How to Unwind Without Cigarettes

Ask any ex-smoker, "What's the most challenging thing about quitting?" and she'll certainly mention nicotine withdrawal and cravings. But she may also say the toughest part is simply breaking the habit. Smokers usually link smoking to other activities such as taking a short break at work, savoring a meal, or enjoying a cocktail. It's what she does to unwind and take a moment for herself. If you want to be a successful quitter, you need to create new habits.

So, how do you begin? Start by making a list of all the times in your day you smoke. Then, make connections with other activities you're doing at the same time. Brainstorm replacement activities you could do instead of lighting up. For example:

  • Instead of starting your day with a smoke, create a new ritual to get your blood moving. Do a short set of yoga exercises or step outside for some deep breathing in the morning air.
  • Instead of lighting up with your morning coffee, reach for a pencil and do a crossword puzzle.
  • Instead of smoking on your commute to work, pop a stick of gum in your mouth and distract yourself with an audio book.
  • Instead of taking a smoke break during your work day, take a short walk or grab a glass of water. Ask a coworker to help you make your breaks smoke-free by joining you for a quick chat.
  • Instead of finishing lunch with a cigarette, finish by brushing your teeth.
  • Instead of reaching for an afternoon cigarette, take a mini-meditation break and do some deep breathing.
  • Instead of lighting up on your drive home, pick up a non-smoking friend and drive to the gym. Your buddy will keep you from fouling the car's air and a new fitness goal will keep you motivated to ditch the smokes.
  • Instead of hanging out with other smokers, tell them you're taking a hiatus and will return to them when you're entirely smoke-free. That doesn't mean you have to tell your smoking friends goodbye. You just need to take a break until you've kicked your habit for good.
  • Instead of thinking that quitting smoking is a difficult, unpleasant thing, think of it as a gift you're giving yourself that will last a lifetime-and a much longer, healthier, and happier lifetime than you ever would have had as a smoker.