When you quit smoking, you’re going to have cravings. Nicotine reinforces people to continue using it, and people feel the withdrawal effects from nicotine when they stop. Managing your smoking cravings is important, in order to be important in quitting smoking.
What can you do when you really have an urge or craving for a cigarette? One thing to keep in mind is that these urges to smoke will come and go — sometimes they will be really strong and other times you may not even notice them.
Tips to Help Your Smoking Cravings
- Keep other things around instead of cigarettes. Try carrots, pickles,
sunflower seeds, apples, celery, raisins, or sugarfree gum.
- Wash your hands or the dishes when you want a cigarette very badly.
Or take a shower.
- Learn to relax quickly by taking deep breaths.
- Take 10 slow, deep breaths and hold the last one.
- Then breathe out slowly.
- Relax all of your muscles.
- Picture a soothing, pleasant scene.
- Just get away from it all for a moment.
- Think only about that peaceful image and nothing else.
- Light incense or a candle instead of a cigarette.
Where you are and what is going on can make you crave a cigarette. A change of scene can really help. Go outside, or go to a different room. You can also try changing what you are doing.
No matter what you do, don’t fall into the false belief that, “Just one won’t hurt.” It will hurt. It will undo your work so far.
Remember: Trying something to beat the urge is always better than trying nothing.
Find New Things To Do
Starting today you may want to create some new habits. Here are some things you might try:
- Swimming, jogging, playing tennis, bike riding, or shooting baskets. It’s hard to smoke and do these things at the same time. How about walking your dog?
- Keep your hands busy. Do crossword puzzles or needlework. Paint. Do woodworking, gardening, or household chores. You can also write a letter or paint your nails.
- Enjoy having a clean tasting mouth. Brush your teeth often and use mouthwash.
- Take a stretch when you’re tempted to reach for a cigarette.
Set aside time for the activities that satisfy you and mean the most to you. There are natural breaks even during a busy day. After dinner, first thing in the morning, or just before bed are good examples. You’ll also need plenty of rest while you get used to your smoke-free lifestyle.
Remember the Instant Rewards of Quitting
Your body begins to heal within 20 minutes after your last cigarette. The poison gas and nicotine start to leave your body. Your pulse rate goes back to normal. The oxygen in your blood rises to a normal level.
Within a few days you may notice other things:
- Your senses of taste and smell are better.
- You can breathe easier.
- Your “smoker’s hack” starts to go away. (You may keep coughing for a while, though.)
The nicotine leaves your body within three days. Your body starts to repair itself. At first, you may feel worse instead of better. Withdrawal feelings can be hard. But they are a sign that your body is healing.
The Long-term Rewards of Quitting
Tobacco use in the United States causes more than 450,000 deaths each year. Of those deaths, 170,000 are from cancer.
After you’ve quit, you’ve added healthy, full days to each year of your life. You’ve greatly lowered your risk of death from lung cancer and other diseases including:
- Heart disease
- Chronic bronchitis
- At least 13 other kinds of cancer
You’ve also cut back on dangerous secondhand smoke for your loved ones. Finally, by quitting smoking, you’re setting a good example. You’re showing young people that a life without cigarettes is a longer, healthier, happier life.
This article uses material first published by the National Cancer Institute.