When you first quit smoking, it may feel like your day is one long, continual urge for a cigarette. If you pay close attention though, you’ll notice that most cravings to smoke last only three to five minutes. They tend to come off the blocks strong, and decrease gradually until they’re gone.
There are two types of cravings people experience in the early days of smoking cessation.
Physical cravings are your body’s reaction to nicotine withdrawal. You may feel a tightness in your throat or belly, accompanied by feelings of tension or mild anxiety.
Psychological cravings are triggered by the events in your daily life. We all have hundreds of unconscious cues we give ourselves to smoke. When you quit, those cues will trigger the urge. Activities like driving, eating, drinking coffee or alcohol, or simply relaxing can trigger thoughts of smoking for many of us. Mental urges can and usually do produce the same feelings in our bodies as physical cravings.
Keep things simple.
Curb cravings as they come, one by one. The most effective way to do that is to interrupt your thought pattern on the spot. Shift gears and do something different for a few minutes. Change your activity, either mentally or physically, and the craving will lose its power and be gone before you know it. Try one of the tips below, or come up with some of your own to suit the situation.
1) Go for a walk.
Get up and move. If you can, go outside for a five-minute walk. Do a lap around the block or the building, breathing deeply as you go. A little exercise and a change of scenery helps!
2) Take a mini mental vacation.
Close your eyes. Create a place in your mind that you can visualize when you need to slow down and relax. It could be a real location or not, but visualize it in detail and make it yours. Go to this place every time you do this exercise so that it becomes familiar and comfortable. As you settle in, start to follow your breathing, and slow it down gradually. Breathe deeply in and out for three to five minutes.
3) Drink a glass of water.
When a craving hits, chug down a glass of water. Not only will it help you bust your craving to smoke, it will help you physically. Many of us are mildly dehydrated without knowing it, so adding some water to your diet is a good idea. Good hydration will help your metabolism work more efficiently and you’ll feel better overall. Water is one of nature’s finest quit aids; use it to your advantage.
4) Review your list of reasons to quit smoking.
Reading your list is a quick and easy way to remember your priorities for quitting. Take five minutes while you’re wishing you could smoke and remember how you felt when you decided to quit. Think about the reasons why you finally took the plunge and stubbed out that last cigarette. Your reasons are just as true now as they were then.
5) Have a portable hobby.
Find something you enjoy doing that’s easy to pick up and put down at a moment’s notice. Keep it handy to fill a five-minute break here and there. You could work a crossword puzzle or read a few pages of a novel. If you knit or crochet, carry a simple project around with you.
6) Grab some support.
Visit the support forum here at About.com Smoking Cessation. Do a little reading about how others deal with nicotine withdrawal and the early days of quitting tobacco. Post a message asking for support, and jump in to help others who may be struggling. When you step outside of your own discomfort and focus on helping someone else with theirs, it can be the best medicine in the world. Tell them that they can do it and you’ll be giving yourself the same message. It’s a win/win!
7) Count your blessings.
Take a few minutes to reflect on all of the things in your life that you’re grateful for. It’s a simple, yet powerful way to pull yourself out of a slump and renew motivation.
8) Eat a healthy snack.
When blood sugar levels drop, cravings to smoke can seem more powerful while you feel less able to manage them. Eat something nutritious, such as a piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a tablespoon of peanut butter on a couple of crackers. You’ll feel refreshed and stronger.
9) Call a friend.
Take a few minutes to connect with someone you care about. Your spirits will be lifted, and chances are you’ll perk them up too.
10) Accept and let it go.
Cravings to smoke are not commands. How you choose to react to a craving can either increase or decrease its power over you. Try a little reverse psychology – instead of tensing up for a fight when the urge to smoke hits, relax and mentally lean into it. Let the craving wash over you, and accept it as a sign of healing, which is just what it is. The urge will run its course and pass. Practice makes perfect with this technique. You’ll get the hang of it and will find it empowering.
Have some faith, and trust in the process of recovery from nicotine addiction. Thousands of people no different than yourself quit smoking successfully every day of the year. They don’t possess any special qualities that you don’t have. Everything you need to quit smoking once and for all is within you right now. Believe in yourself and be patient! Take the time you need to heal and learn how to live your life smoke-free. You’ll get there just as surely as the next person.