How You Can Prepare to Quit Smoking

Cigarette snapped in half on top of a calendar with "Quit!" written on it.

A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to smoking cessation. It gets you into the mindset to quit smoking and will help you be ready for the day you will have your last cigarette.

Here are a few ways you can empower yourself to quit smoking and prepare for the challenges of smoking cessation.

Plan Ahead (But Not Too Far)

"Schedule" your quit date for no more than a week or two ahead of time. You're likely to lose momentum if you try to plan ahead more than that.

While you can't predict the future, try to pick a day that is not likely to be stressful (for example, you might want to avoid quitting on the same day that you have to give a big presentation at work).

According to the American Lung Association, the first week to 10 days after you have your last cigarette will probably be the hardest.

Choose the Best Plan for You

Before you start making a quit plan, it's important to understand that there's no one plan that will work for everyone. What may have worked for a friend or loved one who quit might not work for you.

One of the first decisions you'll need to make is how you are going to quit. While some people choose to go "cold turkey" and completely stop smoking, others find that a more gradual approach (such as smoking fewer cigarettes each day or not smoking a full cigarette) is better for them.

While you might feel frustrated and overwhelmed as you consider your options, be open and honest about your reality. What you need to quit successfully might not be what someone else needs. For example, just because your best friend didn't use a patch to help them quit doesn't mean it might not be very helpful for you.

Try not to compare your quitting journey to that of others. Remember, you probably didn't start smoking for the same reasons that they did and you may have different motivations for quitting, too. Your needs along the way will also be unique.

Get Educated

An educated quit is a successful quit, so study up on nicotine addiction. Knowledge is a vital part of a successful quit program—from how smoking affects your health to what to expect as you heal.

Many smokers ignore the reality of the dangers of smoking (sometimes referred to as smoker's denial). Learning the facts forces you to take the blinders off.

The sooner you can take an honest look at your addiction, the quicker you'll be able to start on the road to recovery.

Identify Your Triggers

Looking at your specific smoking habit should be part of your overall smoking education. Understanding what makes you want to smoke (or make you feel like you need a cigarette) is an important part of preparing yourself to quit and remain smoke-free. Every smoker has their own triggers, but there are some that are common.

Common Triggers for Smokers

  • Alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs
  • Bars, restaurants, or other public places where smoking is allowed
  • Other smokers
  • Smoking paraphernalia (lighters, ashtrays)
  • Stress, being overtired, and other emotional or physical triggers

There might also be aspects of your daily routine that you have come to strongly associate with having a cigarette, such as your drive to work or lunch break. It's not likely that you'll be able to completely avoid these situational triggers, but you can find ways to cope with them.

For example, you might try changing the route you take to get to work or carpooling with a non-smoking coworker. You could also take a walk on your lunch break, read a book, or play a puzzle game on your phone.

Find Support

If you aren't sure where to start, the smoking cessation support community can be a big help. You can connect with people who are at all stages of recovery. Many will be willing to share their experiences, wisdom, and advice with you.

If you have a smartphone, you'll find plenty of apps that are designed to support users through the smoking cessation process. You can also call, text, or message support hotlines (called "quitlines") for help.

Start a Quit Journal

A journal can be a terrific quit aid. You could make your first entry a list of reasons that you want to quit smoking. As you progress, you can use your journal to log your daily progress. Make an effort to jot down a couple of sentences about your day before you go to bed each night. 

You might have an off day weeks down the road when smoking seems to be all you can think about. Looking back in your journal to your first smoke-free days can give you perspective on your progress. You might feel less down about having a bad day after you reflect on how far you've come.

Get Creative With Motivation

In the same way that your motivation to quit smoking will be different from another person's, the things that will keep you motivated and help you stay smoke-free will be unique to you.

Your journal can also be a good place to keep a running list of rewards and "craving buster" activities.

  • Rewards. Small rewards for making it through the day smoke-free are a good way to reinforce your commitment to quitting. They can also help to offset the instant gratification you were receiving every time you lit up. Your rewards can be simple things like a long, hot bath or going out to eat. Try to make them fun and relaxing or rejuvenating.
  • Craving Busters. Create a list of activities that you can do at a moment's notice when the urge to smoke surfaces. The idea is to quickly jolt yourself out of the negative thought pattern that comes with cravings by changing your activity. Five minutes is long enough to shake a craving loose and having a handy list of activities will help you take control fast.

For some people, part of the appeal of smoking is simply that it's something to do with your mouth and hands. Activities like chewing gum or using a fidget toy are options you might try to replace the "feel" of picking up, holding, and smoking a cigarette.

Take Care of Your Mind and Body

Smoking cessation can be hard on your body and your mind. Before you start your quitting journey, plan how you will care of yourself physically and emotionally.

Regular exercise, adequate sleep, a nutritious diet, healthy coping strategies, and people in your life that you can turn to for support are all essential to the healing process.

If this is the first time you are trying to quit smoking, you might feel frustrated and disappointed if you aren't successful. Try not to be too hard on yourself. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it often takes people multiple attempts to quit smoking for good.

Talk to Your Provider

Make an appointment with your health care provider for a physical and let them know that you plan to quit smoking. Ask them about quit aids and get their advice about the product that would be best for you.

You should also ask your provider about whether you might benefit from a vitamin supplement. Smoking depletes nutrients from your body. A multivitamin can give you a head start on rebuilding your health.

These simple steps will get you thinking in practical terms about quitting. From there, you can line up some tools to help you manage the first days of smoking cessation.

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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.
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