 and Beyond!

woman snaps cigarette

National No Smoking Day is a call to action for people to stub out their smoking habit for good.

However, despite a wide range of interventions and support, many people won’t succeed the first time. In fact, research* shows that it can take 30 attempts or more to quit.

Gympass, the world’s largest corporate wellbeing platform, encourages a multi-pronged solution to help people who want to kick their nicotine habit. 

As Eamon Lloyd, Senior Director and Head of Partnerships UK and Ireland from Gympass explains; “From smoking cessation tools, nutrition advice and mindfulness apps, to personal trainers and wellness coaches, there is not one trick or one miracle cure to quit smoking. Rather, a holistic approach can help people, especially in lockdown.” 

Because lockdown has forced many in-person coping strategies to halt, using apps such as Kwit App and Mindcotine (both available via a Gympass membership) is a solid foundational start in any person’s journey to quit.

“Evidence-based smoking cessation programmes, such as the Kwit App, use scientific methods to help you stop smoking.” Explains Lloyd,

“And although it is steeped in science, it is actually designed more like a game and includes motivational boosts including a ‘shake your phone’ option to receive some extra tips and support.”

With all of us needing extra stimuli to overcome the monotony of this third lockdown, a gamified way to help quit smoking is an interesting option. 

“We also recommend the Mindcotine app, which combines virtual reality and mindfulness to put the smoker in real-life situations and help them recognise and overcome cravings.” Lloyd continues. 

Weight gain is a common side-effect of giving up smoking, as smokers reach for snacks to replace cravings.

The NHS reports that on average, people gain 5kg in the year after they give up smoking.

To help users on their journey to better health, Gympass also gives one-to-one access to PTs, wellness coaches and nutritionists via the service /app.

This myriad of solutions-focused support systems all work together to achieve the best results for those committed to quitting for good.

Gympass’ experts have provided insight into some of the most common questions about stopping smoking:

How can I cope with the cravings? 

Emilio Goldenhersch, Chief Science Officer and Co-founder of the MindCotine app: 

“The behaviour change perspective at Mindcotine is that to cope with cravings you need to be aware of them first.

Virtual Reality Training, which merges two psychological frameworks – cue exposure therapy and mindfulness, allows the individual to recognize the sensations associated with smoking triggered by familiar situations.

This unique approach provides a deep understanding of the contextual situation, and through self-awareness, grants the individual to choose differently when presented in real-life scenarios.

Another way to cope with cravings is by practicing mindfulness and getting a better understanding of reward-based learning.

This helps with becoming more aware of the automatic behaviour you may feel triggered by something (internal emotion or external cue) – smoking – reward (positive or negative feeling).

Mindfulness works in the middle of it all. You can learn how to recognise the triggers, be ready to feel the associated behaviour (smoking) and learn how to respond differently by distinguishing the established set of rewards.”

Can exercise actually reduce my cravings for nicotine? And what exercise should I be doing?

Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer, Katrin Schlee: 

Exercise is known to attenuate nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Studies exist that show that something as simple as a short 10-minute session of moderate exercise can reduce tobacco cravings with immediate effect. 

While the exact mechanisms responsible for this effect remain largely unknown, a landmark study from 2018  shows that regular exercise aids smoking cessation by reducing withdrawal symptoms.

But we also know that if users adopt exercise into their daily routine more frequently before quitting smoking, once they do start the cessation period, exercise provides an even stronger coping mechanism. 

The best exercises for those who are quitting smoking is brisk walking or slow jogging. It is important that users gradually increase tempo and distance, as smoking affects lung capacity and therefore users need to be sensible at the start of their journey. 

Rowing or hybrid training in the form of cardio with body weight training (circuits), is also helpful as it increases muscle strength alongside cardiovascular output.  

Ultimately, it is always important to talk to an expert before any big lifestyle change, so book a virtual session with a wellness coach or PT so they can advise on the best approach. It also helps to have someone that can hold you accountable, it helps increase chances of quitting tenfold!” 

I’m worried that if I do stop smoking, I will eat more and gain weight. What can I do?

Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer, Katrin Schlee: 

“What you tend to find is that food starts to taste better once you stop smoking. Sadly, that doesn’t mean you should eat more of it!

Mindful eating is a great strategy, considering each thing you’re eating, reflecting on the taste, texture and smell of it and chewing slowly. It really helps keep you in the moment and allows your body and mind to support each other on this journey. 

Because quitting smoking involves changing habits, it’s about finding positive habits that can help support your journey.

Increasing your metabolism with regular exercise is part of the goal, even upping your movement with little things like using the stairs instead of the lift or cycling to work instead of catching the bus, will help. 

You’ll be moving more and will often have hunger pangs due to the cravings too, it’s important to surround yourself with healthy options such as fresh fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and nuts.

Eating smaller portions more regularly should stabilise your metabolism too. It takes 20 minutes for you to feel full after eating – so take a walk after you’ve eaten a main meal and see if you’re still hungry after that. If so, then grab a healthy snack.

If in doubt, consider reaching out to a registered nutritionist or using nutritionist tools like the Nootric app on Gympass, to help support your healthy eating journey alongside your smoking cessation.” 

Is there anything I can do when the cravings really hit to take my mind off it?

Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer, Katrin Schlee: 

“If you are still smoking, don’t blame it on nicotine! The truth is: you smoke to feel better! What if you could find a better way to feel better?

When we don’t feel good, typically we feel anxious. And anxiety equates stress. A cigarette calms us down but only temporarily, until anxiety builds again and compels us to reach for yet another cigarette.

This phenomenon combined with the ensuing physical dependence on nicotine traps us in the hamster wheel of addiction.

Many people have stopped smoking by using Emotional Freedom Techniques (e.g., EFT tapping), a fast acupressure technique for healing emotional and mental stress permanently by calming body and mind.

Tapping on the endpoints of meridian energy circuits soothes the brain, according to research at Harvard Medical School.

When a person is able to stop smoking, nicotine leaves the body in three days. People who stop smoking this way may be able to attenuate physical withdrawal symptoms.

Combining physical exercise with EFT also may yield better results than relying on a single tool. Check in with a professional who can help with guided EFT sessions (we do them on Gympass).” 

I stopped smoking before but after a month I started again. What can I do to keep motivated?

“Trying to stop smoking is difficult enough. But sustaining the effort over a period of time can be even more difficult and we often blame ourselves for our lack of willpower, despite our best intentions.

This is because it is not just willpower that is required but it is the physical addiction to nicotine that keeps us puffing. 

Switching from smoking actual cigarettes to vaping may be a way forward. I have seen great results with clients who made a plan to switch to vaping and who strategically reduced the amount of nicotine in their vape on a weekly basis. 

Eventually there will be no nicotine whatsoever in your vape and you are only vaping for emotional comfort. At this point you can drop vaping altogether and the transition to a non-smoking life has been made successfully.” 

As a learned behaviour, smoking becomes a difficult behaviour to unlearn, requiring a lot of time, energy and effort.

There isn’t one solution that will work, because every day will be different. What is important is using tools that offer support daily in motivating ways, to keep actively engaged with the end goal.

That is why one-on-one support with wellness coaches, nutritionists, PTs or counsellors is a resource that should be relied upon. Then supporting this option with apps that can help fill in the gaps in time will only make the process more impactful.

Gympass ignites and fuels every journey to feel good. They do this by reinventing wellbeing, making it engaging and accessible.

Worldwide companies rely on Gympass’ unmatched variety, convenience, and flexibility to support their employees’ health and happiness.

Gympass’ mission is to make wellbeing universal, so that everyone can be happy and healthy