When it comes to methods for quitting smoking, it seems that everyone has their own opinion – from the medical professional to psychologist, therapists and ex-smokers. From nicotine patches or gums to prescription stop smoking treatments and even quitting ‘cold turkey’, there are many solutions put forward by different individuals. However, the bottom line is, there is no one definitive and final solution that will work for everyone. Instead, different individuals will find different approaches helpful when trying to quit smoking.
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For many, the most difficult aspect of giving up smoking is the constant and recurring urge to light up in those situations where you are used to smoking – when your mind wonders or while you are stuck in your usual routine at work. Just not thinking about smoking is very tough for those trying to quit, especially during the first couple of days. However, as the time goes by, ex-smokers will start thinking about cigarettes not as something they are actively avoiding, but as something that they used in the past.
These urges and cravings are an unavoidable part of any quitting smoking experience, regardless of the method you chose. And managing these urges is probably among the most difficult and at the same time most important aspects of quitting smoking.
Here we will discuss certain psychological techniques that can significantly contribute to your efforts and let you resist the temptation with much greater success.
Limit smoking to the past
Something many former smokers manage to do is to confine smoking to the past – in other words, this mean thinking about your smoke-free life as the advent of a new self where quitting smoking is just one of numerous changes one has made in order to change for the better. This is why some experts recommend making a special effort to make additional changes like carrying out those chores which you avoided so far, getting a new hobby or finding a way to be productive. In this way, smoking will become associated with the image of the ‘old me’ while non-smoking will be directly linked to the representation of the ‘new me’.
Learn about your distraction threshold
Situations such as waiting for a bus, sitting on a train or in a waiting room can be very challenging experiences for those who are trying to quit smoking. The mind can easily wander and especially in the early days, the urge to light up might become very pronounced very suddenly.
It is during this time that a new ex-smoker will have to learn about distraction habits and especially so-called distraction threshold. While distraction threshold varies significantly among individuals, this term denotes all those practices that can keep you from lighting up. For some, this can be something as trivial as reading a book, while other might try to occupy themselves with Sudoku puzzle or a conversation with a friend.
Distraction from cravings is essential in giving up smoking for good and after finding out what works for you, you should use that distraction technique to the extreme to prevent relapses in the especially vulnerable early period of quitting.
Directly confronting temptation
Many quitters despise those situations where temptation is directly present. Imagine this situation – you are trying to quit and your co-worker just went out for a smoke. What should you do? Of course, for most quitters, the best possible choice would be to stay inside, despite the habit of joining the co-worker in the daily ritual. However, for those who might have that extra edge, going outside and spending time with smokers without lighting up can be an especially empowering experience that creates a sense of security regarding the ability to resist the temptation.
Don’t forget it’s all about the chemicals!
All quitters will experience that train of thought that will end up with the idea of smoking just one cigarette. Many ex-smokers found it useful to try and isolate these thoughts and see them for what they are – chemical effects of nicotine withdrawal. An especially helpful thought in these situations is to keep in mind that after some time the body will regain its chemical balance and the dreadful feelings of withdrawal will begin to pass. As some former smokers said it – tempting thoughts are just an echo of the last cigarette that will, in time, become quieter.