Smoking is a consuming habit that affects nearly every aspect of your life. Not only does it affect your physical health by damaging your respiratory organs, but it can also affect your mental health. A study published by PLOS ONE found that tobacco smoking is a predisposing factor to depression, with smokers twice as likely to exhibit symptoms of mental illness. In line with this, our article below will dive deeper into the link between smoking and mental health and offer tips on quitting the damaging habit for good.
The link between smoking and mental health
There are multiple way in which smoking affects one’s mental health. But they can be reduced to two main effects both directly impacting the brain and body, physically and chemically – stress and brain chemistry.
It increases stress.
It’s a common belief that smoking relieves stress, but this is not the full truth. In reality, smoking can actually increase stress levels. When you smoke a cigarette, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This causes your heart rate to increase and your blood pressure to go up. Cigarettes also act as a stimulant and can elevate your heart rate and constrict your arteries and blood vessels, making you irritable and anxious. Long-term smoking can increase the tension in your mind and make it difficult to relieve stress through natural methods.
It alters brain chemistry.
Smoking can alter your brain chemistry, impacting memory retention and mental clarity. This is because the chemicals in tobacco smoke can harm the nerve cells in the brain that are necessary for learning and decision-making. Because smoking decreases blood and oxygen flow to the prefrontal complex, the part of the brain used for executive functioning, smokers can have a hard time working through complex problems. Regularly using cigarettes can consequently have adverse effects on both short-term and long-term memory, as well as overall cognitive function.
How to quit smoking to improve mental health
Now that the link between smoking and mental health is clear, here are a few tips that can help you quit the habit:
Use nicotine replacement therapy
The best way for smokers to improve their mental health is to cut their cigarette intake. One of the most effective ways this can be done is through nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches. The goal of NRT products is to provide an alternative source of nicotine to help people quit smoking without any tobacco. Additionally, most NRT options offer special features that make the transition more pleasant. For instance, the On! nicotine pouches available on Prilla demonstrate how these pouches come in various flavors and nicotine levels that fit different needs. This includes nicotine levels that range from 2mg to 8mg, and enjoyable flavors like mint or citrus. Aside from this, NRT products don’t produce harmful smoke. For example, another alternative comes in the form of Voke nicotine inhalers by Kind Consumer. They contain less than a gram of nicotine and are activated without heat, combustion, or vapor.
Find healthy coping mechanisms
Healthy strategies can help you cope with cravings for cigarettes. Our post, “How to Ensure Your Health Is Kept in Good Condition” provides actionable tips you can apply to divert your desire to light up a cigarette. Some of these tips include eating healthy snacks, exercising, or meditating daily. To track your new habits and add a layer of personal accountability, you can make use of a fitness tracker such as an Apple Watch. A fitness tracker can encourage physical activity by reminding you to move throughout the day and distracting you from your cigarette craving. Habit tracking apps such as Momentum or Habit Now can also help by providing you with a visual guide to your progress, such as the amount of money you’ve saved since quitting or the number of days you’ve gone without a smoke break.
Seek professional help
A mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, can provide guidance and support as you work to quit smoking. They can help you develop a plan for quitting and offer strategies for managing cravings and other challenges that may arise. They can also walk you through strategies you can adopt to help you quit smoking and manage any related stress or anxiety. Should these fail to work, they can prescribe you medication that you can use alongside NRTs to help manage your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. By seeking professional help, you can receive guidance in a safe and supportive environment as you work to quit smoking and improve your overall mental health.
In conclusion, smoking can harm your mental health in several ways. Although quitting the habit can be challenging, its benefits to one’s holistic wellness are compelling enough to get you started.