Why quitting smoking makes you happier

Reviewing your vices right about now? Perhaps you’re thinking — after tonight, of course — of adding “cut sugar,” “take up cycling,” or “quit smoking,” to your annual resolution list. Reviewing your vices right about now? Perhaps you’re thinking — after tonight, of course — of adding “cut sugar,” “take up cycling,” or “quit smoking,” to your annual resolution list.

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No smoking image

Reviewing your vices right about now? Perhaps you’re thinking — after tonight, of course — of adding “cut sugar,” “take up cycling,” or “quit smoking,” to your annual resolution list.   

If smoking tops your list of bad habits you want to ditch, this might help: a new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin discovered that people who quit smoking feel happier up to three years later than people who kept on smoking. The study appeared in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. To find out more, Megan E. Piper, one of the researchers who is an assistant professor at the university’s department of medicine, fills us in. 

Q: Why can quitting smoking lead to a happier life?

A: We aren’t 100% sure why quitting resulted in feeling better about life.  One explanation could be that smoking itself is stressful: you can spend a lot of time thinking about when you can smoke next, whether you have enough cigarettes, and coping with multiple withdrawal episodes every day.  Once you quit, a lot of this stress goes away. Smoking also takes a lot of time. It could be that smokers who quit are finding rewarding ways to spend their extra time. 

Q:  How does this compare to what smokers think will happen to their happiness if they quit?

A: A lot of smokers worry that life will be worse after they quit.  They worry they won’t enjoy things the way they used to or that they won’t be able to handle stress.  What we’ve shown here is that not only will your positive mood increase, but you will report less stress over time.  Quitting smoking is hard — it is stressful and withdrawal can be very difficult.  However, if you can get through the first few weeks, things will get better and in the long-term you will feel better. 

Q: Any thoughts on how this can relate to other “vices” i.e. quitting alcohol or sugar? How would your finding relate to these other addictive habits?

A: Any addiction can be time consuming and stressful as the addict tries to make sure they have enough of their addictive substance and as they deal with withdrawal or other consequences from using (or not using).  Once that cycle is broken, it allows the person to develop other rewarding activities in place of the addiction and it removes the stress of dealing with the addiction. 

Q: What can our readers take away from your study and apply to their lives?

A: I think the big take home message is that if you’re thinking about quitting but wondering about how you will feel in the long-run, this research shows that over time you will feel better about your life, your health and stress if you can quit smoking.  

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