Six Tips for Helping a Friend Kick the Habit
Many nonsmokers feel frustrated when friends and family members continue to smoke, given everything that is known about the
dangers of smoking. They beg, implore, nag, rebuke and even threaten friends and loved ones who smoke, hoping to convince them to kick the habit, often to no avail. Are there ways to help your friend or family member quit smoking without driving yourself crazy or ruining your friendship?
Coercive and critical approaches are rarely successful in convincing smokers to quit. These tactics tend to make smokers feel guilty, defen-sive, inadequate and afraid. The smoker’s decision to quit must come from inner strength and conviction. Your requests to quit should help the smoker feel valued and strong.
People feel valued (and are more likely to listen) when they feel understood. Let your friend or relative know that you are sympathetic. Acknowledge that quitting can be difficult, but that the effort is worth it.
While nagging your friends and family members about smoking is counterproductive, an occasional caring confrontation can have results. At an opportune moment, tell family members or close friends you love them and you are worried about their smoking. Let them know you are there to support them emotionally when they decide to quit. (Of course, let loved ones also know you will continue to care about them whether they quit or not.)
Save caring confrontation for times when you feel the smoker might be receptive to your concerns, and use this tactic sparingly, or it will lose its meaning and effectiveness and become nagging. Similar caring confrontations by other friends and family members might also be helpful.
Let the smoker decide.
Recognize your limits. You cannot make another person quit smoking. It must entirely be the smoker’s decision to quit, or the attempt is unlikely to succeed.
A smoker must decide to quit smoking from a point of inner strength and a conviction that attempts to quit will be successful. Your comments and interactions with the smoker should convey confidence that your friend or relative will succeed.
Be supportive during withdrawal.
If your friend or family member does quit, be extra supportive and understanding during the first few weeks of quitting. If the ex-smoker is a family member, he or she may be hard to live with for a while. Irritability, depression, fatigue, headaches and sleeping problems are some symptoms of nicotine withdrawal (although many people have no problems). If withdrawal is difficult, help your ex-smoker to see symptoms as positive signs that his or her body is adjusting to a new chemical equilibrium. Be positive and sympathetic, and remind your friend that the symptoms are only temporary, but the health benefits will last a lifetime.
Encourage physical activity.
Physical activity has a number of benefits for the ex-smoker, if he or she is receptive to this idea. Exercise can help buffer the mental and physical stress of withdrawal. Engaging in regular physical activity can also help to pass the time and prevent the weight gain that occurs in some people when they quit smoking. Also, when ex-smokers exercise, they can feel good about the positive steps they are taking to improve their health.
Remember that ex-smokers new to exercise may be initially intimidated by the atmosphere of a fitness center, if this is where they choose to exercise. They may worry that they are the only inexperienced people to set foot inside the doors. Assure them everyone starts as a beginner, and that soon they will feel at home in these new surroundings.
Help friends and relatives find activities that are as enjoyable as possible, and are appropriate to their fitness levels. Consider rewarding their efforts to quit smoking with a personal training appointment, or a fitness center membership. Regular exercise reinforces the ex-smoker’s resolve to make health and fitness a priority.
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