One of the hardest things to quit is smoking. Many try only to go back to where they started as nicotine withdrawals are notorious for breaking your willpower when you decide to quit. For those who decide to quit smoking, here's a timeline of what happens to your body within your first year of quitting:

20 Minutes

Around 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse start to drop back to its normal rate. Your feet and hands also warm up to their usual temperature. Additionally, your circulation may also improve.

8 Hours

After eight hours, you’ll have half the amount of carbon monoxide and nicotine in your blood. Carbon monoxide is a chemical found in cigarettes, and it crowds out oxygen in your blood in addition to preventing oxygen from entering the lungs. This causes problems with your muscles and your brain as they don’t get the oxygen that they need. Additionally, when inhaled in large doses within a short time, suffocation can occur as the result of a lack of oxygen.

However, after eight hours, the chemical’s levels drop and oxygen distribution goes back to normal.

It is also likely that you will already feel early nicotine cravings, and doubt the decision to quit smoking. This is normal. To get you through, find ways to distract yourself until the feeling passes. Chewing nicotine gum may help ease nicotine cravings in smokers trying to quit.

12 Hours

Halfway through your first day, your carbon monoxide level should have stabilized and returned back to normal. Your heart also benefits as it no longer has to pump so hard to try to get enough oxygen to parts of your body.

24 hours

Heavy smokers who go through a pack of cigarettes a day are twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to non-smokers. However, after your first day not smoking, you will have lowered your chances.

Smoking raises the risk of developing coronary heart disease because it lowers good cholesterol, making heart-healthy exercises difficult to do. Smoking also raises your blood pressure, and increases blood clots, making you more likely to have a stroke.

Going a day without smoking makes your blood pressure drop, decreasing the chances of developing a heart disease related to smoking-induced high blood pressure. Your oxygen levels also increase, making physical activity and exercises easier to do.

2 Days

Smoking damages the nerve endings that are responsible for the senses of taste and smell. After two days without smoking, you may notice a heightened sense of smell and more vivid tastes as the nerve endings begin to heal.

3 Days

Three days after not smoking, the nicotine levels in your body are depleted. While this is healthy, the depletion could cause nicotine withdrawal. This is the hardest part as people will usually experience increased moodiness and irritability, headaches, and nicotine cravings as your body tries to readjust. However, after three days, you may notice that you breathe easier and have more energy. This is because your lungs are beginning to recover.

Quitting smoking is very difficult. For those who decide to take on the challenge, here's what happens to your body during your first year without a single cigarette. Free-Photos / Pixabay

2 Weeks To 3 Months

During this time, you will have made huge strides. You’ll be able to do more as your lungs will be stronger and clearer, and your blood flow will have improved. You’ll be able to exercise without getting as winded as you did back when you smoked, and your risk of getting a heart attack decreases even more.

You’ll also have made it through the hardest part of nicotine withdrawal. Though, no matter how hard you try to avoid triggers, you can’t stop all of them. So it is important to have willpower during these trying times.

9 Months

After nine months of not smoking, you may notice less coughing and shortness of breath. This is because your lungs will have significantly healed themselves. The cilia, delicate hair-like structures found inside the lungs, will have recovered from the toll that cigarette smoke took on them. The cilia help push mucus out of the lungs and help fight against infections.

Around this time, many former smokers will notice a decrease in the frequency of lung infections as the healed cilia can now do their job more easily.

1 Year

At the end of your first year of quitting, treat yourself. This is a milestone for former smokers as your risk of heart disease is no half of what is used to be a year ago. The rate of risk will continue to drop as you go past the one-year mark.