5 Minute Craving Busters

How to Quickly Curb Cravings to Smoke

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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. As smokers, we all have hundreds of unconscious cues we give ourselves to smoke. When you quit, those cues will trigger smoking urges. Activities like driving, eating, drinking coffee or alcohol, or simply relaxing can cause thoughts of smoking for many of us. Mental urges can and usually do produce the same feelings in our bodies as physical cravings.

Learn How to Overcome Cravings to Smoke 

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 urges to smoke will lose power and be gone before you know it.

Try one of the tips below, or come up with some ideas of your own to suit the situation you are in.

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 can work wonders.

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.

Drink a glass of water. When the thought of smoking hits, chug down a glass of water. Not only will it bust the urge 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.

Make a list of reasons to quit smoking. Reading the reasons why you hated smoking and wanted to stop is a quick and easy way to realign your priorities and stick with your quit. Take five minutes while you're wishing you could smoke and really remember how you felt when you finally decided to quit.

Think about the reasons why you took the plunge and stubbed out that last cigarette. They're just as true now as they were then, but time can soften the edges on them, while junkie thinking tries to convince that's it's okay to smoke just one or just for today.

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.

Grab some support. Visit a smoking cessation support forum, and 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 - a win/win.

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.

Eat a healthy snack. When blood sugar levels drop, cravings to smoke can seem stronger while at the same time, you feel less able to manage them. Eat something nutritious, like a piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a tablespoon of peanut butter on a couple of crackers. Have a glass of water with your snack while you're at it!

Call a friend. Take a few minutes to connect with someone you care about. Your spirits will be lifted, and your mind will be distracted away from thoughts of smoking. Chances are your call will perk them up too.

A Word from Verywell:

Make this your mantra: 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 craving will run its course and pass.

Practice makes perfect with this technique. You'll probably be gritting your teeth initially, but in time you'll find that you can push those thoughts aside more easily. Eventually, smoking thoughts will fade entirely from lack of attention. The day will come when you suddenly realize that you've gone hours or even a whole day without thinking about cigarettes.  When that happens, you'll know the hard work is beginning to pay off.

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.

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.