Stop Smoking to Improve Mood, Reduce Anxiety

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If you or someone you know smokes, these words may sound familiar: “Smoking helps me relax” or “Smoking reduces my stress.” For some people, this is reason enough to keep smoking and avoid the stress of quitting. However, experts claim this short-term fix for stress and anxiety may have a negative long-term impact on your mental health.

Study participants who quit smoking also reported greater life satisfaction, less anxiety and an increase in positive feelings.

The Stress Relief Illusion

The nicotine in cigarettes can, in fact, stabilize mood, but the effects are only temporary.

Nicotine reaches your brain in about 10 seconds and creates an immediate sense of relaxation through the release of the chemical dopamine. It improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, and relaxes muscles. However, like the smoke from each puff, these benefits soon dissipate.

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Nicotine withdrawal sets in – with symptoms similar to those of anxiety – cravings increase, and the cycle begins all over again. Over time, smoking encourages your brain to switch off its production of dopamine, which in turn prompts you to smoke more.

Smoking simply isn’t a solution for stress. Worse, it prevents you from uncovering the underlying reasons for your stress or anxiety. You become trapped in the illusion of needing a smoke to calm yourself rather than working on ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your life. Unresolved, long-term stress can develop into anxiety and depression.

If you or someone you know continues to smoke for perceived stress relief, there are healthier ways to reduce stress and anxiety, such as meditation, exercise and dietary changes.

Cease the Cigs for Better Physical, Mental Health

If the risk for cancer, heart attack, stroke and respiratory diseases aren’t convincing enough, add reduced anxiety and depression to your list of reasons to quit.

A 2014 study in The BMJ (British Medical Journal) evaluated anxiety and depression measures among study participants who had stopped smoking and found dramatic positive mental health effects. Researchers went on to note smoking cessation to be similarly effective as an antidepressant treatment for mood and anxiety disorders.

Study participants who quit smoking also reported greater life satisfaction, less anxiety and an increase in positive feelings.

Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to improve your physical and mental health. The withdrawal symptoms from quitting are short-lived, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Once you’re over the initial hurdles, you’re well on your way to enjoying the long-term benefits of a happier, healthier, smoke-free life. 

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