Let’s say you are doing something that causes you emotional stress. For instance, you smoke and want to quit, but you’re having trouble doing so. What can you do to help you quit?

First of all you have to assess where you are. You need what’s called a baseline that tells you how many cigarettes you smoke each day, so you need to start keeping a record.

This is simple enough. At the beginning of the day, write down how many cigarettes are left in your pack. If you open a new pack during the day, simply add 20 to the original number. If you began with 8 in your pack, when you open a new pack, now you really began the day with 28. At the end of the day, count how many cigarettes are left and subtract that number from the starting number.

Begin a chart and post it in a prominent spot where you will see it each day. The chart will have the date, day of the week, and the number of cigarettes smoked each day as you dutifully record the numbers. For the first couple of weeks, don’t do anything else. Just keep recording those numbers.

Don’t be surprised if the number of cigarettes smoked each day begins to drop. This is a nice side-effect of the procedure. You are bringing your habit clearly into your conscious mind, and quite often that brings out some folks’ competitive juices. That is, as you approach the end of the day you realize that yesterday you had 23 cigarettes, and today you’re only up to 21. It’s almost 2 hours to bedtime, but if you manage to avoid having another cigarette, you can “break your record.” If you manage to forgo another cigarette, you can record that 21 total and give yourself a tremendous reinforcement when you see the chart the next day.

One nasty thing about our undesirable habits is that we don’t monitor their occurrence. We have no idea how often we do something we would like to stop. Realizing precisely the frequency of the action can have the positive effect of encouraging us to get a little competitive with ourselves. If it doesn’t happen for you, don’t sweat it. After a couple of weeks you will at least know where you are, and you will have that baseline against which to evaluate any steps you take to decrease your habit.

Another nice thing about the chart is that you can begin to discern trends. Maybe you smoke more on Saturday. What’s causing that? Maybe you smoke more at certain times of the day. What’s causing that? The point is, the record makes you aware of your actions and can help you get a handle on specific events and locales that are strongly associated with smoking. Once you’re aware of them, you can reduce your exposure to them, plus be more on your guard when you’re in those situations. Again, awareness is the key. Most of our bad habits take hold of us because we’re totally unaware of when and where we’re exercising the habit. Find those situations that really bring on your urge to smoke, and then you can take corrective action aimed at appropriate targets.

The next steps to reduce your smoking are up to you. Find techniques that work for you, whether it’s the patch, chewing gum, snapping a rubber band on your wrist when you feel the urge……..whatever works. Remember that one size does not fit all. What worked for your neighbor will not necessarily work for you. And keep up the chart because you will be able to evaluate precisely the effectiveness of any technique you try.

And remember, you are changing your lifestyle. You’re not in this for a week or a month. You are literally modifying how you act in specific situations. For instance, you may try skipping a meal to help you cut down on smoking. Will this technique be a permanent change in how you live? How about wearing the patch? Are you going to do that for the rest of your life? Hypnosis? Come on, are you really that stupid? Behavior change results from you taking charge of your life, not from someone else waving a magic wand and chanting, “You will never smoke again!………That’ll be $49.95 please.” Choose your methods carefully, and make sure they are compatible with lifestyle changes, not just a temporary adjustment.

And drop the BS excuses and comments:

“I want to quit so bad…..I’m so motivated…..I don’t know why I’m having trouble.” Motivated my ass. You’re weak! Admit it, accept it, and challenge the weakness.

“I’m afraid I’m gaining weight. That’s even worse than smoking.” If you’re gaining weight, reduce your caloric intake and increase your exercise. And quit being a wimp with the weight whining.

“It’s tough to overcome an addiction to nicotine.” Oh, please, pin a sign to your sleeve, “Addicted to nicotine. Treat with care and sympathy,” so others can join in your pity parade. Opiate drug addiction? OK, we’ll give you that one. Nicotine? Cop-out!

There’s only one way to win this fight: you must treat it like warfare. You are the general in charge of your thoughts and actions, and failure is simply not an option. Will you win every battle? Of course not. You will always have slips and setbacks. Ultimately, however, they must not deter you from winning the war, a war that is likely to persist for the rest of your life.
















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