Many smokers think of smoking as something they can start and stop, like a bad habit that can be kicked with enough positive thinking and willpower. A smoking habit is often much tougher to quit, though. Once the nicotine gets into someone’s brain, it digs its heels in and doesn’t want to get out without a fight.
Smoking is an addiction, and in order to treat it prospective quitters need to treat smoking like a disease and not simply a bad habit. Bad habits can swing back into someone’s life without trouble, but once a disease is treated that person will have an immunity for all time.
One of the best ways to treat an addiction is to get the mind focused on something else, so when a craving hits you’ll have something else to focus on. Having a ‘surrogate addiction’ that can be controlled along with a strong support network and some professional help will maximize the chances of flushing the real addiction from your system.
Most people can handle the physical side of quitting and symptoms start to go away after a week. But once the headaches, temper issues, and other symptoms have left, people have trouble dealing with the psychological issues.
No matter what the replacement activity is, as long as it is done immediately when a craving hits, it will help you keep the urges under control. Eventually, your brain will focus on that activity and not on cigarettes, and the nicotine will lose all its power.
Here are five surrogate addictions that you can get your brain hooked on.
1. Chewing gum or sucking mints
Giving your mouth something else to focus on besides puffing away is often the first choice for many people. Rolling a mint or sucker around or smacking on gum can often be a tasty way to prevent smoking and is a relatively accessible solution for many people.
You can use nicotine gum or lozenges to get yourself weaned off nicotine or simply pick a favorite flavor from the grocery store. Here are the benefits of each.
- Nicotine gum: Nicotine is an addictive substance, and the best way to quit an addiction is slowly lowering the amount that you take in over a long period of time. For many users of the gum, they first find themselves chewing or sucking through entire packages during the first few days or weeks, but then start to slowly whittle it down.
- Flavored gum/suckers: Chewing gum itself keeps the mouth active and mimics having a cigarette in your mouth. Picking one or more flavors that you enjoy can even help keep you looking forward to chewing a piece. As long as you can ensure that a piece is always on hand, it can help you keep the addiction at bay.
Even if you hate exercise, going on a short brisk walk around the block or doing some high knees or a jog at your desk can help handle addiction. Exercise can reduce cravings, and the harder you work out, the faster the craving will be burned out of your body.
For people who deal with rage and temper problems during and after smoking, working up a sweat can help stimulate emotions. This can help you improve mood as well, keeping emotions in check, especially if you like the activity and can easily incorporate it into your day or with others.
Many studies have shown e-cigarettes to be less addictive than traditional ones, and the people who use them are not as dependent on them. Here’s how they work.
- They heat up liquids via battery power, and these liquids can be made of flavorings and nicotine. Then the heated liquid turns into smoke which is inhaled. This process is called vaping.
- This smoke is less addictive and less harmful than genuine smoke. If people wean off of real cigarettes with e-cigarettes, vaping can be a major benefit for people seeking to quit.
4. Be creative
For many smokers, dealing with twitchy hands and shaking palms is another side effect of an addiction. In order to counter the need to pick up a cigarette, many smokers turn their brains to doing or learning something creative. Drawing, writing, doing art, or playing an instrument allows them to handle the need to do something with their hands.
In addition, being creative can stimulate your brain and get you in the zone, focusing on something else instead of your addiction. Plus, you might even create something worth sharing with others when it comes time to finally kick the addiction.
5. Deal with stress
Often, many people smoke to relieve stress and deal with other challenges in their lives. Just because you quit doesn’t mean that the stress goes away. Having relaxation techniques in terms of listening to calming music, doing yoga, or having someone massage you, can help you deal with stress. Once the stress is handled, then the cravings will start to go away.
Having a plan for when stress enhances your needs for a cigarette will help you deal with two problems at once, and reap double the benefit.
Always get help
Whether you choose to exercise, vape, or doodle your cigarette addiction away, know that it can’t be done alone. Your support group can be an online forum, a gathering of close friends, or family members who want to quit smoking with you.
As long as you have someone to lean on when times get hard and even the strongest substitute addictions can’t fight a craving, then you’ll be able to resist needing ‘just one more’ cigarette and falling back into the pattern of addiction.
Just remember, addictions can be defeated and kicked, and many folks have done it. So if you want to quit, know that it is possible, and you can do it.