If you’re thinking about quitting smoking and you’ve spent any time looking on the internet for information to help you quit, you may have run across the START acronym. It’s a handy little tool for remembering five things you can do that might help you quit.
If you haven’t seen it before, here’s a quick summary of it:
Set a quit date
Tell friends, family and coworkers
Anticipate and plan for the challenges
Remove cigarettes from your home, car and work
Talk with your doctor
At a quick glance, those five things seem like they’re good ideas for quitting. But they leave some open questions, and a couple of those ideas might actually backfire on you and make it more difficult to quit. Let’s look at each one quickly, and then look at a better quit smoking acronym.
Set a quit date. This is a good idea. Give yourself a firm goal, a measurable target to aim for. But it can be improved. More on that later.
Tell friends, family and coworkers. Seems like a good idea. The idea is to tell those people close to you so that you can elicit their support in your effort to quit smoking.
But do you really know how your friends, family, and coworkers will react when you tell them you plan to quit? We would all like to think that those close to us will want to be helpful and supportive of our efforts to improve our lives. But our goal of quitting may be contrary to a goal of theirs. For example, let’s suppose you have a coworker with whom you regularly take smoke breaks during work. And let’s suppose that both of you have talked about quitting from time to time. It’s easy to imagine that your coworker would be supportive of your efforts to quit. But they may see your effort in a different way. They may feel abandoned. He or she might feel like you’re leaving them on their own to fend for themselves during those smoke breaks. And their feeling could lead to them being less than supportive of your efforts to quit.
There are three basic outcomes that can come from you telling others that you’re going to quit smoking. They may be supportive and actively help you in your efforts to quit. For example, they may be willing to give you friendly reminders that you’re trying to quit. They may be respond in a neutral manner. Or the reaction may actually undermine your attempt to quit. Unfortunately, the friend or family member may react with passive resistance to your attempt to quit smoking. And they might even openly resist your efforts, taunting you with comments like “You can’t quit, you’ve tried before” or other comments about your lack of willpower or persistence.
So that part of the acronym may not be something you want to use. You don’t want someone else to undermine your efforts – quitting is difficult enough without having to overcome that additional burden.
Anticipate and plan for the challenges Great idea. Think about the challenges you’ll face as you try to quit, and think through the steps you’ll take for dealing with each challenge. A little bit of preparation can make a lot of difference.
Remove cigarettes from your home, car and work. Seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, for many people this is another of those quit smoking tips that can backfire and actually cause you to want to smoke more. The idea is to remove the cigarettes so you’ll make it more difficult to smoke. But if you follow the right process to quit you won’t have a temptation to smoke and you won’t have any cravings, so removing cigarettes doesn’t have any impact.
Talk with your doctor. This is another tip that seems like a good idea on the surface, but you need to be prepared in advance for the discussion with your doctor. We’d all like to think that our doctor is a trained professional who we can trust and with whom we can have an in-depth discussion about our medical conditions and concerns. For many people, that’s true.
But for a lot of people a talk with the doctor is a hurried discussion in which the doctor listens to your description of your ailment and scribbles a prescription. When it comes to quitting smoking, that may not be the best course of action. The medication that’s prescribed carries some serious health warnings, and a recent study showed that nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) do not help a large number of smokers quit permanently. The basic problem with NRT drugs is that they only address the physical side of the addiction and they don’t deal with the psychological side of the addiction.
So of the five tips in the START acronym, at least three can backfire on you. What’s needed is a better acronym that more fully supports smokers in their effort to quit smoking.
Experience with a number of smokers and smoking cessation programs shows that there’s a better way to quit and a better acronym. Be SMART about quitting and you can improve your chances of success. The SMART acronym stands for:
Set a quit date and write it down in several places.
Make a firm commitment to quit by writing out a goal statement.
Affirm repeatedly your intended state of being – a non-smoker.
Reinforce your vision of yourself as a non-smoker with focused visualization.
Take time to every day to some effort into quitting.
Here’s why this acronym can be a better tool to help you quit smoking.
Set a quit date and write it down in several places. Set the date about 4 weeks from today. By writing it down you’re making a firmer statement of your intention. Put the date on your home calendar, your smart phone calendar, your electronic calendar on your computer. Anywhere you keep a calendar, mark the date on which you’re going to quit.
Make a firm commitment to quit by writing out a goal statement. Your goal statement should be like a diary entry dated on your quit date. Express your strong feelings about your desire to become a non-smoker and your gratitude that you have actually been able to quit smoking. Write down how good it feels to accomplish your goal, how much better you feel now that cigarettes are no longer part of your life, and how you’re looking forward to living your life without cigarettes. Keep a copy of that goal statement with you and read it twice daily – first thing in the morning when you get up, and at the end of the day just before going to bed.
Affirm repeatedly your intended state of being – a non-smoker. Use daily affirmations for the 4 weeks until your quit date to reach into your sub-conscious mind and tell yourself that you’re a non-smoker. Each affirmation will plant the thought in your mind that you’re a non-smoker, and over the 4 weeks until your quit date those thoughts will accumulate to build within your mind a new image of yourself as a non-smoker.
Reinforce your vision of yourself as a non-smoker with focused visualization. Use visualizations to build a picture in your mind of yourself as a non-smoker. See yourself in different situations without a cigarette. In each situation see yourself enjoying the scene and your interaction with others without a cigaratte. Spend some time on visualizing yourself as a non-smoker everyday.
Take time to every day to some effort into quitting – reaffirm your desire and visualize yourself as a non-smoker. Spend a few minutes repeating your affirmation and performing the visualizations each day. Studies have shown that the more effort you put into quitting, the better your chance of success.
Use the SMART tool for about 4 weeks. Tell yourself you’re a non-smoker every day during those 4 weeks and visualize yourself as a non-smoker. This process will reach into your subconscious mind and help you overcome the psychological addiction to nicotine. Once you overcome the psychological addiction the physical addiction is easy to solve, and you will be able to quit without temptations to smoke or cravings for a cigarette.