Last updated on March 30, 2017
Anyone who smokes is likely aware of the health hazards that result from the habit, from dulled dehydrated skin to bouts of coughing and an increased risk of heart disease. But did you know long-term smoking also increases your chances of being admitted into a nursing home?
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that of specific groups of middle-aged people, smokers were 56 percent more likely to be admitted into a nursing home. Other middle-aged participants who were obese, diabetic, inactive or lived with uncontrolled high blood pressure also shared an increased risk of being admitted into a nursing home.
Modifying your lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to reduce these risks, although for most, breaking old habits is easier said than done. Between 75 and 80 percent of smokers trying to quit relapse before they reach six months of abstinence.
A report in Elsevier showed the most common reasons for smoking relapses was nicotine dependence, followed by exposure to smoking or social smoking cues, cravings and withdrawals. Interestingly enough, another noted reason for the occurrence of smoking relapses was not due to lack of motivation, but instead, due to lack of smoking cessation aids.
If you’re a smoker trying to quit, understanding the basics of how habits are formed and broken may help you to understand how you can modify your lifestyle to increase your chances of stop-smoking success.
One important thing to understand is that forming new habits does not stop or eliminate old habits from existing. Forming new habits means forming stronger influences on your current behavior.
Doctors from Psychology Today explain change is a process, not an event, and that all behavior (habits) can be changed. Since behavioral patterns are literally etched in our brains they become patterns or habits that are automatically carried out without much, if any, thought.
Take for example, a smoker who lights a cigarette as soon as they wake up. It’s unlikely any thought was even given to fulfilling the habit. Through conscience repetition, old habits can be replaced by new ones, but a key to replacing the old habit is motivation. Smokers that are not ready or motivated to quit will not be contemplating strategies or alternatives to smoking, and therefore are less likely to succeed.
Smokers that are ready and motivated to stop smoking can begin by understanding that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. That means through repetition, it takes the average person about 66 days to begin the automated process of performing a new behavior. This is not to say that every smoker will be a non-smoker in 66 days. The fact remains that nicotine is very addictive, which is what causes people to become addicted to smoking. Dealing with the habit is one aspect of quitting smoking, however, dealing with the nicotine addiction (cravings) is another.
John M. Grohol, Psy.D. explains that changing habits requires people to not only think differently, but also to react and behave differently. Although the average new habit can be developed in 66 days, some people are able to complete the change in as little as 18 days, while others require 254 days to have a new habit fully automated.
One key factor in the varying time differences is the habit at hand. People who want to make a habit of drinking one glass of water a day, for instance, will form this new habit much quicker than say someone who wants to do 100 push-ups before breakfast. The reason. The push-ups require more dedication.
People who want to quit smoking should consider a few personal elements when setting their stop-smoking goals. If you know yourself to be habit-resistant, then be realistic and set your goals with a longer time-frame. Habit resistant people often take upwards of eight or nine months to form a new behavior.
If you’re a heavy smoker then going cold turkey is not likely to be your best choice. Research shows that heavy smokers have higher rates of quitting success when they use the 24-hour nicotine patch over other forms of NRT, and that on average, a heavy smoker will use NRT for between eight to 12 weeks before gradually reducing the dosage to eventually quit smoking.
It takes a while to develop a bad habit, so it’s only reasonable to expect that overcoming them will also take time. Try not to get discouraged if you relapse and instead, look at it as an integral part of your process. The average smoker relapses three to four times before they finally succeed at quitting smoking.