Dubai: The month of Ramadan is an opportunity for smokers to actively work on reducing or stopping smoking altogether. With those who are fasting giving up cigarettes for long hours, it might be easier for them to sustain not smoking in the long run, according to Dr Deepa Sankar, a clinical psychologist based in Dubai. Additionally, it helps that, particularly in Muslim countries, no one smokes in public during the day.
She told Gulf News: “Studies show that religious or spiritual beliefs typically play a positive role in adjustment and better health. Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids and smoking during daylight hours in Ramadan. The increased sense of spirituality through the month would help to sustaining motivation levels to quit smoking.
“Religious beliefs can provide support through enhancing acceptance, endurance and resilience. They generate peace, self-confidence, purpose, forgiveness of the individual’s own failures and help create a positive self-image.”
Succeeding in quitting generally depends on several factors. Dr Sankar lists the following:
1. Motivation to quit.
2. Belief in one’s capacity to quit.
3. Current tobacco consumption.
4. Severity of nicotine dependence.
5. Number and duration of previous attempts to quit.
6. Reasons for past relapse.
7. Degree of social support, level of stress and coping skills.
She said: “Tobacco is addictive. When a person becomes dependent, the positive effects of smoking outweigh the negatives, in their mind. Although smokers are aware of the ill effects of smoking, that information is discounted and they consider immediate gratification.”
She confirmed that when a person tries to quit, he or she might initially experience difficulty in concentrating, decreased alertness, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, depression, hostility, fatigue, headaches, hunger pangs, weight gain and even insomnia.
Dr Sankar said: “If smokers experience these symptoms, it indicates that their brain has learned to depend on nicotine. So when nicotine levels come down, your brain begins to crave it. These are called withdrawal symptoms.”
Most cravings begin within six to 12 hours after you stop smoking, according to Dr Sankar, with the peak lasting for about three days and completely disappearing after two weeks.
She said: “Remind yourself that the cravings are temporary and the urge will pass in a few minutes. Distract yourself. Deep breathing can help. Indulge in some physical activity of low intensity, such as stretching exercises. Do different tasks instead of focusing on any one activity for too long. Each time you beat the urge to smoke, reward yourself in some small way.”
According to US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most former smokers quit without using any treatments. Since many people don’t smoke during Ramadan, it helps to reduce social triggers, making it the ideal time to quit. Changing one’s thinking patterns about smoking will be relatively easier if it is done during this time.
Dr Sankar said: “You can cope better emotionally with the mood changes associated with nicotine withdrawal, by working on the way you think about certain situations.”