10 Ways to Overcome Cigarette Cravings in 5 Minutes

Cravings are a call, not a command

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When you first quit cigarettes, it may feel as if your 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 off the blocks strongly and decrease gradually until they're finally 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. They are usually experienced as a tightness in the throat or belly, accompanied by feelings of tension or anxiety.
  • Psychological cravings are triggered by the everyday events in your life. As a smoker, you will have developed a plethora of cues that signal the need for a cigarette. It may that you light up whenever you are faced with stress or have developed the habit of smoking when driving, eating, or socializing. When you quit, those subconscious cues can trigger urges that are just as profound as physical ones.

The best rule of thumb is to deal with cravings as they come, one by one. To do so requires you to interrupt your thought pattern at the moment the craving hits. Simply shift gears and do something entirely different for a few minutes. By doing so, you can redirect your focus from the physical or psychological craving as opposed to sitting there and allowing it to consume your thoughts.

Here are 10 simple tips that can help:

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 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.

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 overcome cravings.

This is a form of mind-body therapy 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.

We often don't realize how dehydrated we can get during the course of a day. When this happens, it can trigger feelings of anxiety which, in turn, trigger the urge to smoke. To this end, if a craving suddenly strikes, do yourself a favor and chug down a tall glass of water.

It's important to remember that you need at least eight glasses of water per day to keep yourself fully hydrated. By doing so, your body will function better without any metabolic ups and downs that instigate a craving. 

List your reasons for quitting.

This is a simple affirmation that allows you to overcome your ill emotions with hard intellect. By weighing the pros and cons, you remind 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. ("It was only one cigarette.") If you make a habit of penning the list every time an urge hits, such as in a journal or diary, you may even be able to see how much progress you are making.

Have a portable hobby.

This 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.

On the other hand, avoid action-packed video games or any activity that is more likely to raise your blood pressure than lower it. Anxiety is 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, take the healthy choice and 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. Not only will these cause you to pack on the pounds, they can send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride and make cravings worst.

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, your mind will be distracted away 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 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.

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 your motivation.

In the end, it is important to remind yourself that craving is a call, not a command. By focusing on what really matters—your family, your friends, your future—you can reframe the short-term cravings a means to a better end. 

The important thing is to keep positive. You will get there.