Every smoker knows that smoking poses serious health risks, but the prospect of quitting can be daunting. Nicotine withdrawals can last between three and 14 days, and some smokers find the depression and anxiety that may be associated with quitting smoking unbearable.
If you can ride out the first week or two of misery, though, it really does get better. Within a few weeks, you may be wondering why you ever craved a cigarette at all.
For smokers desperately craving just one more puff, these five tips can help quell the nicotine thirst.
Change Your Routine
Nicotine is highly addictive, but it leaves your body within three days. By the fifth or sixth day, any cravings you feel are psychological, not physical. Changing your daily routine to remove common triggers for smoking can help you cope with these cravings. Try taking a day or two off of work, changing your working hours, or even going on a vacation. When you don’t have constant reminders that you used to smoke, you’re much less likely to miss puffing away your life.
Even the healthiest smokers suffer cardiovascular consequences from their decision to smoke. But within a few hours of quitting, your body begins to repair itself. This makes exercise easier, and exercising without coughing and becoming exhausted can be a powerful reminder that quitting has immediate health benefits. Even better, though, aerobic exercise can help silence even the worst cravings. Try doing a few jumping jacks every time you get a nicotine pang, and aim for a slightly longer workout every day or every other day.
Drink Some Water
The desire to put a cigarette in your mouth can be overwhelming, but try replacing that habit with a healthier one. Sipping cold water through a straw can combat nicotine cravings. Try taking a few deep breaths as you drink, and visualize yourself as a happy, healthy nonsmoker.
Accept the Cravings
When a craving strikes and you need to be doing something else, the energy you need to fight the craving can undermine your ability to work, concentrate, or maintain a decent mood. Rather than fighting cravings, try accepting them. When you feel a craving, tell yourself you’re going to take five minutes to fully experience the craving. Breathe through it while thinking about all the reasons you want to be a nonsmoker. Then get back to what you were doing before the craving came on.
Make Cigarettes Your Enemy
Most smokers conceive of quitting smoking as a time of epic deprivation. If you think of cigarettes as your friend, though, you’ll miss them more when they’re not around. Before you quit smoking, concentrate on every problem cigarettes have caused you—from smoker’s cough to the inability to enjoy a meal without lighting up. When you smoke a cigarette that you don’t enjoy or that gives you a headache, dwell on it. Then, when you give up smoking for good, think of your cravings as nasty reminders of what cigarettes used to do to you.
The cravings aren’t a longing for a friend who helped you through tough times; they’re the voice of harmful nicotine trying to convince you to do something that’s terrible for your body. When you miss cigarettes, think to yourself, “Cigarettes have harmed me so much that I have managed to convince myself that something that tastes bad and is terrible for me is good.” When cigarettes become your enemy, you have little reason to smoke them—even when you get a craving.
Are you working on quitting smoking? You’re not alone—more and more people are getting help with nicotine addiction. Smoking isn’t just a physical habit; it’s a mental health issue. Finding a therapist who works with smoking cessation may help. You can look for a therapist for yourself or a loved one in the GoodTherapy.org directory.
- Withdrawals. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.quit.ie/en/inner/withdrawals
- Withdrawal symptoms and how to cope. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lung.ca/protect-protegez/tobacco-tabagisme/quitting-cesser/withdrawal-sevrage_e.php
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