Quitting cigarettes is one of the best things you can do for your health. It decreases your risk of cancer and heart disease. Even from day one of quitting, you should be able to feel your body getting better.

“The health benefits to quitting gives you time back to your health. So, after 20 minutes, your heart rate goes back to normal,” says Tammi Meissner a health educator for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, known as SEARHC. She works in Wrangell and provides resources for those wanting to quit.

“After 24 hours, your risk of heart attack drops. After three days, your breathing gets easier and your lung capacity improves. Two weeks to three months, your circulation improves which is really important.”

Almost one in five adults in Alaska are smokers, according to the state’s Division of Public Health. It takes the average smoker six to 30 attempts to quit, according to the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Meissner says if you slip up, it’s just part of the process.

“So, don’t beat yourself up. Just celebrate every day you don’t have a cigarette or use tobacco. So, be kind to yourself,” Meissner says.

Here are some tips from Meissner.

She says to understand what your true motivation is for quitting. Avoid situations that will make you want to smoke. Avoid drinking or the bars if that triggers you. Or stressful situations where you’d usually take a smoke break to escape.

She also says to involve your support network in the process. 

“Friends and family, those that are there to support you and when you’re having those urges, can say ‘Let’s go for a short walk. Let’s knit together or play a game.’ Those kinds of things, just to help you out.”

Much of quitting is letting go of the motion of smoking, lighting a cigarette and putting it to your mouth. That means you might want to substitute with other tactile activities such as knitting or munching on low calorie snacks.

“Usually urges last about 10 to 15 minutes and then they’ll subside,” Meissner says. “Just know if you can get through the 15 minutes, it’ll relax and you can go back to feeling normal again.”

For more tips and free nicotine replacement products, call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.