If you've decided to greet the New Year with a resolution to quit smoking, you may be dreading the stress and jitters often associated with nicotine withdrawal. But take heart! A new study says you'll be healthier and happier.

A group of 1,500 study participants who've been smoke-free for three years said their overall quality of life has improved and reported "fewer stressors and improved mood" compared to those who continued to light up.

"Quitting is hard, but if you can actually do it, there are a lot of benefits that you might not have thought about," said study author Megan E. Piper, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and its Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.

The people in the three-year study were asked questions about self-regard, standard of living, relationships, friendships and other measures of quality of life. Once the normal declines associated with aging were removed, the results showed former smokers were now happier people overall.

"The message is that it's not just about reducing your risk of heart disease or cancer, it's also about benefits," said Linda Sarna, the chair of nursing at the University of California, Los Angeles. "You'll get through this and your quality of life will probably be better than if you continue to smoke."

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