The worst part about smoking is that it’s so hard to give up the habit. Quitting smoking isn’t as simple as just deciding to stop doing it for most people, although determination goes a long way. Successfully quitting smoking requires creating and acting on a plan to deal with the uncomfortable effects of nicotine withdrawal. But take heart: with a little effort and conscious thought, you can beat nicotine withdrawal. Here are some of the keys to creating a smoke-free future.
Keep in mind: cravings pass quickly. The average nicotine craving only lasts about six minutes. That’s not even enough time to go up to the store and buy a new pack of cigarettes! So when that urge to smoke strikes, know that it will be over really quickly.
Take comfort in numbers. There are now more people who are former smokers who quit than there are people who are active smokers. When you want to give up the habit, know that you have a lot of very good company. About 50 million Americans used to smoke, but successfully quit. When the going gets tough, remind yourself that millions of people have made it through the tough experience of quitting.
Change up your routines. Your smoking habit is probably very predictable, and most likely, you smoke at the exact same times every day. Each time you do so, you’re reinforcing the habit. For example, you may smoke shortly after you wake up, again on the drive to work, after eating meals, etc. When you quit, you’ll need to change your associations at those times. Consider ideas like taking a different route to work or chewing a piece of gum after a meal instead of smoking.
Hold yourself accountable. Telling people that you are quitting smoking is a great way to be accountable – and get support from other people in the process. If you post on your Facebook page that you’re quitting smoking and update each day with the number of days it has been without a cigarette, you’ll be surprised by how much encouragement you’ll get from your friends and how much that drives you to keep going.
Make up your mind. Mindset determines a lot when it comes to success in quitting smoking. You may find it effective to make a list of all the reasons you want to quit – from saving hundreds of dollars a month to not smelling like smoke – and keep that list close at hand to look at when you start feeling discouraged. The list can help remind you of your motivation.
Create some healthy new habits. If you have to give up your old habits, it’s a great time to replace them with new ones. Consider beginning some positive new habits like snacking on healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables, and getting regular exercise like taking a walk. Exercise can also help you fight some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of nicotine withdrawal like mood swings.
Get extra sleep. You might feel more tired than usual when you’re in the process of quitting smoking because of the effects of nicotine withdrawal. Because nicotine is a stimulant, it can help you feel unnaturally alert and like you need less sleep. Your body has to adapt to not having that artificial stimulation anymore, but you can take heart in knowing that this sleepy phase will pass. If you feel like you really need a nap, take one! In addition to helping you temporarily escape from any discomforts from nicotine withdrawal, it will also help your body to heal.
Strategies for Success: Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal
Have a support system. Going through tough experiences is always easier when you can turn to friends and loved ones for emotional support. Assemble your team of cheerleaders in advance and let them know you might need a listening ear or a distraction during moments when quitting smoking is at its hardest. Ask for their patience if you’re a little grumpy. You’ll find that the people who love you want to help you get through this time because you’ll be so much healthier when you successfully quit smoking.
Reward yourself. Giving up smoking has many benefits for your health, but that doesn’t mean that quitting is its own only reward. Reward yourself with little treats for resisting the urge to smoke. Consider letting yourself have a Hershey’s kiss when you feel like having a cigarette. Or if you’re trying to watch your weight, allow yourself a latte or a magazine as a treat for every pack of cigarettes you don’t buy. Give yourself slightly bigger rewards for more time that you successfully avoid smoking, like a movie date or new CD after a week of not smoking.
Keep your hands busy. That familiar feeling of holding a cigarette between your fingers is one of the most powerful associations for most smokers and is likely to be one of the first ways you’ll feel like something is missing when you quit. Head off this feeling by having things to do to keep your fingers busy. Knitting or crocheting, woodworking or even a game on your phone can be good distractions and replacements for that nervous habit.
Think positively. Your thoughts are powerfully influential. If you tell yourself that quitting smoking is going to be miserable and hard, you’ll have a very difficult experience. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to successfully quit, just that it will be harder than it really has to be. Instead, prime yourself for quit-smoking success by repeatedly telling yourself that you can quit and the process will be challenging but bearable. Believe that you can do it, and you will!