Every smoker knows that smoking is unhealthy. Despite this, many fail to quit. Golden advice from online articles are hard to put into practice, and a lack of motivation makes subsequent attempts end in even more irritation. Do we have the secret knowledge that will change this? No, but we decided to look at the cause instead of focusing only on the effects.
Today we have an article for you, which will start a series of texts dedicated to health. As a coworking brand, we want to take holistic care of our Brainers. In addition to providing an ergonomic work space, we also decided to provide valuable, supportive content to help you incorporate healthy habits into your daily activities. A holistic view of health means taking care not only of diet and physical activity, but also taking care of our mental well-being. We believe that together it will be easier for us to motivate ourselves to make positive changes. So here we go!
Why is it so difficult to quit smoking?
To answer this question, we must first look at the structure of the brain. More precisely – the reward system. It consists of the hemispheric nucleus, which is responsible for the sensation of pleasure, the prefrontal cortex, whose function is to inhibit our primitive instincts, and the ventral tegmental field. It is the one that develops habits in us, teaches us when it will be pleasurable and further motivates us to act. The field produces dopamine, as a result of which we desire what will give us pleasure. The more dopamine, the greater the motivation to receive the reward.
When you start smoking, nicotine (one of the most addictive substances used by humans) stimulates acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) receptors in the brain. Most of these receptors are just in the aforementioned ventral field of the cap. Their activation increases the release of dopamine, which motivates action and memory. What does this mean? Nicotine not only gives pleasure in itself, but also activates the parts of the brain responsible for remembering and learning what gives us pleasure. For the brain, a cigarette becomes a reward, and dopamine motivates it to remember the circumstances that precede it. And what’s more, it spurs it to strive for these
The mechanism described above makes not only the lighting of a cigarette, but also its circumstances (morning coffee, meeting friends in a bar, going out on the balcony) begin to be strongly associated with receiving a reward. If your addiction has been going on for years, there is probably a mass of such situations. The enormity of the circumstances overwhelms the prefrontal cortex, making most smokers automatically reach for a cigarette in a given situation, unable to stop themselves from doing so. So it’s a trap – as a smoker, you associate many moments with imminent pleasure. When you try to quit, your brain tells you at almost every turn that you are just one cigarette away from the coveted reward. And that’s what makes it so hard to quit!
How does a smoked cigarette affect your body?
Every smoker is aware that cigarettes are harmful to health. However, they rarely realize that smoking causes more deaths than AIDS, alcoholism, car accidents, drugs, fires, homicides and suicides combined. In addition, each cigarette shortens life by an average of 5.5 minutes. Each one! Average smokers thus have 5 fewer years to fulfill their dreams and, in general, to enjoy life.
However, the above comparisons may be too abstract, so let’s focus on what happens when you smoke. When you reach for a cigarette, your blood pressure level and heart rate increase significantly, which lasts for more than 15 minutes. There is also a lot more carbon dioxide in your body, while oxygen levels drop at the same time – these ratios do not return to normal until 8 hours after you smoke your last cigarette.
Moreover, your body after quitting smoking needs as much as:
- 48 hours to start regenerating nerve endings. After this time, your sense of taste and smell returns to normal.
- From 2 weeks to 3 months to improve cardiovascular health and increase lung capacity by 30%. After this time, coughing, feeling of nasal obstruction, shortness of breath or fatigue decreases.
- 1-9 months to regain overall energy. During this time, the ciliary epithelium of the respiratory tract begins to regenerate.
As for diseases, only after:
- 1 year the risk of ischemic heart disease is halved;
- 5 years, the risk of lung, oral cavity, esophageal and laryngeal cancer and stroke is halved;
- 10 years the risk of lung cancer is similar to that of a never-smoker.
Smoking and work efficiency
An addict definitely has more trouble concentrating fully while working. Nicotine hunger, like food hunger, leads to a decrease in creativity, productivity and accuracy. When you put off lighting up a cigarette, the duties you perform start to irritate you, you lose the will to act, which simply makes you not apply yourself to what you are doing. Thoughts revolve around one thing – smoking.
Smoking at work also consumes time. On a daily basis, smokers spend an average of 45 minutes on a “pipe”, and as many as 22 days per year. Moments spent poisoning the body could be spent regenerating it in the form of a walk, a nap, a short workout or hydration. While breaks are needed at work, nicotine addicts tend to take them too often, which instead of increasing productivity, definitely reduces it.
Nicotine addiction also affects third parties. The suffocating smell of cigarettes is distracting, and some people are even put off by it. In addition, second-hand smoke causes a whole list of diseases. So going out for a cigarette not only causes discomfort for other workers, but poses a real threat to their health.
In addition, a study by Dr. Judith Prochaska showed that smokers may have more difficulty finding jobs. Prochaska analyzed 131 unemployed smokers and 120 unemployed non-smokers, observing their progression in job search after 6 and 12 months. After one year, they found that only 27% of the smokers had found employment, while as many as 56% of the non-addicts had succeeded at the same point. It is worth noting that the team selected very similar individuals for the study to reduce the influence of other factors on the outcome. Prochaska also took the opportunity to ask hiring managers for their opinion. It turned out that if they smell cigarettes from a candidate, it negatively affects recruitment.
Given this, as Brain Embassy we decided that our coworking spaces would be cigarette-free zones. As part of the LEED Gold certification, smoking of tobacco products and e-cigarettes is prohibited in the Brain Embassy and the surrounding area. The goal of the spaces created is to make Brainers more comfortable, creative and productive, and as we look at coworking spaces as more than walls, in addition to ergonomic design, access to natural light, etc., we also took care of the health of the entire community. The tobacco-free zone also encourages smokers to quit – we believe that a full day spent without a cigarette, in a positively stimulating place, will definitely be easier. We also hope that for some smokers this may be the first step toward quitting.
What can be done to successfully quit smoking?
Different ways and arguments will work for everyone, so first consider at what stage of smoking you are. How many years has your addiction lasted? What do cigarettes give you? What speaks in their favor, and what is their biggest disadvantage?
- Cigarette addiction happens in the head. Without looking inside yourself, it will be hard for you to quit. So one of the basic steps should be to build an image of yourself as a non-smoker.
- Now that you know that it’s not only the cigarettes themselves that are a reward, and that the circumstances of smoking them give you imminent pleasure, you can start paying attention to the moments that usually went hand in hand with smoking. It’s worth having a special notebook for this and creating a list. However, what to do when such a situation happens? To reduce the disappointment caused by the emptiness after not receiving a reward, try to find your own method to replace it. It’s also worth developing an alternative reward system and giving yourself something good in exchange for not reaching for a cigarette.
- Keep trying until you succeed! Just because it didn’t work before doesn’t mean that the next attempt will also fail. With each attempt, your brain unlearns how to smoke. Treat attempts as lessons, not failures. So quitting pipes and returning to them again is a natural (albeit annoying) process. You will be much lighter if you accept its nature and learn from what failed the previous time.
- Get professional help. You can make an appointment with your family doctor or a specialist. In Poland there is also a Telephone Help Desk for Smokers 801 108 108 (Mon-Fri, 11am-7pm). Some people are ashamed or insist that they don’t need the support of a specialist, but it’s worth understanding that with it you will definitely increase your chances of quitting.
- Reach for additional boosters. Nicotine is among the most addictive substances used by humans. As many as 90% of attempts to quit smoking without supportive medications or gums are unsuccessful. Gum or pills satisfy the sudden urge to smoke a cigarette. Some of them contain citicoline, which replaces nicotine and pretends to act as nicotine, so you feel the withdrawal effects less.
- Ask your friends for support! Tell them what you are going through and warn them that you may have mood swings. It’s also important to think about what you might need from them: conversation, taking away cigarettes in a moment of weakness, starting a new hobby together, etc.
Why is it so hard to quit smoking?
- Nicotine addiction is linked to the reward system, consisting of:
- hemispheric nucleus (sensation of pleasure)
- prefrontal cortex (inhibition of primitive instincts)
- ventral nutral field (forming habits, learning what gives pleasure)
- The abdominal field of the ventral cap produces dopamine, making you crave what will give you pleasure!
- When you smoke, nicotine stimulates acetylcholine receptors, which are located in the ventral field of the nut.
- The revival of the receptors increases the release of dopamine
- The cigarette becomes a reward for you, and the brain, influenced by dopamine, remembers the circumstances that preceded it.
- As a result, the brain gets a huge dose of motivation to pursue the situations that precede lighting a cigarette!
- lighting a cigarette and its circumstances become a pleasure you do not want to give up!
How to quit smoking?
First of all, do not give up and try until you do!
Build in your mind an image of yourself as a non-smoker/ Disconnect cigarettes from your vision of “yourself”
Get professional help from a doctor or counseling center
Reach for additional aids
Pay attention to situations where you have been accompanied by a cigarette and develop a new reward system
Ask your friends for support!