Addiction Nicotine Use Nicotine Withdrawal How to Overcome Cigarette Urges in Just 5 Minutes By Terry Martin Terry Martin Facebook Twitter Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 06, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print When you first quit cigarettes, it may feel as if every waking moment is consumed with one thought and one thought alone: the urge to smoke. If you pay close attention though, you'll notice that most cravings last only around three to five minutes. They tend to come on strongly and decrease gradually until they're finally gone. The best rule of thumb is to deal with cravings as they come, one by one. This approach requires that you interrupt your thought pattern the moment the craving hits. Simply shift gears and do something entirely different for a few minutes. By changing your focus, you can redirect your focus from the physical or psychological craving as opposed to allowing it to consume your thoughts. Verywell / JR Bee Types of Cigarette Cravings There are two types of cravings people experience in the early days of smoking cessation: Physical cravings: Your body's reaction to nicotine withdrawal can be felt physically. Physical cravings are usually experienced as a tightness in the throat or belly, accompanied by feelings of tension or anxiety. Psychological cravings: These are triggered by everyday events. People who smoke develop a number of cues that signal the need for a cigarette. Perhaps you light up whenever facing stress or smoke while driving, eating, drinking, or socializing. When you quit, those subconscious cues trigger profound urges. How to Overcome Cigarette Cravings Here are 12 simple ways to manage physical and psychological cravings and gain more control over your ability to quit. Go for a Walk Sitting still only allows you to stew in your emotions. Get up and move about. If you can, go outside and take a five-minute walk around the block, breathing deeply as you go. A simple trick is to breathe with your diaphragm rather than your chest (a technique known as "belly breathing"). You'll be able to get more air in and out of the lungs if you do, and it may even help ease the physical symptoms of craving. Take a Mental Vacation Close your eyes. Now, create a place or situation in your mind that is calming and can divert your thoughts from the discomfort you may be feeling. This is a practice better known as guided imagery. It is a stress-reduction technique best done in a room that is quiet and not overly bright. The aim of the practice is to learn how to control your emotions rather than letting your emotions control you. Using Guided Imagery for Stress Take a Deep Breath Breathing is one of those unconscious functions we take for granted. But, if you take a few minutes to control the rate and method of your breathing, inhaling and exhaling with mindfulness, it can become a powerful tool to help you overcome cravings. This is a form of mind-body therapy in yoga known as pranayama in which you focus on the sensation of breathing as you control the pace of your inhalations and exhalations. Doing this for five minutes not only has a meditative effect but can leave you feeling calmer and fully refreshed. Drink a Tall Glass of Water It can be easy not to realize how dehydrated you can get during the course of a day. When this happens, it can trigger feelings of anxiety which, in turn, can trigger the urge to smoke. If a craving suddenly strikes, try drinking a tall glass of water. List Your Reasons for Quitting Listing your reasons can become a simple affirmation that allows you to overcome your ill emotions with hard intellect. By weighing the pros and cons, you remind yourself that there are benefits and consequences to every action. Writing it down helps reaffirm why you began this journey and what you need to do to succeed. Moreover, putting it on paper will not only clarify your thoughts but prevent you from rationalizing any slips you may experience (such as "it was only one cigarette.") If you make a habit of penning the list in a journal or diary every time an urge hits, you may even be able to see how much progress you are making. Have a Portable Hobby This strategy is all about distraction. Find something you enjoy doing that's easy to pick up and put down at a moment's notice. You could work a crossword puzzle or read a few pages from a novel. If you knit or crochet, you carry around a simple project to keep your hands busy and away from cigarettes. Avoid action-packed video games or any activity that is more likely to raise your blood pressure than lower it. Anxiety or excitement can be a prime trigger for smoking that you need to avoid rather than incite. Eat a Healthy Snack When blood sugar levels drop, the urge to smoke can seem stronger than ever. It can even be hard sometimes to distinguish between the craving for sugar and the craving for tobacco. If faced with the urge to smoke, grab a nutritious snack like a piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a tablespoon of peanut butter on a couple of saltines. On the other hand, avoid baked goods, chips, and candy bars that are often packed with saturated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, or refined carbohydrates. These snacks can send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride and make cravings worse. Go to a Smoke-Free Location Being around others when they're smoking can trigger your own cigarette cravings. If you find that someone lights up a cigarette near you, change locations. If you're standing outside and someone is smoking near you, put some distance between you and that person by stepping into the closest store or shop to browse the aisles instead. Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is an option to help reduce cravings. NRT administers small amounts of nicotine without the other toxins in cigarettes. NRT comes in gum, patches for your skin, lozenges, mouth spray, and other forms. Talk to a doctor about whether NRT is the right choice for you. Call a Friend If you are in distress, why go it alone? Instead, take a few minutes to connect with someone you care about. Not only will your spirits be lifted, but your mind will also be distracted from any thoughts of smoking. Moreover, if you share your feelings with a friend or loved one, you allow them to be part of the solution. Doing so may also lift their spirits, as well. Find Online Support If you can't get away from your desk but are near a computer, you can access a number of smoking cessation forums and read how others have dealt with and survived nicotine withdrawal in the early days of quitting. You can even post a message if there is something specific you want to discuss. You'll be surprised at how willing people are to offer support if you ask. Knowing that someone has experienced the same things as you—and has succeeded in kicking the habit—may be just the affirmation you need to push past the craving. The Best Online Resources for Smoking Cessation Practice Gratitude 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 your motivation. A Word From Verywell In the end, it is important to remind yourself that a craving is a call, not a command. By focusing on what really matters—your family, your friends, and your future—you can reframe a short-term craving as a means to a better end. The important thing is to keep positive. You will get there. The 5 Ds for Smoking Cessation 9 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Caraballo RS, Shafer PR, Patel D, Davis KC, McAfee TA. Quit methods used by US adult cigarette smokers, 2014–2016. Prev Chronic Dis. 2017;14:E32. Published 2017 Apr 13. doi:10.5888/pcd14.160600 Benowitz NL. Pharmacology of nicotine: Addiction, smoking-induced disease, and therapeutics. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2009;49:57–71. doi:10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.48.113006.094742 Lotfalian S, Spears CA, Juliano LM. The effects of mindfulness-based yogic breathing on craving, affect, and smoking behavior. Psychol Addict Behav. 2020;34(2):351-359. doi:10.1037/adb0000536 Wynd CA. Guided health imagery for smoking cessation and long-term abstinence. J Nurs Scholarsh. 2005;37(3):245-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.2005.00042.x Zaccaro A, Piarulli A, Laurino M, et al. How breath-control can change your life: A systematic review on psycho-physiological correlates of slow breathing. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018;12:353. Published 2018 Sep 7. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353 Pesta DH, Angadi SS, Burtscher M, Roberts CK. The effects of caffeine, nicotine, ethanol, and tetrahydrocannabinol on exercise performance. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2013;10(1):71. Published 2013 Dec 13. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-10-71 West R. Glucose for smoking cessation: Does it have a role?. CNS Drugs. 2001;15(4):261-5. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200115040-00001 National Institutes of Health. How to manage cravings. Selby P, van Mierlo T, Voci SC, Parent D, Cunningham JA. Online social and professional support for smokers trying to quit: An exploration of first time posts from 2562 members. J Med Internet Res. 2010;12(3):e34. doi:10.2196/jmir.1340 By Terry Martin Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. 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