The biggest challenge most people face in the first few weeks of quitting is regular, persistent cravings to smoke.
Some cravings are due to your body wanting nicotine but others are due to the association your mind has made between certain aspects of your daily routines and smoking.
Each smoker has their own particular triggers to smoke. If you’re aware of some of yours, you can change your routine to trick your mind into not expecting a cigarette.
When a craving hits, often it will subside if you briefly focus your attention on any other activity. Some typical habit-based triggers and some tips for changing the routine, below...
|First thing in the morning
||Have a shower first thing
|With coffee (or tea)
||Change to a different drink, brand of coffee or mug; or change the place where you drink it
|At morning tea
||Read a magazine or book; sit in a different place or with different people
|At the computer at home
||Shift your desk around or redecorate it
||Go for a walk
|At afternoon tea
||Try a herbal tea; read the paper
|Straight after work
||Do some exercise or meditation
|Just before your start dinner
||Have dinner earlier or later
||Change to a different drink; hold drink in smoking hand
|As you plan the next task/chore
||Breathe deeply or try a quick relaxation exercise
|As a reward e.g. completing a chore
||Listen to music; have a piece of fruit
|When you're with another smoker
||Chew gum; bring a water bottle
|At night in front of the TV
||Change the furniture around; hold a stress ball; do some stretches
|Just before bed
||Have a warm drink or herbal tea; read a book
Each time you resist the urge to act on a craving you’re helping your mind break the link between that activity and the cigarette - you’re teaching yourself to be a nonsmoker, one day at a time.
Treat each act of resistance as a victory. Remind yourself that you always have a choice each time you have a smoking urge: act on it and smoke, or choose from one of many other options to distract yourself until the craving passes. The bigger your list of distraction ideas, the better.
More distraction ideas:
- Have a piece of gum or fruit instead
- Sip a glass of water slowly
- Play with your pet dog or cat
- Call a friend
- Play a game on your phone
- Ask a friend/partner for a shoulder massage
- Do some gardening
- Put some hand cream or moisturiser on
- Grab a stress ball
- Do a jigsaw or crossword puzzle
- Peel an orange
Think of the benefits of quitting and the positive changes in your life since you’ve quit and how you’re building a happier and healthier future. Short term goals are good - take it one day at a time.
Learning to manage cravings is challenging at the beginning because it’s new. But like any new skill, you can learn to do it and get better and better as time goes on.
Change smoking thoughts
You’re bound to get smoking thoughts for at least the first few weeks - thoughts of how nice it would be to have a cigarette or how much you “need” one.
- Don’t dwell on the smoking thought
- Accept it then focus your mind on something more pleasant and stimulating.
- Use self-talk to stay motivated and determined:
- “ I can quit, and I will quit.”
- “I don't need cigarettes – I might want one, but I don’t need it.”
- “I’m going to be strong because it’s worth it.”
- Break your smoking thought patterns
- Focus your mind on something else, such as a relaxing image, a happy memory or how you are going to reward yourself for reaching your quitting milestones.