How Smoking Can Affect Your Mental Health

Did you know that some young people think that smoking helps them manage stress? But, this isn’t the case! We look at the impact of smoking on your mental health and other ways to deal with stress that can be positive for both your mental and physical health.

According to research by the Scottish Government,

Most young people in Scotland don’t smoke.

Did you know that smoking actually increases stress on the body and brain?

Smoking has a negative impact on your mental health and wellbeing and you can cope with stress and negative feelings, without turning to cigarettes.

How does smoking affect your mental health?

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, commonly found in cigarettes. So, if you do smoke, you may need to deal with regular cravings and feelings of stress and irritability when you’re dealing with nicotine withdrawal.

Smoking is a pretty expensive habit to keep and money worries can affect your mental health and wellbeing as well as your physical health.

If you’re worried about money, you can visit our Cost Crisis page for information about where to get support with your finances.

Does nicotine make you feel good?

Temporarily, maybe. But it actually has longer term negative effects on our mental health and wellbeing.

Dopamine is sometimes referred to as the ‘happy hormone’ or ‘feel-good hormone’. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the release of dopamine in the brain which makes us feel more positive. However, this feeling is only temporary and quickly gives way to feelings of stress and irritability as you crave the relief of another cigarette.

If you’re a smoker, you may feel that you need a cigarette to control your dopamine levels. Therefore, having a cigarette makes it seem like it’s helping you to relax, but the physical stress on your body is actually increasing.

The good news is that after three months of being smoke-free, your ability to control dopamine should return to a normal state!

In short, smoking can create that brief sense of relaxation, but this gives way to withdrawal symptoms and won’t get rid of any stress or anxiety in the long term. There are other positive ways to relieve stress and relax that you might consider instead of smoking.

Ways to cope with stress instead of smoking

Stopping smoking can improve your mood and relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. People who stop smoking say they feel happier after quitting, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

Here are five top tips from ASH Scotland, on ways you can support your mental health and wellbeing, that don’t include smoking.

1. Getting a decent sleep

Depending on your age, young people should be aiming for about seven to 11 hours of sleep every night.

Research has found that smoking is associated with poorer quality of sleep and not smoking may improve sleep issues. Going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding caffeine in the evening and having some social media free time may help your brain relax before bed.

For more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep, visit our Aye Feel article with tips from Sleep Scotland.

2. Eating good food

If you have recently quit smoking, try reaching for a healthy snack or drink when feeling a craving for a cigarette, it can be a useful distraction. Eating fruit and veg helps prevent you from feeling sluggish and tired and is good for your body.

Cravings usually only last a few minutes, so having something else to focus on will help while the craving passes.

3. Adding exercise to your routine

Nicotine withdrawal can make you feel stressed, and irritable and you might find it difficult to concentrate. Physical activity reduces these feelings, boosts self-esteem and improves sleep. Exercise also releases the feel-good hormone dopamine. Sweating it out at the gym may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but walking more, dancing, doing yoga or gentle exercise can actually make you feel happier.

Visit our Aye Feel page for ways you can get active to improve your mental health and wellbeing.

4. Socialising

Socialising with friends or meeting new people and exploring new places can be fun and reduce boredom or create a distraction. If you have friends or family who smoke when you’re trying to cut back, it can be tricky or feel like you’re missing out. But hanging out doesn’t have to involve smoking either and chatting to other people about how you’re feeling and what’s stressing you can help you to process your feelings and deal with them.

5. Pick up a hobby

Distractions from cravings can help take your mind off wanting to reach for a cigarette. Plus, taking up a hobby can improve your mental health and wellbeing by boosting self-confidence, raising self-esteem and helping you to build a sense of purpose. You could take up a sport, learn a new language, try your hand at an instrument, go to a class or do something creative at home like DIY or knitting.

If you’re aware that smoking is negatively impacting your mental health, remember that you’re not alone and there are many places you can go to for advice and support to help you quit.

Get Support to Quit Smoking

If you’re ready to quit or just thinking about it and looking for more information, and if you’re looking for support for your mental health and wellbeing, there are many places you can turn to.

Visit #BeFree for more information on smoking, and find out how you could benefit from being smoke-free.

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