Let’s face it: if it was easy to quit smoking, just about everybody would do it. But everybody who has tried to quit knows that once you make the decision to quit, you still have to learn how to stop smoking cravings—or at least learn to deal with them without caving in and lighting up. And the fact is, not all urges to smoke arise from the physiological part of us; smoking is a lifestyle, and it contains certain rituals and customs that smokers find comforting. Drug replacement therapies and nicotine patches won’t help with this part of the process. But the good news is that there are some behavioral changes smokers can make to address these pitfalls that don’t cost anything. Therefore, in many ways, you can learn how to stop smoking for free!
Addressing the Physical Symptoms
Almost everyone has heard the horror stories: dizziness, irritability, sleep problems, weight gain… While many of the more severe physical withdrawal symptoms usually last a few weeks at most, figuring out how to stop smoking cravings involves more than just weathering this initial storm. However, drug therapies with FDA-approved substances like bupropion (“Zyban”) and varenicline (“Chantix“) can help smokers who are figuring out how to stop smoking cravings. Nicotine gums, patches, and nasal sprays are other ways to gradually reduce the body’s dependence on nicotine and deal with the physical aspects of smoking cessation.
The Psychological Symptoms
But there’s another side to smoking, as all smokers know. Smokers often derive actual emotional comfort from the rituals associated with smoking: the after-dinner cigarette; the smoke break at work; the leisurely smoke on the patio; the quick smoke to help you focus or summon the energy for a task… the absence of these comforting behaviors is often as terrifying to smokers who are working through how to stop smoking cravings as the physical withdrawal symptoms—if not more so! Rather than just “do without,” though, it’s often helpful for smokers to substitute other behaviors in the “gaps” left when smoking ceases. Instead of an after-dinner smoke, try taking a brisk walk, either alone or with a friend or family member. Keep hard candies on your desk at work to give you something besides a cigarette to reach for when you’re trying to concentrate. Keep toothpicks handy, to occupy your fingers and your mouth, instead of a smoke. Have someone you can call—a support group member, an understanding friend, a family member—and just talk to when the urge to smoke becomes powerful.