What if we told you it’s not about willpower?

Make Smoking History sat down with psychiatrists Dr Peter Wynn Owen and Dr Steve Baily to find out more.

Portrait of Dr. Peter A Wynn Owen. Consultant forensic psychiatrist. Portrait of Dr Steve Baily. Consultant Psychiatrist, Fremantle Hospital Mental Health Service

So, what would you say to someone who doesn’t think they have the willpower to quit?

“Most people that eventually give up smoking have tried lots and lots of times and that’s normal. If you think about any change in habits, it’s always made up of lots and lots of attempts with increasing elements of success. We’ll often learn some strategies for dealing with one part of it, but fall over on the next bit. So it’s almost a progressive forward stumbling” - Steve.

“If you quit and then relapse it doesn’t mean that you don’t have good willpower. It just means that circumstances have changed. Even that reduction, that time, was a good positive thing and it shows that you can do it. I actually like to think of every attempt, and even thinking about quitting as being a positive." - Peter

It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you slip up or relapse. Maybe a mate offered you a cigarette or you found the cravings too strong while having a drink at the pub. Perhaps it was the habit of smoking with your morning coffee or a reaction to feeling stressed.

Whatever happened, don’t give up, you’ve just found a new trigger to plan for.

“Don’t tell yourself that you have to succeed every time. Just because last time it didn’t work doesn’t make you a failure, it actually means you’re a trier. Persevere, stick with it, think about why you’re doing it.” - Peter

Read up on ways to avoid these triggers, and focus on your reasons for quitting like getting healthy or being around longer for your family. If withdrawal symptoms are catching you out, Peter has shared his tips here.

“In the end it’s when you want to quit, it’s about why you want to quit and how you’re going to quit.” – Peter

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