World Mental Health Day: What effect does smoking have on mental health?
Published at 10 October, 2018.
Stopping smoking isn’t easy. From the cravings to the headaches, the depression to the anxiety and everything in between. While these symptoms can last anything from a few days to a few months, it’s the physical health improvements that are normally cited as the main reason – a decrease in the risk of heart attacks and disease, the lowering of blood pressure and heart rate and the reduction in cholesterol and fats in your blood. But, the benefits stretch much further.
Did you know that research has proven, time and time again, that smoking has a direct impact on your mental health, too?
For this years’ World Mental Health Day, we’re on a mission to highlight the impact that smoking can have on your mental wellbeing, not just your physical.
So, what effect does smoking actually have on mental wellbeing?
While tobacco smoking is often seen as a simple way to get rid of stress, it’s actually the other way around. Often when people stop smoking, they can feel as if their stress levels are spiralling and so reach for a cigarette to help them calm down. This is actually down to the nicotine withdrawal and smoking another cigarette only helps to combat this, rather than alleviate any stress or anxiety. In actual fact, smoking actually increases anxiety levels and studies have shown that stress levels are decreased once a person has stopped smoking.
Similarly, a study from Northumbria University has shown that smoking long-term has been linked to a reduction of both working and prospective memory – the part of our brains used for remembering everyday tasks such as meetings – along with the ability to stay focused and avoid distractions.
What can I do to stop?
For those who are generally prone to stress, whether smoking or not, replacing the habit with a healthier one can make a huge difference, both to your mental and physical wellbeing. It’s all about keeping your hands, and brain busy - try joining a sports team or taking your dog out for a walk to beat those cravings.
If you find that you're prone to stress, replacing smoking with a healthier, better way of dealing with stress can offer some real benefits. Begin your journey to being smoke free today by calling us 0800 612 0011 (free from landlines) or 0330 660 1166 (free from most mobiles).