Ready to break away from tobacco?
Quitting smoking is tough. Nicotine is highly addictive. It reaches a smoker’s brain in 7-10 seconds, triggering a release of adrenaline. When the effects of nicotine wear off, it leaves the smoker agitated. This leads to lighting up another, then another.
There are many ways to get through the stages of withdrawal. When a craving hits, try redirecting your attention. Find something to replace the cigarette. Trust that the urge to smoke will be gone within moments.
Even the simplest things can jolt you out of a habit triggering moment and interrupt negative thought patterns as you try to break your nicotine addiction.
You are not alone
Feelings of isolation are common when you tackle such a big life change. Get ahead of this by making time to interact with people you can talk to about what you are going through. Sometimes a simple conversation about everyday life can be just the lift you need.
The best thing you can do for yourself is take advantage of free smoking cessation resources. Talk to your health care provider about science-based options, such as Freedom from Smoking ® (group support) or 1-800-Quit-Now (individual coaching over the phone.)
- Call a friend.
- Tell someone you love how much they mean to you.
- Spend time with a child.
- Write an old-fashioned, hand-written letter to someone you care about.
- Sign up to volunteer in your community. (Consider volunteering with one of our supporting organizations.)
- Call your mother or grandmother. You know they love to hear from you!
- Write a list of people in your life who nourish your feelings of gratitude.
5-Minute Craving Busters
Plan some quick and easy things to do at a moment’s notice. These should not take a lot of effort or time. They should be just enough to replace the habit of lighting up.
- Drink a glass of water. This works surprisingly well.
- Snack on a dill pickle or few salty nuts.
- Suck on a piece of tart candy.
- Eat some sweet fruit (crunchy apple, handful of juicy grapes, peeled orange).
- Chew sugarless mint gum.
- Floss and brush your teeth.
- Spin around in your office chair.
- Practice your dance moves.
- Do some jumping jacks.
- Jog or march in place.
- Engage your abdominals with a 30-second plank. (Work up to longer sessions.)
- Crank up the radio and sing at the top of your lungs (works great while driving).
- Slather on creamy scented hand lotion! It keeps fingers busy and reminds you how nice it is that they don’t smell like tobacco. Lavender, chamomile, and bergamot scented lotions or essential oils promote relaxation.
Focus on Your Reasons to Quit
When changing a habit, it is easy to dwell on the things you miss. This only heightens feelings of withdrawal. Turn the tables on that thinking and concentrate on the advantages of not smoking. Think about the good things you look forward to doing or having—or the bad things you might avoid—by not smoking. Remind yourself why you made this decision.
- Did you quit for your family? Place a family photo where your ashtray used to be. Did you quit for your health? Maybe bike riding is your thing. Look up mountain bikes online. Did you get tired of the cost of smoking? Start dropping $5 (just about the cost of a pack of cigarettes) in a jar everyday. You get the idea.
- Write a goodbye letter to cigarettes.
- Your body starts repairing itself within hours after that last cigarette. Pay attention to the changes you notice.
- You also get back your sense of smell and taste. Enjoy some new healthier recipes.
- Make a list of treats—no matter how small— to give yourself every day you stay quit.
Distract Yourself at Home
The truth is often smokers isolate themselves by sneaking a cigarette in the garage or standing outside the restaurant, away from non-smoking family and friends. When you stop spending so much time smoking, it is amazing how much more you can do. This is your chance to knock out your to-do list around the house.
Some chores are just busy work. However, they do keep your hands busy and offer a brief distraction. Besides, when things are organized and you finished your checklist, you feel better. If a chore seems too big, try breaking it down to 15-20 minutes. You may get yourself on a roll!
- Wash the car.
- Check your car’s tire pressure.
- Clean the inside of the car.
- Clean a corner of the basement or garage.
- Mop the floor.
- Do the laundry.
- Clean out a closet or “junk” drawer.
- Organize your boxes of pictures.
- Alphabetize your bookshelves.
- Organize the junk drawer.
- Pull some weeds.
- Start a vegetable garden.
- Make a to-do list for the week ahead.
- Start a home budget (look at the money you saved not smoking!)
- Fire up your shredder and clear some old files.
- Start planning a vacation funded by the money saved by not smoking for a year.
- Plan next week’s dinners and make a shopping list to match.
- Bake a cake for a neighbor.
- Chop up veggies for a stir-fry or quick, healthy snacking.
- Wash the dog.
- Play with the cat.
- Read a book.
Keep Your Hands and Mind Busy
Many ex-smokers find they not only need to break the physical addiction, but they also need to find ways to keep their hands busy. Smoking keeps your hands busy, after all. Now may be a great time to take up a new hobby.
- Knit a scarf. Learning to knit or crochet is one of the top recommendations from ex-smokers.
- Start a sewing project.
- Start a blog.
- Write a poem or short story.
- Paint a picture.
- Grab crayons or colored pencils to color a picture.
- Get your camera out and take some photos.
- Scan the old family photos or favorite family recipes (in Grandma’s handwriting!), and save them to the Cloud.
- Spend some time scrapbooking.
- Build something with wood.
- Refinish or reupholster a piece of furniture.
- Do a jigsaw or crossword puzzle.
- Play a game on your smart phone.
Many people fear gaining weight when they quit smoking. You can avoid packing on pounds by doing small things to stay active. These are also great ways to distract yourself when cravings hit!
- Go for a walk.
- Join a gym and work out.
- Try mindful practice, like yoga.
- Jump on the treadmill and work up a sweat.
- Head to the beach for a swim.
Get Out and About
A change of scenery can do wonders for the mind. When you’re tired of hanging around the house, step outside and find somewhere to go. It’s a lot of fun and can be very relaxing.
- Window shop at the mall. It’s a great place to walk, too.
- Take a new route home from work. It keeps your mind engaged and you may find new places to visit when you have time.
- Take a day trip.
- Go out to lunch or dinner.
- Visit a museum.
- Get out into nature.
- Go out to the movies.
- Donate blood.
- Can’t get out? Rearrange the room.
Embrace Relaxation and Treat Yourself
Possibly more important than anything else, do what you can to take care of your mental and physical health. Learning how to relax (and actually enjoy it) can do wonders for your outlook during this transition. Take some time for yourself and enjoy the moment, the rest you get will do you good.
- Practice smiling in the mirror because it releases endorphins that make you happy.
- Stop and really smell the roses.
- Take a long hot shower or a candle-lit bath.
- Listen to a relaxation tape or some favorite music.
- Do some deep breathing for a few minutes.
- Practice meditation.
- Take a nap.
- Treat yourself to a spa day.
- Let someone else cook supper for you.