Many smokers say they haven’t quit because cigarettes help them handle their moods. Yet it turns out that quitting smoking may actually work better for that.
One recent study in the Journal of Psychological Medicine using data from the large, longitudinal National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) included more than 4,800 people who were daily smokers when the research began. Three years later, those with a history of depression or anxiety disorders were less likely to still be grappling with the same problems if they had quit smoking.
Other studies agree: Quitting smoking can boost your psychological well-being along with your physical health. When a team of British researchers analyzed the results from 26 previous studies, they found that quitting smoking was associated with less depression, anxiety and stress and more positive moods and quality of life. These benefits were seen in patients even if they had not experienced mental health problems in the past.
How Your Good Mood Goes Up in Smoke
The relationship between smoking and your mood is complex:
- First. When you’re depressed or anxious, you may smoke in an attempt to feel better.
- Second. When you smoke, the nicotine changes key pathways inside your brain. As the effects of nicotine start to wear off, these brain changes lead to withdrawal symptoms, which may include: blue, anxious or cranky feelings, trouble sleeping, slower heart rate, and trouble concentrating or thinking clearly.
- Third. Smoking eases your withdrawal symptoms. This creates the illusion that it helps manage mood problems, when it really helps perpetuate them.
Withdrawal Is Real
Don't let withdrawal symptoms discourage you from quitting. Once you stub out your last cigarette, it can take one to three weeks for mood swings and other withdrawal symptoms to fade.
Be prepared with these strategies for getting through this phase:
- Take five. When you’re feeling stressed or upset, take a short break from the situation. Give yourself a chance to calm down and gather your thoughts.
- Call in reinforcements. Ask close family, friends and coworkers for their support. Then call or text a support buddy when you’re feeling frustrated or down.
- Keep yourself occupied. When the urge to smoke strikes, distract yourself. Go for a walk, practice your yoga moves, play a game app or watch some funny video clips.
- Challenge pessimism. Write down three to five good things that happen each day. Then think about your list whenever you need an emotional pick-me-up.
- Pamper your body. Eat healthfully, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. It’s more difficult to cope with mood swings when you’re tired and run-down.
Rite Aid is here to support you when you’re ready to quit. Ask your Rite Aid Pharmacist about the “Quit For You” program today and learn more about Rite Aid’s smoking cessation program.
Always consult your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional before changing your daily activity, diet, or adding a supplement. Shop smoking cessation products now.
“Change in Mental Health After Smoking Cessation: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” G. Taylor. BMJ. 2014, vol. 348, art. g2216, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24524926.
“Rewards of Quitting.” National Cancer Institute, smokefree.gov/rewards-of-quitting.
“Smoking Cessation Is Associated with Lower Rates of Mood/Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorders.” P.A. Cavazos-Rehg et al. Psychological Medicine, www.drugabuse.gov/news-events
“Talk to an Expert.” National Cancer Institute. smokefree.gov/talk-to-an-expert.
“Withdrawal.” National Cancer Institute. smokefree.gov/withdrawal.
“6 Ways to Boost Your Mood After Quitting.” National Cancer Institute. women.smokefree.gov/6-ways-to-boost-your-mood-after-quitting.aspx.
“10 Ways to Cope with Emotions Without Cigarettes.” National Cancer Institute. smokefree.gov/cope-with-emotions-without-cigarettes.