Want to Quit Smoking in the New Year? Plan for it.

Feeling energized by the prospect of a new year? Or maybe overwhelmed by yet another time when you feel like you should quit smoking? Another new year is upon us. And, for many, that means thinking about resolutions, for better or worse.

Whether you’re excited or hesitant to embrace change this year, there are ways to make the new year work for you when it comes to smoking and quitting.

MAKE A PLAN
Few people stick to their resolutions. In fact, by mid-February, about 80 percent of people who made New Year’s resolutions have abandoned them.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The key is planning. You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a route, or paint your house without buying supplies and testing different colors. Same goes with trying to quit smoking.

You don’t always have to follow your plans to the letter. Sometimes, part way through, you’ll discover a better way. But starting with a plan provides you guidance and structure. And if you slip up, you can refer to your plan to get back on track or make adjustments.

Build your quit plan with these elements:

  • Choose a quit date—ideally sometime within two weeks of making your plan.
  • Identify your smoking triggers and routines.
  • Make a list of strategies to try out when triggers come up, instead of smoking.
  • Think about using a medication—like the nicotine patch, gum, or lozenge—and include that in your plan.
  • Get support—from a quit program, your healthcare provider, friends, or family.

FOCUS ON THE LONG GAME
There’s another reason most people abandon their resolutions: They get caught up in the excitement of a new year and then lose interest once the initial rush fades away.

The key to avoiding this is to think about quitting smoking as more of a long-game, rather than a specific date on the calendar. How? Focus on the “why” (why you want to quit smoking) instead of the “what” (the act of quitting).

Answer these questions to identify your “why”:

  • What makes quitting smoking important and valuable to you (not other people)?
  • Does smoking keep you from living your best life? How?
  • How would your life be different if you were living smoke-free?

REMEMBER: EVERY ATTEMPT IS A WIN
Whether this is your first quit attempt or your 15th, you’re getting closer. Just remind yourself that there’s no such thing as a failed quit attempt. They’re all just practice until you find the way that works for you—each one getting you that much closer to quitting for good.

That can be hard to remember after you’ve had a slip or gone back to smoking. To make matters worse, you probably know someone who swears they quit “cold turkey.” But the next time someone tells you they woke up one morning and just quit, ask them how many times they tried to quit before that.

The truth is that it takes most people more than 10 attempts before they quit for good. Each time you make an attempt, you learn something about yourself, how smoking fits into your life, and the items in your plan that are and are not working. Each time, you get that much closer.

Maybe January 1 is the right time for you to quit. Maybe it’s not. Whenever you decide to quit, set yourself up for success. Make a plan. Focus on the long game. And remember that every attempt is a win. It’s all practice that gets you closer to your ultimate goal.