Four Ways Technology Can Help You Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking can be like a bad road trip: it takes longer than expected and there can be lots of wrong turns. However, just like we now use GPS and mobile apps to help us navigate journeys, information technology (IT) can be a useful co-pilot while you quit smoking. In this post, I take you through four factors that are important for kicking the habit, and show ways you can use mobile health and other technologies to achieve success.

  1. Track. One of the best ways to change your behavior is to first establish your baseline behavior (in this case, how much you usually smoke), and then track your progress as you work on quitting. Before we all carried smartphones everywhere, folks tracked their behavior on a paper chart… and then, if they were anything like me, promptly lost it.

    Mobile apps like our free T2 Mood Tracker make it easy to track your behavior while you quit. In addition to charting your successes—like when you chose not to smoke and how you responded to feelings like cravings, you can track related behaviors and moods (anxiety, depression, stress) to see the relationships between them and learn about your particular triggers.
  2. Distract. Even though you’ve decided to quit, it can feel like your hands haven’t gotten the message. For example, there may be times when you find yourself unintentionally reaching for a pack of cigarettes or automatically playing with your lighter. When giving up or cutting down on smoking, many folks find replacement behaviors essential for those moments. I recommend loading your smartphone or tablet with a few addictive games that can rope you in for a few minutes during a stressful moment or extended downtime, when before, you may have smoked.

    There are thousands of free games on the markets, but a nice all-in-one app for stressful moments is T2’s Virtual Hope Box mobile app. In addition to distracting games, it also includes relaxation exercises and other activities for coping with stress, frustration, boredom and other emotions that are closely linked with smoking.
  3. Support. It takes a will of iron to socialize with smokers while quitting. To make the quit attempt easier, some folks try to take a break from their smoking friends (or at least stay away from environments where they know their friends will be smoking) and deliberately build a support network of nonsmoking friends.

    T2’s Positive Activity Jackpot and Virtual Hope Box apps can help you plan activities with supportive friends. Also, thanks to social networking, you can easily find new supportive networks. Try searching Twitter, Facebook and for groups that support quitting. Even if you don’t connect in person, it can be encouraging to see pro-quitting messages in your social media feeds.
  4. Maintain. If change is hard, maintaining change is HARD. To help make the quit attempt a quit success, we helped the VA’s National Center for PTSD develop the Stay Quit Coach mobile app. It helps you recognize your successes, and also identify triggers and potential activities to counteract them.

Just like you plan for a road trip by gathering just the right music and snacks, plan for your quit attempt by loading your devices with useful apps and links to helpful websites. In the article comments, let us know what apps, websites and other IT helped you change a behavior. And check out the excellent resources available at our AfterDeployment website for more information on quitting tobacco and other substances.

Julie T. Kinn, Ph.D. is a research psychologist at DHA Connected Health.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. Julie Kinn