Mental Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
As everyone rages on about the myriad benefits of quitting cigarettes, not a lot of ink has been poured into the topic of mental health benefits of quitting smoking.
Wait – are there even mental health benefits of quitting smoking?
You would be surprised…
As we divulge them, we also wish to bust some myths associated with smoking that have been inaccurately peddled for far too long.
The link between smoking and moods
There is a widespread belief among smokers that cigarettes provide a certain feel-good factor. That smoking makes them calm; helps them stay focused and engaged.
To a point, that is true.
Cigarettes can provide a bust of energy and boost attention rates, and that is down to a stimulant you know as nicotine. However, this stimulating effect is short-lived and takes less than an hour to wear off. When it does, withdrawal symptoms kick in and you start to crave another puff.
If you’ve been there, you know nicotine cravings tend to make one restless and if deferred, the feeling can morph into irritability and anxiety. Until you get your hands on another cigarette.
The chemical effects of nicotine in the body can also simulate the sensation of a sedative, which is why some smokers claim to feel calm and relaxed when they smoke.
Again, like the stimulating effect however, this feeling too is brief and doesn’t take long to wear off or much to reverse.
How smoking affects mental health
As you can see, smoking can provide a sense of calmness or act as a stimulant, but these nicotine effects only take a few minutes to fade.
Therefore, whenever a smoker experiences nicotine cravings, they need to keep loading up on the nicotine to fend off the withdrawal symptoms and the negative effects that come with that – anxiety and grumpiness, for example.
This results in an endless loop of positive and negative symptoms that can only be cured by lighting up another. And another. And so on, and so forth.
This is what we call nicotine addiction and it’s very much what happens with any other form of drug abuse. In fact, it signals a reliance on one of the most addictive substances available to man, and anyone who falls into its clutches can barely function without it.
Reports reveal that people with behavioral health conditions are more likely to smoke [heavily] than those without such a condition. These individuals use cigarettes at a rate of 2-4 times higher than the general population average.
Unfortunately, while everyone swears they feel better after grabbing a smoke, cigarettes only serve to aggravate the symptoms of behavioral health issues like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. As a result, smokers living with these conditions are likely to suffer worse depressive symptoms, in addition to a slew of other negative symptoms.
Speaking of conditions and symptoms, it’s also worth noting that smoking interferes with the efficacy of psychiatric medications. Therefore, if smokers suffering from mental disorders want to achieve the same therapeutic benefits, the solution is to up the dosage.
Quitting can be good for your mental wellbeing
The mental health benefits of quitting smoking are not an illusion. Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that symptoms of anxiety and depression diminish not when you smoke, but rather when you quit smoking.
Smoking does not wash away feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions: it only masks them, giving the impression that it actually helps. In truth, cigarettes only exacerbate matters.
If you suffer from mental health issues, allowing yourself to experience the feels without lighting up a cigarette might be uncomfortable at first, but that’s because you’ve become accustomed to using cigarettes as a coping mechanism over a long period of time.
You believe that smoking makes you feel better, but in essence, the feel-good factor only lasts a short while and ultimately leaves you worse for wear. This culminates in a never-ending rat race characterized by a cocktail of positive and negative emotions.
It is not sustainable, and it’s not surprising thus to know research has shown smokers with behavioral health conditions exhibit increased likelihood of suicidal behavior.
What research has also established is that symptoms of anxiety and depression generally decrease after kicking the habit. Some people report feeling more relaxed and at ease after cutting their dependence on nicotine; others say they generally enjoy a better quality of life.
While we are still talking the mental health benefits of quitting smoking, there is also the sense of achievement and personal satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve managed to overcome something as major and destructive as smoking. The good vibes should be far-reaching, and there is no better way to pick oneself up mentally.
What’s more, you neither have to excuse yourself to take smoking breaks to reduce anxiety or stress, nor are you treated as a pariah in a society that sneers at smokers these days. That has to have a positive effect on your overall mental health, no?
See, there are plenty of mental health benefits of quitting smoking to be enjoyed!