It’s one thing to give up smoking, but for some people staying smoke-free is the biggest challenge of all.
Don’t fret – we’ve got some great coping strategies to help you when you feel the need to reach for a cigarette.
Ten ways to take your mind off smoking
- Get moving. A great way to take your mind off wanting to smoke is to take some light exercise. If you don’t have the space or time for a walk, try this simple Sofa Workout:
You could also try some basic yoga or Pilates moves, or even something a bit more energetic. Check out the free NHS Fitness Studio videos for instant access to your own online instructor:
- Keep breathing. It may seem like a cliché, but deep breathing exercises really can help you to stay calm and focused, and help keep cravings at bay. Try these simple two minute versions, which can be done anywhere, or if you have a bit more time try some top breathing and relaxation tips.
- Have a laugh. A great way to take your mind off things is to watch a comedy DVD, catch up on your favourite sitcom or read a joke book. Not got anything to hand? Search YouTube for your favourite clips, and look for lists of the funniest jokes online.
- Get appy. Apps are a great way to distract your mind and keep your hands busy. Try downloading a free single player game on your phone, or look for free word games, Sudoku and quiz apps. If you fancy something a bit more involved, and Pokemon Go isn’t quite your thing, there are plenty of exciting new augmented reality apps available for free: Zombies, Run!, Project tango, Temple Treasure Hunt and Parallel Kingdom are some of the most popular. Don’t forget, smoke-free apps and health apps can also really keep you inspired – try OneYou.
- Game on. Not a fan of apps and online games? Try a more traditional pastime. Solitaire or La Belle Lucie are great single-player card games [find out how to play here]. Play a board game with a friend, or if you’ve not got an opponent why not borrow or buy a second-hand jigsaw puzzle?
- Live and learn. One way to take advantage of your recently acquired smoke-free time is to learn something new. Coursera and The Open University have hundreds of online free courses, in everything from languages to literacy, forensic psychology to finance.
- Positive thinking. Some people find it helpful to write their own ‘Top 10’. 10 things you are grateful for, 10 things you couldn’t live without, 10 things that make you happy. You could also start writing down your favourite memories in a little note book, or recalling your happiest times. It also helps to write down the things you’d still like to achieve.
- Read and listen. A good book or a magazine can be a really helpful way to distract your thoughts, and listening to your favourite music is always a winner. But have you tried downloading free ebooks or free audiobooks? There are plenty of classic books available for free online, or you could search your local library for something a bit different.
- New tricks. Ever fancied a new hobby? If you like the sound of drawing, taking photographs or even patchwork quilting, why not give it a try? Some skills can be self-taught through trial and error, or you could find a step by step guide online or in a guide book. If you’ve also ever wanted to plant some herbs, learn to cook or give origami a go – now’s the time!
- Plan your future. If you’re feeling low, remind yourself why you quit smoking. Write down all the positives of being smoke-free, including any compliments people have given you since you quit. A great idea is to save the money you would have spent on cigarettes and put it towards something you really want. Writing down your goals, and what you’d love to spend your extra time and money on, can really help you stay focused. Good luck!
Question: How can I avoid a relapse in the future?
Answer: Know how to cope in risky situations.
Congratulations on stopping smoking! Now you will be starting to think about how to stay stopped in the weeks and months ahead – but don’t panic!
In general, ex-smokers start smoking again because they go back to their old habits when they find themselves in high-risk situations. It’s very important to recognise these situations in advance and find ways to resist the urge to smoke in each one of them before they happen. Relapses usually happen when ex-smokers don’t even try to use these strategies.
It’s a good idea to have more than one plan ready and to put one into action when you think you are about to “reach” for a cigarette.
Think carefully about what you want to do when you read the questions below. You can either print them off or make your own note.
|High-risk situations||What is your plan to resist the urge to smoke in this situation?||Confidence
(1 – 4)*
|1. When with other smokers||
|2. When drinking alcohol||
|3. In the case of an urgent need to smoke
(eg bad news/shock)
|4. After a meal or a coffee||
|5. When stressed, nervous, or in an argument||
|6. When you are feeling down||
|7. If you gain weight||
|8. Any others?||
* Degree of confidence in your ability to resist smoking in each of these situations:
1 = Not at all confident
2 = A little confident
3 = Quite confident
4 = Totally confident
Quick tips for coping with cravings and staying smoke-free
- Keep reminding yourself why you quit. List the good things about being a non-smoker – maybe stick it on the fridge!
- Remind yourself of what you did not like about smoking (or what loved ones dislike)
- If you get an urge to smoke, try telling yourself “NOPE” – Not One Puff Ever!
- If the urge is really strong try the 4 Ds:
DELAY, DESTRACT, DEEP BREATHE, DRINK WATER
- Make it your goal not to smoke today – tomorrow will take care of itself
- Drink fruit juice or sugar-free squash instead of tea or coffee
- Get lots of fresh air – go for a brisk walk with a friend
- Keep your hands busy – you will come up with novel ways!
- Don’t go hungry – some people find glucose tablets or sugar-free sweets really help manage cravings
- Chew sugar-free gum, eat a piece of fruit or try chewing a liquorice stick
- Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes and spend it on something you really want
- Treat yourself at the end of the day for not having smoked. Make a list of the rewards you’ll give yourself over the next week for every day of not smoking (even if it’s just a relaxing bath with candles, or watching your favourite film)
- Speak to friends/colleagues who have stopped recently and help each other – you will each have good and bad days
- Call the NHS Smokefree helpline, 0300 123 1044, Mon-Fri 9am-8pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm, or call Quit4Life on 01252 335 120
- Take a look at our Quit4Life blog for inspirational stories and top quit tips. You could also join an online support forum such as Health Unlocked:
- You can also find top tips and motivational posts on our Facebook page (@Quit4lifeHamshire) and on Twitter (@Quit4LifeNHS).
- NHS Choices also has some handy information about coping with cravings.
Remember – at the end of every non-smoking day you have done it. Congratulate yourself and remind yourself that the longer you go without smoking the easier it gets – honest!
To speak to an Adviser, call the Quit4Life office on 0845 602 4663 / 01252 335 120. Or email: email@example.com.
Any views expressed in this article are entirely my own and not necessarily those of my employer.
Links to suggested sites are not endorsed by Quit4Life, nor the NHS, and are for illustrative purposes only.