Top 5 small lifestyle changes to help with the nicotine cravings
Stoptober is over. If you took part, congratulations! You've been smoke free for over a month now!
However, with the buzz of the month being over, it can be easy to slip back into old habits - which is exactly why I want to share my experiences of quitting smoking and offer you five quick tips you can use to help with those pesky nicotine cravings.
First, this is my story. I began smoking when I was 18. It started out at 1 or 2 a day but soon escalated to 20+ a day just two years later due to increasing levels of physical and emotional stress. I realised something needed to change, as I could tell my bad habit was going to get worse as time went on.
Although you've probably heard it many times already - giving up smoking really IS the best thing you can do for your health.
I personally found that little changes to my lifestyle meant that the post-quitting cravings weren’t nearly as bad as they were when I tried to quit throughout those 2-3 years of smoking. However, everyone is different. Some of these might work for you, some might not. Try them and see what suits you best!
1. Cut back on the alcohol
Drinking alcohol can sometimes amplify the cravings for nicotine, which is exactly why cutting down on the booze is a great way to help you stay on track with your quit journey. In an ideal world, giving up alcohol completely would be great – however, this can sometimes be an unrealistic goal, as giving up two habits at the same time can be a bit of strain on a person!
2. Get active
I’m not saying I went running a marathon! Instead I did small bursts of exercise at regular intervals throughout the week. Not only did it distract my mind from the cravings, but it generally made me feel good after doing a small workout. Personally, I started out using one of those ‘7-minute workout’ apps you can download for free, which I have since replaced with a, now comfortable, 15-20 minute workout routine that I fit into my weekly routine.
3. Drink more water
Have you ever been really hungry, but after you drink a glass of water, you don’t feel as hungry anymore? I experienced exactly this but with my cravings. It might have been because I was giving my body something to process, or it could have been because I was giving my hands and mouth something to do throughout the day, but it helped - a lot! Plus, you'll be getting your 2 litres of water a day - which is always good!
4. Get involved in cooking more
It’s likely that you have a little routine going on in your life. This routine probably contains 3 meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. I found that I could use this routine to my advantage by focusing on these meals whenever I felt a craving come on. Thinking ahead to what I will cook tomorrow for lunch, what I then need to buy from the shop, to how I will prepare the meal. All of this soon turned into experimenting with different foods which gave me something positive to focus on, rather than cigarettes.
5. Let your friends be your friends
Without a single doubt in my mind, the best tip I could offer anyone is to look to your friends. I was a bit foolish and didn’t tell my buddies at first that I was quitting smoking, which meant when the cravings happened, they were subjected to my mood swings.
Eventually, I let them all know, and from that point onwards, they understood that I needed a bit more company for the next few weeks to help keep my mind occupied. Little things like talking more online, meeting up for a quick coffee or arranging a full day out somewhere. All of these activities not only distracted me while I was there, but it gave me something to look forward to. The thought of the activity was a big enough distraction to curb the cravings.
It'll get easier in time!
Again, speaking from my personal experience (it can be different for everyone!) the first 3 days are the hardest. Cravings spiked during this period, but afterwards, they started to die down.
66 days is roughly how long it takes to form a new habit. Again, this might be different for everyone - it might form sooner or later, but besides – if you get to 66 days smoke free and you feel like a habit hasn’t formed, why give up there? You’ve been smoke-free for over 2 months, which is a great achievement!