We’re almost at the end of Janurary, and each Thursday, we’ve been sharing some tips to help you achieve the top new year resolutions, such as saving money, losing weight and managing stress. This week, we wrap up the series with tips on how to break two of the most unhealthy habits: smoking and drinking.
Never light up again
Cigarette smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. Cigarette smoke can cause serious health problems and death. Fortunately, people who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk for disease and premature death.
Here are some tips from the National Health Service in the UK:
- Make a plan. Write down all the reasons you have to quit, such as improving your health and being around for your family, and the steps you will likely take to make it happen. Also make a note of your smoking habits so you can identify things or times that make you reach for a cigarette.
- Change you eating and drinking habits. Some foods, including meat, have been found to make cigarettes more satisfying. Others, such as cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste bad, so make a food swap. Same goes for drinks. Sodas, alcohol, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better, so it’s helpful to drink more water and juice instead of these beverages.
- Come up with ‘craving strategies.’ A craving can last for five minutes, so come up with some five-minute activities that will take your mind off cigarettes.
- Get active. Scientific studies has shown that even light exercise can cut cravings and may help your brain to produce anti-craving chemicals.
- Get some professional help. Consult your doctor, who can talk to you about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) options, such as patches, gums, mouth sprays, etc.
Also, check out the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s I’m Ready to Quit! campaign for more tips and information.
Step away from the bottle
Alcohol is a drug and its abuse has chronic effects on the body, leading to problems such as high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, sexual difficulties like impotence, and damage to the nervous system, causing brain wasting.
Here are some tips to help you cut down on or completely stop excessive drinking, from Rethinking Drinking, produced by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the lead US agency supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol-related problems.
- Keep track. Monitor how much you drink. Find a way that works for you, such as a card in your wallet (see page 15 for samples), check marks on a kitchen calendar, or notes on your mobile phone. Making note of each drink before you drink it may help you slow down when needed.
- Count and measure. Know the ‘standard’ drink sizes so you can count your drinks accurately (see page 2). Measure drinks at home. Away from home, it can be hard to keep track, especially with mixed drinks. At times you may be getting more alcohol than you think. With wine, you may need to ask the host or server not to ‘top off’ a partially filled glass.
- Set goals. Decide how many days a week you want to drink and how many drinks you’ll have on those days. It’s a good idea to have some days when you don’t drink. Drinkers with the lowest rates of alcohol use disorders stay within these limits.
- Pace and space. When you do drink, pace yourself. Sip slowly. Have no more than one standard drink with alcohol per hour. Have ‘drink spacers’ —make every other drink a nonalcoholic one, such as water, soda, or juice.
- Include food. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Have some food so the alcohol will be absorbed into your system more slowly.
You can download the Rethinking Drinking brochure for more tips and information.
It is also important to get professional support if you realise that you habitually abuse alcohol. There are several different treatment options available, such as medications and support groups. Locally, Rise Life Management Services offers helpful advice and services.