5- to 10-minute craving distractions can help you kick the habit
You’ve probably heard that the key to quitting a habit is replacing that “behavior” with another. For people trying to stop using tobacco, during those times when you want to smoke, do something else that doesn’t remind you of smoking.
Start by making a plan for how to handle smoking “triggers” and cravings — before they hit. Cravings typically last 5 to 10 minutes, so you just need a distraction to get you over the hump.
Some of these ideas aren’t all that glamorous, but they’ll get you over the hump. Keep this or your own list nearby so you can quickly start one when you need to:
1 – Call or text someone. Lean on the people close to you to distract you. Don’t have anyone to call or text? Get some help from a resource at the bottom of this article.
2 – Read an article in a magazine, listen to your five favorite songs or play a game for 15 minutes.
3 – Take a walk or jog. Don’t have time? Go up and down the stairs a few times. Physical activity, even in short bursts, is one of the best ways to beat a craving.
4 – Review your reasons for quitting. Stave off a craving by reminding yourself why you want to be tobacco-free.
5 – Go somewhere you just can’t smoke, such as a movie theater, store, library or any other public place where you have no choice but not to smoke.
6 – Calculate your savings. Add up all the money you’re saving by not buying cigarettes.
7 – Decide what you could buy with the money you save. Do an internet search for more ideas.
8 – Keep your mouth busy with sugarless gum or hard candy.
9 – Take deep breaths. Breathe through your craving by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Repeat 10 times or until you’re feeling more relaxed.
10 – Go outside and find something you’ve never seen before and take a picture of it.
11 – Adopt a pet or get some fish. They never fail to provide endless opportunities for distraction.
12 – Keep puzzle books, like crosswords, word searches or sudoku, close by for an easy way to kill 10 or 15 minutes.
13 – Try the GLAD technique: gratitude, learning, accomplishment, delighted. Learn how here.
14 – Give someone you love a big bear hug.
15 – Tell someone special what they mean to you.
16 – Eat crunchy raw vegetables, like carrot sticks or celery.
17 – Drink a tall glass of ice water, or make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.
18 – Put some lotion on your hands and work it in, giving your hands a good massage (while also keeping them busy) or paint your fingernails.
19 – Floss and brush your teeth.
20 – Clean out a drawer or closet.
21 – Alphabetize a book shelf.
22 – Change the sheets on your bed.
23 – Do some jumping jacks.
24 – Go outside and pick up sticks or pull some weeds.
25 – Read a story to your kids.
26 – Scrub something — the floor, a window, a wall.
27 – Donate blood.
28 – Write a letter to someone or to yourself in the form of a journal.
29 – Do origami — either get an instruction book or find instructions online.
30 – Pick up a paint-by-number kit or adult coloring book at the dollar store and start creating.
31 – Write a list of things you are grateful for. Keep reviewing your list and adding to it every time you have a craving.
Get a little help from your friends
Quitting smoking is tough, and having support is a major factor in being successful. Talking it out is a great way to get through a craving. If you don’t have anyone you can call or text, try these:
SmokefreeTXT: This mobile text messaging service offered by the National Cancer Institute will send you encouragement, advice and tips every day and you can text it to receive support anytime you need it, day or night.
Quitting hotlines: If you want to talk to a quit smoking counselor right away, call (800) QUIT-NOW/(800) 784-8669.
QuitSTART app: This smartphone application offered by the National Cancer Institute offers personalized “pick-me-ups” and reminders to get you through challenging times, along with monitoring your progress, identifying smoking triggers and tracking your cravings.
Norton Healthcare offers Freedom From Smoking, a tobacco cessation program available in group classes or one-on-one sessions. Learn more here.