Smoking causes one in five deaths in adults over the age of 35 in the UK, and 50% of long-term smokers die of smoking-related illness every year. The majority of smokers – a staggering 70%, in fact – also express they want to stop.
Making the decision to quit is a big step, but standing steadfast when nicotine cravings hit is no walk in the park. Cravings are triggered by both the physical addiction to nicotine and the psychological habits of smoking. Despite feeling intense and often overwhelming when they happen, cravings are short-lived – they only last around three to five minutes, and they will wane.
When the yearning to light up strikes, adopt these simple coping mechanisms to help you reach your smoke-free goal:
Smoking is an expensive habit. Puffing 20 cigarettes a day costs more than £65 a week, £260 a month and £3,120 a year! Reminding yourself that you are making big savings can be a great motivator. Have a stash of coins equivalent to what you would normally spend at your tobacconists, and pop some in a piggy bank or savings jar every time you feel like a cigarette. Seeing the cash rack up for that dream holiday, new drive or even a slap-up meal come the weekend will focus your mind on the positive benefits of quitting until cravings pass.
Busy your mouth
Unless you are an e-cigarette user, the void of having an oral fix will hit hard when you quit. Be prepared for those moments when the oral addiction puts you to the test, and have a selection of alternatives at hand. Occupy your mouth with a piece of gum or munch on some raw vegetable sticks. Avoid any spicy or sugary bites though – they can actually intensify smoking cravings.
Keep H20 on tap
In addition to helping plug mental cravings, drinking water will also boost your hydration and minimise the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal that you are likely to experience. However, don’t be tempted to substitute water with alcohol or caffeine-rich beverages – they won’t have the same positive health benefits, and they could even trigger a relapse if you are used to smoking when you have a cup of coffee at work or a glass of wine with friends.
Make some moves
Don’t try to sit your cravings out – get moving! Exercise is a great crave-cruncher that will release feel-good endorphins into your body, curb anxiety and quieten your urge to smoke. It doesn’t need to be a full-on gym routine – a brisk walk or climbing a flight of stairs will help keep you on your no-tobacco track.
Flex your brain
It is important to stop your mind from totally fixating on the fact that you want a nicotine hit, so get into the habit of distracting your head with a mental workout. Crosswords or a go on your favourite smartphone game will help make such moments pass without caving to your cravings.
Take a mental vacation
Whether it is a beautiful white-sand beach, tranquil garden or exotic waterscape, train your mind to visualise an environment that feels relaxing for you. When smoking cravings arise, simply close your eyes, gently regulate your breathing and mentally transport yourself to your place of sanctuary. It may sound silly, but it can be an effective way to disconnect from your urge to smoke, and you can do it wherever you are.