Quitting smoking can be a difficult change to make. This is due to the physical effects of nicotine withdrawal on the body and also the habitual changes quitting will have on the way you live your life.
This page will give you hints and tips to help you navigate the difficulties of quitting to successfully become a non-smoker
Discover Your Triggers – Think about the cigarettes you have and ask yourself: are there certain times and activities where you smoke? Are there certain feelings that lead you to smoke, such as stress or boredom? Do you tend to smoke around particular people?
Tracking these by writing them down can be helpful to notice patterns.
Make a Plan – Once you have noticed patterns in your behaviours / feelings, or if you already know areas where you want to make changes, it’s a good idea to prepare some coping strategies to help you overcome them without smoking. Writing this down will help, as well as telling people so they can support you.
Set a Quit Date – Setting a quit date will give you a point to work towards – ideally no more than a week or two away. Be realistic with the date: give yourself time to prepare but don’t put it off too long or else you risk losing motivation.
Get rid of reminders – Wash all of your clothes, and furniture if possible, to remove the smoke smell; clean out the car; get rid of smoking paraphernalia like ashtrays, matches and lighters and put your medication or coping strategies in easy-to-reach places.
Download the ‘My Quit Route’ App – The app has many features which can help your journey, including: money saving calculator, health benefits, personal motivational images and is accessible 24 hours a day.
You may have noticed that certain daily activities and routines can lead you to smoking, but subtle changes can have a big impact.
Morning – Do you have a cigarette with tea or coffee in the morning? Try having a shower first or changing what you drink. Exercising first thing can also help to energise you and start your day positively.
After Meals – If you often smoke after meals, try replacing the cigarette with another activity such as going for a short walk or do the clearing up straight away.
Driving – Do you smoke at the same time during your journeys? Through habit, you may associate certain routes with smoking. Why not try turning the radio up and singing along or taking a drink with you. Try a different route, car-sharing or even using a different mode of transport (you can’t smoke on public transport).
Before Bed – Do you smoke at the same time each evening before bed? Why not try going to bed a little earlier and reading a book or reflect on how well you have done that day and your hopes for tomorrow; the ‘My Quit Route’ app can help with this.
COPING WITH CRAVINGS
Most cravings pass within five to ten minutes. If it is too uncomfortable to wait out, try some of the following techniques:
Focus on Motivation – What do you dislike about smoking? What things are you missing out on when you go out to smoke? What effect is smoking having on your health? How is it impacting your family? Are you trying to save money? Outlining why you are quitting will keep you motivated when you might be struggling.
Read – Holding a book (or using a phone or computer) will keep your hands busy whilst the content will distract you from the craving.
Housework – This physical activity will keep you focused on a completely different task, occupy your hands and help to remove any lingering smoke smells – you can also do it in short bursts to distract as the craving passes before continuing with your day.
Exercise – We all know exercise is good for you – but it provides a good distraction from cravings as you are channelling that energy into something productive. Even short periods of physical activity can reduce the urge to smoke, such as going for a short walk or doing 10 press-ups. Exercise can also help limit weight gain, cope with stress and improve your mood.
Do you need to keep your hands and mouth busy? People often miss the hand-to-mouth habit when they quit smoking. Playing with your phone or using a fidget toy will give your hands something to do or try chewing gum / having a mint. Why not make a phone call to friends or family.
Use your NRT – If you are using Nicotine Replacement Therapy, keep it to hand and use regularly, especially when you get a craving.
One of the biggest concerns for people when quitting smoking is putting on weight. Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and so removing/reducing it from your body, you will find that your taste buds are reawakened, and your body falls into more normal eating habits.
Sip Water – Simple but effective – your body might actually be thirsty.
Snack on Healthy Food – If you do need to snack, stick to healthy, low-calorie snacks such as fruit or vegetable sticks.
Keep Track of What You Eat – Having an awareness of what you are eating can help you to recognise if any unhealthy habits are forming.
Use Other Coping Strategies – Eating is an easy and effective coping strategy, however, it is good to have a variety of coping strategies to avoid eating too much.
STRUGGLING WITH STRESS
Breathe – Focusing on your breathing and take a deep breath as this will help slow down your heart rate and relax the body, helping to regain a calmer mindset and relieve stress.
Walk Away – Removing yourself from the stressful environment completely will give you a break and help you to relax.
Distract Yourself – The ‘My Quit Route’ app has a dedicated section with mindfulness videos which can help.
Limit Going Out – Smoking and alcohol often go hand-in-hand for most people. Try reducing going out and drinking in the first few weeks to reduce temptation to smoke.
Go with a Plan – Think about the night ahead: Where are you going? What are you doing? Are there places for you to go when other people smoke? Remember to take your NRT if you are using it, as well as any other coping strategies you can use in that situation.
Stay Inside – Even if you’re the only non-smoker in the group, staying inside will keep you away from the temptations of ‘just having one’.
Stay Active – Physical activity increases mood – whether it’s walking, exercising, dancing or playing football in the garden with your children.
Talk to Someone – If you allow your feelings to build too much internally, you may slip into habits of coping with a cigarette. Call a family member or friend and talk through how you’re feeling or is there is someone at work you can talk to?
Reward Yourself – Try not to look at quitting smoking as what you’re giving up, but what you are gaining. Whether they are spontaneous or planned, have something to look forward to, to keep you motivated. Perhaps, you could open a bank account for the money you are saving and put it towards things like a holiday, day trips, clothes or pampering treats.
Think of Positives – Stopping smoking will be one of the best things you do for your health and can also have positive impacts on other areas of your life such as more time, your appearance and finance. See our page on health improvements for more information.
Practise Makes Perfect – Slips are common and doesn’t mean you’ve relapsed – you just need to make sure that you learn from this and don’t fall into the trap of ‘just one won’t hurt’. Get back on track immediately to avoid spiralling into bad habits. Ask yourself, what led to this slip? And what can I do differently next time? Don’t beat yourself up – move forward and keep working towards your goal.
Learn from Previous Attempts – Have you tried quitting before? What went wrong with that attempt? Was it a unique situation (such as the breakdown of a relationship) or something that could have been avoided (such as letting your guard down on a night out)? Were you using the correct products to support your quit? Talk to the Stop Smoking Service or your Doctors Surgery about all the choices of products as they can help guide you to the best option for you.