Why do you need things to do instead of smoking?
One of the biggest side effects of quitting smoking is the cigarette cravings.
Cravings can be extremely overwhelming. They create anxiety, agony, frustration… And the more you resist a smoking urge with willpower… then more you want to smoke!
But what makes a craving SO overwhelming?
Truth be told, a craving is nothing more than a physical sensation just like hunger. There is no physical pain.
No spasms, no cramps, no aches.
So what is it?
What makes the need to smoke so overwhelming is the mental and emotional agony that this need will never subside…. unless you give in and smoke.
But what if.. when you felt like smoking… you did something else instead?
Then you could feel better. And feeling good would make it easier to stay away from cigarettes.
In fact, adopting new healthy habits to replace smoking altogether is what you do during the 4th and last stage of the CBQ method, “Condition Your Smoke-Free Life.”
Think about it. You can’t just forget or suppress your smoking habit, which has been a part of your life for decades.
You have to replace it with another healthy habit.
That’s what the 4th quit smoking stage is all about. Now there are 3 quit smoking stages before that, and 94% of smokers who follow these 4 stages, in the right sequence, quit successfully.
But for now, let’s focus on the 4th quit smoking stage and see what to do instead of smoking so you can occupy your mind and hands during the 3-minute period of a craving – and feel relaxed in the process.
6 Things to Do Instead of Smoking
1. Practice Gratitude
You might wonder what gratitude has to do with cravings and anxiety.
Well, research from The Heart Math Institute and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), shows that regular practice of gratitude can dramatically change your body’s chemistry and reduce stress. Amazing, right?
And here’s the thing: IT’S VERY EASY to practice gratitude so you can feel good without needing cigarettes.
But before I get into that, let me tell you why practicing gratitude can help you beat stress when quitting.
Why Practicing Gratitude is One of the Best Things to Do Instead of Smoking
Gratitude makes you happier.
In a study, scientists asked a group of people to keep a daily journal of all the things they were grateful for. And they asked another group to record all the things that annoyed them.
And guess what?! The people who wrote down the things they were grateful for were MUCH happier, determined, enthusiastic and energetic than the group of people who were focused on the negative aspects of their lives.
2. You cannot feel grateful and stressed at the same time.
It is practically impossible! Also, while feeling grateful you can’t feel depressed, cranky, or angry- which are common when stopping smoking. We can’t experience negative feelings when we feel grateful. Doesn’t happen.
Think about it like this: your stress is like a small child that’s easily distracted. When a child cries and you give them a toy, they will get distracted and stop crying. The same way, gratitude is like a toy that will instantly end any anxious thought.
You will be surprised by how much the practice of gratitude will reduce your anxiety and improve your relationships.
Let’s see how to do it.
Do the following exercise in a quiet place so you can relax and stay away from your smokes.
Step 1. Rate your stress levels
I want you to rate how stressed, worried or anxious you feel, on a scale from 1 to 10. 1 for “relaxed”, and 10 for “I’m freaking out. I need a cigarette now”. This is important, because at the end of this technique we want to see how much you have reduced your stress.
Step 2. Focus on what you have
Close your eyes and begin to focus on something that you have in your life right now. Something that you feel a genuine sense of appreciation for.
If you allowed yourself to be grateful for something, what could it be?
Start by looking at the small things in your life- someone holding the door for you, a conversation with a stranger, a child’s innocent smile, a beautiful day, the fact that you are alive and can see, walk, talk and feel!
As you go on, focus on the bigger things you’re thankful for in your life. It can be your family, friends, work, your home or an adversity you were able to overcome.
It doesn’t matter what you feel thankful for. Remember, you are after the feeling of gratitude. And when you get it, you will feel an immense sense of relief.
If you need some inspiration, click here to listen to these gratitude affirmations.Sometimes, I start my day by listening to this video and it helps me tune into a positive mood. You can find many similar videos on Youtube.
After spending a few minutes on this step, move on to step 3.
Step 3. Write 3 things you are grateful for
Take a piece of paper, a notes app on your phone or a notebook and write 3 things you are grateful for. It doesn’t matter how many things you thought about during step 2. Just select 3 and write them down.
I am thankful for…
I appreciate…. in my life
I am grateful I have….
Later you may want to expand and write why you are thankful for those things.
Tip: Writing will help you keep your hands busy so you can avoid smoking.
Note: Don’t worry about what you write. Your journal is for you.
Here are some examples of gratitude journal.
Step 4. Rate your stress levels again
Stop and check. On a scale from 1 to 10, how stressed do you feel now?
I promise you this: If you do all the above steps, your stress will drop at least 5 points.
So that’s it. Sometimes we are too bothered by the things we don’t have, that we forget to see the things we do have.
So I invite you to do this exercise. It will give you instant results. And if you do it often, you will soon find yourself escaping any stressful feeling in a matter of seconds.
You will be able to do this exercise with your eyes open while driving, while sitting at your desk, before you sleep at night or even while arguing with someone.
2. Visualize the Healthier You
Ok, so the craving strikes.
STEP A: Close your eyes and picture your life 10 years from now as a SMOKER.
Where are you?
What are you doing?
Who are you with?
How is your health?
Make this image really detailed and keep it in your mind for a few moments.
STEP B: Visualize yourself 10 years from now as a NON-SMOKER.
See yourself in the future looking vibrant, healthy and energetic.
You are healthy and strong. You don’t worry about how smoking might be harming your health anymore.
You feel free. Feel how it feels like to take full uninterrupted breaths.
What are you doing with all the money you have saved by quitting smoking?
Picture yourself enjoying your life with your loved ones. And hold on to that beautiful image for a few moments.
Now tell me, which image is more compelling? The first or the second?
The second, of course!
This comparison will help you see past your momentary desire to smoke.
Instead of focusing on the cigarette that’s in front of you… you focus on the big picture and the benefits of quitting smoking: improving your health, having more quality time with your children, watching your grandchildren grow up, and living your life feeling free from cigarettes. You can see what happens when you quit smoking, here.
Booster Tip: While doing this visualization exercise, play around with a stress ball or fake-smoke a straw so that you wouldn’t feel your hands empty without a cigarette.
3. Keep Your Hands Busy
One way to keep your hands busy without smoking is by playing any musical instrument.
Music has a healing effect on our nerves, mind, and soul. Actually, Research shows that music can reduce your quit smoking anxiety.
But playing a musical instrument might have even more to offer when you are stopping smoking.
Because you can keep your hands and mind busy at the same time.
In a nutshell, playing an instrument can help you avoid smoking for 2 reasons:
1. It calms you down and eliminates any quit smoking anxiety
2. It keeps your hands and mind busy.
What instruments can you play?
Any musical instrument will work! If you have a piano, go for it! The cheapest and easiest option is the harmonica. You don’t have to take lessons or anything. Just start playing every time you feel like lighting up.
Not into playing music? Moving on…
4. Grab a Book
Pick a book and get immersed in it.
It can be a fiction, biography, comics, romance, history, poetry, crime or self-development book – whatever makes your heart sing!
And when you have a cigarette craving, start reading and shift your focus to the characters of the book; imagine yourself living inside the book.
The duration of a craving equals to 5-6 book pages for an average reader. So reading will help you avoid smoking easily and effortlessly.
I can promise you this: focusing on the content of the book instead of a cigarette, will reduce your stress.
What kind of book? Any form of a book – physical or digital- will do as long as you hold something while reading. That way, you will occupy your mind and hands at the same time and therefore, avoid smoking.
And since I’m talking about books…
5. Write it Down
Destress by writing down your thoughts.
You can keep a journal of your daily impressions, memoirs, or to-do lists. You could write about your quit attempt. Or you could jot down anything that’s happening in your life.
Expressing yourself will help you discharge negative thinking, worries, and stress.
To sum up: When you have a cigarette craving, take a pen or your phone and start writing your thoughts. Any thoughts on any subject. This is one of the best habits to replace smoking, and it will definitely keep you busy until the craving is over.
Remember that it doesn’t matter what you write or how good your writing is. The important thing is to keep your hands and mind busy so that you wouldn’t smoke.
Booster Tip: While writing your journal (or reading your book)…. sip on a tea. Drinking something will give you oral satisfaction, so it will be even easier to keep cigarettes away from your mouth.
If you want to know how to quit smoking without gaining weight and while keeping yourself busy, let’s go to the next point.
6. Move Your Body
According to this study published in the journal Addiction:
“Relatively small doses of exercise should be recommended as an aid to managing cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms.”
This could be riding a bike, jogging, playing tennis or even releasing your tension to a punching bag. Or even taking a 10-minute walk!
Really, anything will do as long as you move your body.
While your heart is pumping, you won’t even realize you have a craving! It’s science.
Also, by exercising you are:
- Letting go of your daily stress by releasing toxins and increasing the feel-good chemicals in your brain. If you are worried that you will have increased anxiety after quitting smoking, then make sure you add some exercise to your weekly schedule.
- Burning calories. Not only you won’t need to resort to food to distract yourself from smoking… but you will also get slimmer!
One more thing: my sincere advice is to make these activities habitual. Because the more cigarettes you avoid, the more confident you feel about quitting smoking once and for all.
Is Knowing What Things to Do Instead of Smoking Enough to Help You Quit?
Keeping yourself busy during a craving and replacing smoking with another habit is very important for your quit smoking success.
But all that happens in the last quit smoking stage: “Condition Your Smoke Free Life”; the stage where you make sure you remain a non-smoker and you don’t relapse.
Before this last stage, there are 3 more stages that you need to go through.
If you don’t follow all the 4 stages of quitting smoking, then you might quit feeling deprived, or think that you are not ready or even struggle with quit smoking symptoms like loss of concentration, sleep imbalances or irritation.
But you don’t have to!
If you go through the 4 stop smoking stages, then you will quit smoking easily, naturally and permanently.
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