How I quit smoking?

quit-smoking-illustration-man-speech-bubble-telling-angry-cigarette-character-cartoon-41247975.jpgOn July of 2015 I decided I was going to quit smoking. After more than a decade into smoking I was finally ready to call it the quits. However, this by no means was my first attempt. There had been numerous failed attempts in the past. This time, I felt more ready than ever, and was more determined to do it. Now, more than a year later I can safely say I am no longer a smoker, and that smoking and cigarettes don’t entice me either.

As a former smoker myself, I am aware that many smokers want to call it the quits. However, I also know from my past experience that it is a tough ask, and I also know from experience that it is not impossible.

I want to share my experience so as to encourage myself never to smoke again, and also hope that my experience can be helpful to anyone who is looking to quit smoking.

So how did I really quit smoking –

  1.       Deciding to quit

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First and foremost, I just decided that I had had enough of it. I wanted to smoke no more. I wanted to be able to run and play without running out of breath 30 seconds into starting those activities. I wanted to get rid of that constant smoker’s cough (many smokers will be denial regarding the smoker’s cough, but get real).

Like many smokers out there I too have had experiences of deciding to quit many times prior to this. I, however, wanted to really do it this time around.

  1.       Research and a perspective change

After deciding to quit, I jumped into researching all the benefits of not smoking. The findings were very uplifting and I wanted to experience the benefits of not smoking.

060412_1252_ChangeYourP2.jpgUpon my research I also stumbled upon a perspective. This perspective suggested that instead of seeing my past failed attempts of trying to quit smoking as failure, I should rather see them as gained experience. This new found perspective encouraged me, and I felt confident enough that I would be able to quit this time.

  1.       Getting hold of the mind

“Mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master” says Robin Sharma, and this quote holds true when you are trying to quit smoking. Smoking, like any other habit, is hardwired to your system because you have done it for so long and quitting will test you physically and mentally. Research shows that it takes around three days for your body to throw out the nicotine present in your system. After which you are no longer physically attracted to nicotine present in the cigarette, and then starts the nicotine withdrawal effect. This withdrawal effect is made worse by the ongoing mental challenge. The mind is a tricky little bugger and it’ll say things to you to get you back to smoking (it did for me). “Just one cigarette,” it’ll say; other times it’ll be like, “you’ve gone clean for a week. That’s something – just one cigarette now. It’ll do you no harm.”  The key is to stay strong-willed and to not let the mind overpower you. Slowly, the voices will die down. The physical as well as the mental addiction will eventually subside.

This is not by any means an action that happens overnight, and as with any other practice, quitting smoking also takes time. But if you stick to your guns, the urge to smoke will eventually disappear.

  1.       Putting them running shoes on (being a freak)

As I quit smoking, I wanted to give myself more reasons ( as if I did not already have many)  to not take up smoking ever again. So, I put my running shoes, on and started to run every day. With no deliberate smoke ingestion, I was able to run without getting the wind knocked out of me in thirty seconds.  Running brought a breath of fresh air into my life (literally). I began enjoying pushing my body to run 3 miles at first, eventually followed by 5 miles, and even 10 miles

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Finally,

  1.     Started reading

Also, as a smoker, I know one of the times when people smoke a lot is whilst waiting for someone/something. I used to do it too, but then I found a better thing to do- i started reading instead. I started carrying a book with me everywhere I went, sometimes even in my mobile device. So, in order to curb that urge of smoking, I dove into the books. Eventually, the urge always died down minutes later.

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When I started running…

The many health benefits of running are known to both runners and non-runners. However, there are certain experiences that can be only noticed only when one starts to run. I have been running every morning for about six months now (barring the time when I have been injured), and it has benefited me in numerous ways. In addition to the obvious health benefits, running has introduced me to new perspectives. These are the perspectives I want to share –

  1. The world don’t matter

When I first started to run, I was very self-conscious about it. I would get the sense that people who were watching would judge me if i didn’t run in a certain acceptable way. But soon I began to enjoy running, and I loved doing my weekly 5 miles. On other days, a 3 mile run would suffice my appetite for running.  The more I ran, the more I loved it, and soon I was not self-conscious about whether people were looking or not. Nor did I feel obliged to run in certain style. I would sometimes take huge strides while running;other times, I would run just on my toes. Most importantly, I did not feel the need to run in the conventional style as long as I was running sincerely and honestly and doing my allocated miles for the day. At the end of the 5 mile run, I punched the air and then punched my chest (Djokovic style) in delight. It did not matter who was looking – I was having fun the right way, and that was what mattered.

This perspective was an eye opener and it brought about this mindful awareness. The important thing was to be sincere, have fun, and the rest didn’t matter. It also occurred to me then that:

  1.  People don’t have the time to sit there and watch what you’re doing. Everyone’s is just as busy in their own lives.
  2.  If people do make comments, feel privileged that they have time to look at you in their busy lives. You don’t need to oblige, or listen to every comment.

 

2. Every run is different from the previous

When I first started running back in November 2015, I could barely run 3 miles. I would be out of breath, and catching my breath would take time. The more I ran, the better my stamina became, and I was able to run 3 miles with ease. I soon started doing five miles every weekend, and again, to begin running five miles was tough. I was able to complete my first five mile on the first try, and since then have completed many more five miles. There was one stark discovery though – Every day, when I set off to run the five miles, I would have doubts.  I eventually have always finished the five miles I have started, but during every start, my mind has had doubts. I have come to know that every day is going to be different, and just because I have done the five miles previously, I can’t take it for granted. I have to motivate, re-motivate, and re-re-motivate myself during the runs. A small variable change – the wind, the temperature, the sleep I had, the shoe, the feel in the legs could very well change the entire pattern of the run. Every run, thus, becomes different from the previous.

The idea is to stay vigilant, to keep myself motivated, and just like the run, everything that you start is achievable.

  1. Life is a marathon, not a sprint

I know this is a cliché, “Life is marathon, not a sprint,” but it does hold true. When I first started running, my objective was to run a full marathon. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do that. I might have at least participated in at least one, but well, that number never ran. But as I do my five miles and sometimes close to six miles, it dawns to me how tough a full marathon would be.  The distance of an official full marathon is 26 miles which is at least four times more than I normally run. It takes me roughly around 50 to 55 minutes to do five miles, and if I ran at the same average pace, it would take me nearly 3.5 hours to complete a full marathon. This is if I can maintain the average pace, and we know the body tires, so taking that into account, it would take me around 4 hours or more of running to do a full marathon.  That just puts everything in perspective – running a marathon does not happen overnight. When I first started out saying I am going to run the marathon, I had no idea what I was talking about. But now that I run, and have experienced the effort that goes into running, I can understand the effort it takes to run a marathon.

A humongous task like running a marathon cannot be achieved overnight; it takes time. It takes training, eating right, and mental strength to achieve the distance. I have not run a marathon, but even with all the training that goes into it, when it comes to the real deal, many falter. Running a marathon in many ways does sound like what life is. You can be prepared for it, but yet, life brings about subtle variable change to always challenge you.

At the end of the day,this is the beauty of both life and a marathon – to be able to overcome and complete challenges one after another.

 

Intensity beats extensity

My latest endeavor sees me trying to get in touch with various people, converse with them, and get a perspective of how they view life. These people that I try to get in touch with all made some sort of connection with me. They’ve either inspired me, motivated me, or just made me feel good about being a human.

Today, I got to meet one such amazing human. I had written to him few days back on his Facebook page, and he had agreed to meet me. I was absolutely delighted,  Raghu Aditya was going to be the first person I was going to meet for this new project of mine. I came to know about him about a month back whilst going through an article on M&S. Right there and then, I wanted to meet this amazing person.

The article is titled “Friend of the furred and the Feathered”, and the first few line aptly conveys who he is and what he does.

Raghu Aditya has devoted his life to bettering the lives of animals, so much so that he is willing to put his life on hold for the sake of theirs.” – M&S

We sat on this elevated platform of  Krishna Mandir, Patan and he shared his insight, and his outlook on life. Initially, there was a just that bit of silence, and I said him “I did ask to meet you, but now that I am here, I don’t know what to converse about.”  To which he replied, “It’s okay. We need to enjoy the silence as well. Occasional silence is nothing to worry about.” This has  to be one of the most poignant moment of the conversation, as it made me feel easy, and I was not bothered by any occasional silence that crept in later on.

I was really eager to know what  got him to start caring for the animals. He recounted his story of how he used to not be as kind to insects as a kid, and his father told him that those insects felt as much pain. Upon knowing that these insects felt pain, he decided to not take part in such activities. This childhood awareness got him to being the person he is today.

“Animals understand the basic language. Not justdogs, but every animal and birds.” he said. “We just have to be patient enough to learn it.” he added. He then exemplified this concept by saying when talking to dumb people using sign language, if one is patient enough to learn the sign language the conversation will get better and surprisingly the dumb person will seem interesting. However, if one loses the patience, then the person able to speak will not find the dumb person interesting.”All animals understand love, compassion, and kindness. You just need to be patient enough to learn it., and when you do you understand love –  non-judgmental  and pure” he says referring to love he gets from the animals.

As, we conversed  we touched on the topic of choices and our many interests. “What seems like many things right now may not be many things.” he said. Giving his own example he told me, he himself had a lot of things, but now connecting the dots he looks back and sees they were all related. His love for animals, his passion for music and other things. “Intensity beats extensity every time” he quoted.

By this time we were sipping tea that had been brought up to us by a local vendor. After we were done with the tea Raghu asked me if  I wanted to join him. He said he had to check up on a dog who had had an eye surgery few days back. I agreed and followed him, and very soon saw a dog lazily sleeping. Raghu approached him and called out “Lucy” upon which the dog excitedly started wagging. Raghu checked Lucy’s eyes, unfortunately the injury had not healed and it looked as if the stitches had come off. Raghu made few calls and applied ointment to the dog’s eye and we left.

By then it was time to go home, and as we bid goodbye, I was mightily pleased having met Raghu. I feel privileged to have had the chance to meet him and converse. I am glad I wrote to him and now we are “Strangers No More”.

Raghu’s message is simple “I am not a vet, nor was I trained to do this. But if I can do it, we  all can practice the act of kindness in our own community.”

 

Life’s sweeter without the added sugar

About a month ago,I decided to give up eating sugar (sucrose) for the next month. My decision was influenced by a video I watched on Youtube. Not the greatest place be influenced from, but I was, and so I set forth on this challenge – No Sugar for a month.

By no sugar, I meant I wouldn’t be eating table sugar or any product that had additive sugar. I also wanted to do this challenge because for the past year or so, I have really focused on running and fitness overall. And one of the fitness mantra (after having done the workouts) is “NO SUGAR”. Cutting off sugar means cutting off a lot of unnecessary calories and replacing them with much needed calories required by the body(at least this is what I think).

The first two weeks were relatively easy. I sometimes had the urge to eat chocolate (of which i am a big fan), burgers,carbonated drinks and other sugar laden edibles, but I refrained. I stayed true to my words for the first two weeks without much discomfort.

And then, on the third week, as I woke up one Monday morning, I had a bloated stomach. Not having sugar was supposed to make me lose weight, help me get those shredded abs but it had just done the reverse. My tummy was bulging out(so it felt), and I was feeling lost. The following days got even worse – my digestive system was all out of sorts. Those awful burps and gaseous tummy made my third week tough. I did not know what caused this and then it struck me “Does that have something to do with me not eating sugar?” And so I googled. And presto! There it was – “Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms”. This self-diagnosis made me feel a bit better, and after having talked to my friends and loved ones, I was sure that my change in diet was the reason behind my digestive system disarray. I wondered if i took sugar would the queasiness go away, but i did not want to. I did not want to falter after having gotten this far, and with only one week to go did not want to eat sugar.

And, I did not – I went four weeks without eating sugar. The sickness has disappeared and I feel fit and healthy. I have started running again after my mini-illness had prevented me from running for three days. I won’t lie: I can see the abs getting a better shape.

Above all, I have started eating a lot of fruits. In my attempt to stop eating sugar I have turned my attention to fruits that provide me with necessary sugar and a lot more. I have stopped eating a lot of sugar laden food – meaning i have cut back on a lot of junk food (if not all). And I intend to maintain this diet – No sugar.

It thus, would be fair to conclude “Life is sweeter without the added sugar”

Have i been running?

Most definitely – have i been writing? Not much as i would liked to have. But here i am after what seems like forever scribbling my mind.

I have been running in the mean time though i have not been updating it any more on the blogs. Running had been hindered by injuries to my leg and i have been taking it slow since then. I have not been running significant miles but i have been moving and that’s what is important. Hopefully i will be able to rack up more miles going forward but right now i am not really complaining. As cliched as it is – Something is better than nothing.

On the other hand i know for a fact that i have not been scribbling as much as i want to. And i would surely want to make up for that and once be more regular in updating the blog.

 

 

 

What is it about running?

What is it about running that makes me want to get out there and run my heart out – and then when I exhaust, I still feel mightily pleased about the entire session? Why is it when I don’t run I get cranky and anxious? Why is it when I injured and people tell me rather stop running it kinda feels horrible to just think that?

This new found love for running which has lasted for almost six months now and looks like it can only grow has engulfed me. I can’t explain the phenomenon of that what takes place when I run – the sheer joy and the excitement. Every time when I take those strides , every mile I cover and every minute that I run when they add up to something bigger it makes me want to jump and punch the air in delight.

Much of last two weeks I have not been able to run due to the injury that I picked up. I planned to run for last week but since the injury had not healed I could not run as planned. As a matter of fact the start of the previous week I was still struggling to walk. However, by mid-week I felt a lot better. The pain went away and I think it is safe to say my forced rest actually paid off. And I am looking to run once again. Also, this past week I have realized that having this injury kind of played on my head as well. I can say so because just the other day I was trying to put a post together (similar to this one) but I could hardly articulate the words everything felt so forced that I actually went from being in a moderately good mood to an awful mood in a jiffy. And I had to stop writing altogether. As, I sat down to write this today I feel that this particular post has come unforced and just the way I’d have wanted it to. I would surely say this has partly to do with the fact that I will be running soon (most likely tomorrow). Also, I did do a short stint this evening covering around 2 miles and that just opened everything up again.

All of these evidence which shows that how running lightens up my mood , how it just makes me feel a lot better , energetic and healthy could be the reason why I will continue to run as long as I can. But having said that – I still cannot really put my finger on that one reason so what I love to run so much.

The number that never ran

I was really super hyper excited for the event that was scheduled for the 19th of February -the half marathon. It would  be my first official crack at long distance running and i was really looking forward to the event. I was building up for this – constantly talking about the event and i could not have been more ready for it, mentally.

As the day for the event came closer the excitement grew and in anticipation for the event i started fearing if i could actually complete the 21 kms. But nothing was going to stop me from running , at least i thought so.

Friday, came and i was up early and pumped up for tomorrow’s marathon. Today was going to be all about researching on how to give myself the best chance to compete and complete and also it was about getting hydrated. And then all of all sudden in my head i went ” What date is it today?” As i hurried to check on the date , i saw to my horror it was the 19th. I had miscalculated – and now here i was late for my first marathon.

Nothing had prepared me for this misfortune and i was absolutely livid and aghast. All along i had thought the 19th of February was a Saturday and hadn’t even bothered to look it up in a calendar. And my stupidity had cost me the chance to run in my first long distance run. It was heart breaking to begin with and i was gutted. There was nothing i could do now – i had to report to the starting line by 6:45 am and i had noticed my grave error only at around 7 am. So, my number was missing from the starting grid.

As, heart wrenching as it was – i found it funny as well. I mean i had been a complete idiot to not look it up on a calendar. And so i laughed at myself and so did my mom when she said ” Khuchhing paryo” – my sister joined in. Not that my mom wanted to make fun of me for missing the event but it was just funny the way i had missed it due to my negligence.

At the end of it all i think something good came of my this experience – the first and the more obvious  always verify the date on a calendar (don’t be a freaking over-smart jackass). The other and this i figured on close observation ” maybe i wasn’t ready and it was universes way of telling me this.” Maybe if i had run things would be not gone as i expected them too. It gives me to opportunity to keep on practicing and doing my own 21kms before i participate in an event. At the end of it all “All’s well that ends well”. And i go again until the next marathon i keep on pushing myself.

Thank you for -Not SMOKING

Just a couple of days more and I will have officially gone six months without smoking. For me it is quiet an achievement, after having smoked for over a decade and countless failed attempts to quit- These six months is a great positive to take. I also think it is fair for me to say that at this point I have by far exceeded my own expectation by a country mile and now I feel in the hindsight it really was not that all difficult. And I wonder why I had failed so many times.

Disastrous Way to Quit Smoking

 But I do know that- it has not been so easy especially to begin with. Early July, at the very beginning it was an easy decision – “ I am going to quit smoking” I had said. But keeping up with those words would be a challenge and I knew that. When I did not smoke for the next week I thought I was doing it. But the next four days I was back to smoking. I was not smoking a lot but even one in three days meant I was still smoking. In the first ten days after I said I was done smoking I had smoked four. On a larger scale that still was an insignificant number and I could have told myself –“ Four, in ten days is not bad. Previously I have done ten in a day. So progress.” But instead this other thought came over my head and I felt I was not doing justice to my words. And then on, ten days later after having said I was not going to smoke but had, I decided THIS WAS IT. I was livid with myself for not staying true to my words. And when I purchased that fifth cigarette- the purpose was not to smoke but to crush it into pieces and throw it away. And that is exactly what I did. A bit dramatic but I did it anyway. And ever since the day I crushed that cigarette, I have been able to crush the urge, the desire and the need to smoke. And I can say“ It feels absolutely amazing.”

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My lungs would probably be the first one to admit how great it feels. Now, that I have a strict running schedule my lungs need to be healthy and with no first hand smoke intake my lungs would say that “ Thank you for not smoking.” There are so many advantages to not smoking and I think smokers are well aware of that. I was well aware of the disadvantage of smoking but I smoked nevertheless, back then. Often I would argue when someone said “Smoking kills”. I would say just for the heck of it “ What doesn’t?” But now I think it is more about being able to live so much better when smoke free. And for me it has been an experiment I have conducted on myself. You read it everywhere the benefits of not smoking but you won’t know it unless you quit. I was willing to experiment & challenge myself and I can say the benefits show. For smokers I would like you to take up the experiment, take it up as a challenge and see it for yourself.

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As for me I can’t thank myself enough for having given up smoking. I did not do it for anyone but for myself alone. But I can also say though I did it for myself, I have been able to make people that care about me happy as well. And there isn’t a better feeling than being able to make your loved ones happy by your actions. I am pretty sure given how these six months have gone for me – there is no way I would want to go down the smokers lane again.

From running for life to running for life

On April 25th, 2015 on what looked like a normal Saturday- 7.8 Magnitude earthquake shook Nepal. I was on the top most part of the house where the water tanks were kept. And when the first tremor hit my initial response was to jump to a level below. Which I believe is no less than 8 to 10 feet. If you asked me to do it today – I would definitely hesitate and think twice. But on this day- I jumped and raced out to get mom and we scampered together to the nearest open ground. Small aftershocks followed throughout the day and into the night. The very next day another huge aftershock this was followed by even larger 7.3 Magnitude aftershock about a week later. The aftershocks kept me on my toes almost always. The impact of the earthquake was so mentally traumatizing that even if some stupid yelled out earthquake- I was ready to make a dash for it. I was basically running for life, too scared to get trampled upon, scared because I did not want to die- not now, not like this.

Nepal, a beautiful south Asian nation sandwiched between India and China. This is as close as it gets to defining Nepal in a sentence. And us Nepali’s have had this definition engraved in our minds since the first standard and for some even before. But when I say beautiful Nepal, I am really not exaggerating any of it. It really is a staggering beauty with its mountainous range, epic hills, bio-diversity paradise and so much more. It really is the case of “You have to be here to see and experience it.” But the beauty has a dark side to it. And Nepal is really one of the poorest nations in the world. There is so much to do, in so many fronts: Education, Gender issues, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and the list goes on. Constant political turmoil and bickering has been one reason the country finds itself lagging behind and the earthquake has just added to the plight. According to a post from the Kathmandu Post – Money (2015-10-6) the growth rate has fallen down drastically ever since the earthquake – from 5 to 3.4%.
The land topography of Nepal does not do it much favor either especially in infrastructural development projects. So, roads have not yet been linked to a large portion of the nation. Which means people have to walk huge distance and in an arduous terrain. That I why I think it’s fair to say we Nepali’s are cut out for the tough task. Also i think we were born for endurance sports because we basically walk this terrain. And maybe that’s why i just had a spontaneous thought of running. It was by no means a conscious decision back then though. I just felt growing up in the city- I had lost my appetite to walk and run. And I was so caught up in the buzz of city that I had neglected the physical demands of the body. But in the hindsight maybe going back to the basics was the perfect way to finding a way upfront. And that’s exactly what I have done – gone back to walking, running and cycling. Physically I have never been fitter and mentally i feel i am a lot clear in the head and I don’t plan on stopping running anytime soon. If anything I am going to run more. I don’t know how this will add up in the future or how I will be able to contribute but for now it has been a question of self-investment. And more importantly I just have a gut feeling that it will all add up somewhere, sometime. I have just got to keep at it and keep moving. And this is how I started running for life literally.
(My daily running journal since the day I started http://www.immarunthemarathon.blogspot.com )

The world’s most delicious apple

It was the 26th of December-last Saturday and I was doing my weekend five miler for the third time. The week before that I had just completed my second five miles and the week before that the first.  In the first week I grew hungry when running and even more after completing 5 miles. I was still fair distance away from home and most importantly food. So, in the second week I decided to take an apple with me. I had done around two and half miles and I got hungry. So, I munched on the apple while running. Now, what I did back then was munch the entire apple very fast and as a result- I felt I might throw up. Luckily, I didn’t. But what I figured was that was no way to eat and run.

So, in the third attempt I carried an apple and started my run. Half-way through the run again I got a bit hungry. And so I munched on the apple. This time however, I just took two bites of it and shoved it back in my hoodie pocket and continued to run. As I ran further I took another two bites of the apple and into the pocket it went again. Soon I was done with my five miles and pretty pleased with my days effort. I was hungry and I had the apple with me. It was munching time.

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The most delicious apple (whatever was left) 26/12/2015

And then I tasted it- the most delicious apple in the entire world. I was tired after the run and hungry and this half-eaten apple was fruit divine. I was so into eating that apple – I was literally, in the middle of the road talking to the apple about how delicious it was. “You are one of the most delicious apples I have ever eaten. You are so delicious that if you ate yourself- you’d actually find yourself delicious. Pity! An apple as delicious as you has to be devoured but thank you” I said. Part of this conversation was inspired (Copied) from the apple conversation from the movie “Into the Wild”. But that conversation fit my situation perfectly so I used it – and I had not made any prior plans to actually to use it anyway.

That is the story of the most delicious apple ever eaten. Tomorrow is another Saturday, which means another five or more miles. But I have one more incentive to run now – I might just get to taste the most delicious apple again.