Well, Christmas seems an age away and it’s probably too late to still be wishing people a “happy new year”, so what next.
Out screens are full of adverts tempting us to either book a holiday or join the gym. We are being told that a new “you”, is just a diet away and that if you don’t give up smoking, you will die tomorrow. Or, the day after at the very least! Many of us embark on these new projects with gusto. We set out full of vim and vigour, only to fail a few short weeks into our endeavours. Why is this?
Almost twenty-five years ago, I was a smoker. Not a heavy smoker, but a smoker none the less. Ten or so a day was my average, but on a night out, I could easily get through another ten. One Monday at work, a colleague offered me a challenge. Give up smoking. Together we would tackle this behemoth of a challenge and through our joint efforts, we would be triumphant. My work colleague had tried to give up in the past, but had failed at each attempt. Giving up was something I knew I would have to do, but it wasn’t something I had seriously considered.
I was in my mid twenties and I felt pretty fit. I regularly did sport and was yet to feel the adverse affects of my nicotine addiction. I thought about my colleague’s challenge and after at least three seconds of deliberation, I declined.
The following morning, on my way to work, I intended to stop at a local newsagents to buy a packet of cigarettes. Before entering the shop, I stopped to check I had my wallet and the strangest thing happened. A voice somewhere in the back of my head told me not to go in. Why not give up after all. Without giving it a second thought, I turned away from the shop and carried on towards my workplace.
As I mentioned, that was almost twenty-five years ago and I haven’t smoked since. I haven’t even had the slightest of urges to start again. If asked, I would have to confess, it was really very easy. I always thought that giving up would be extremely difficult, but for me, it was a piece of cake.
So, whats different about you, I hear you cry. Absolutely nothing, is my reply. I think I was one of the lucky ones. The voice I heard was my own and it was my voice of determination. At the time, I had a young family and my youngest daughter had just turned one. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I would have to give up if I wanted to see my children grow up. Most of my family were smokers and many had died through smoking related illnesses. Cancer, heart disease, lung disorders, you get the picture.
The thing that I realised though and I think it was the thing that made a difference, was that I knew that it only took three months to make an action become a habit. If we do something regularly enough, after three months it becomes a habit and it is harder to quit doing it. If you think about it, how long did your last diet last. Or, how long did you keep going to the gym before you quit. Four weeks. six weeks, eight weeks? I bet it wasn’t three months.
As human beings, we tend to look for the easiest way to do things. It ties in to our basic survival instincts. If something is hard or it hurts, our brain tells us to stop, or at the very least, find another way of doing it. And this is where you have to distract yourself. At those moments when you think about lighting up a cigarette, or tucking into that bar of chocolate, do something else. Think of something else.
It’s only for three months and that will quickly pass. It worked for me, and as I say, I actually found it quite easy. The hardest part is finding that voice of determination. We all have it and it’s different for each and every one of us. For me, it was my family that provided me with that “distraction” and I was lucky to find it, almost without having to look for it.
It works though. Get determined, keep yourself distracted from your destructive behaviour, keep it up for three months and you will succeed. Can I guarantee it? Well, it worked for me.