Monday, July 30, 2007

Beat Nicotine Cravings: 54 Things To Do Instead Of Smoking

Brushing Teeth
Brushing Teeth Instead of Smoking

Photo: eqqman

Quitting smoking is hard work, and while there's not a single magic formula to make it easy to quit, or one best way to quit smoking that works for everybody, there are things that you can do to make it easier on yourself when the cravings hit.

I chose to quit cold turkey, but whatever method you are using, the early days and weeks will test your willpower with nicotine withdrawals and cravings. The best way I've found to beat those cravings is to substitute something for the cigarette.

At the most basic level, it doesn't really matter what you do, so long as you don't smoke! Some people even use text messaging as a substitute. It has been shown in studies that these cravings only last for 3-5 minutes, so anything you can do to stop yourself from smoking for these few minutes (which may seem like an eternity), will have you one step closer to becoming a nonsmoker for good.

"What can I do, Chris?" I hear you asking. That's perfect, since I have put together a list of lists, if you will (you know you want to), of things you can do instead of smoking a cigarette. Remember, doing anything is better than doing nothing.

  1. Keep a journal. Writing about how you're feeling or what you're doing when those cravings sneak up on can help you gain insight. You can read these entries later, and by the time you're done overanalyzing them, the craving will have passed.
  2. Start a blog. Blogging is fun, and can be likened to a journal or diary without all the erasing.
  3. Go to sleep. Sleep can be your best friend, especially for those first few days when you're still suffering physical withdrawal symptoms. No matter how hardcore a smoker you used to be, you can't smoke in your sleep.
  4. Visualize yourself as a non-smoker. Paint a mental image of yourself with pretty, pink, healthy lungs and other organs.
  5. Breathe. Take a slow, deep breath while you count to four. Feel the clean air refreshing your body as the oxygen is carried to the tips of your fingers and toes. Hold the breath for a count of four, then exhale slowly over a count of four. Finally, allow the air to remain expelled from your healing lungs for, you got it, a four count. Repeat.
  6. Count the money you've saved from not buying cigarettes (You are saving money, aren't you?)
  7. Got kids? It may sound like some corny slogan, but if you have youngsters of your own, or nieces or nephews hanging around, spend some quality time doing anything with them. It will be difficult to light up smoke while doing a jigsaw puzzle or playing a game of checkers. Besides, you never get these early years back.

If you're somewhere that you can't smoke, then you won't be smoking, right? These will depend largely on your location, but smoking is being snuffed out in all kinds of public places across the globe. Hopefully some of these will be safe havens in your area.
  1. Movie theatre
  2. Bookstore
  3. Coffee Shop
  4. Library
  5. Shopping mall
  6. House of Worship
Some activities just don't go with smoking cigarettes. Spend a couple minutes with one or more of them.
  1. Wash your hands. Remember the wrists and forearms.
  2. Take a shower or bath. Maybe not impossible to smoke in there strictly speaking, but you should be able to distract yourself in there for long enough to get that nice clean feeling, and come out of it smelling like a rose.
  3. Chew on a straw. May look funny hanging out of your mouth, but not funnier than a blazing death stick.
  4. Mint toothpicks are the greatest things since sliced bread, which we all know is one of the greatest pre-Edison inventions ever to fit into a breadbox.
  5. Brush your teeth. They're probably not exactly white anymore. Work on it, and give yourself something else to smile about.
  6. Mouthwash. Use it. Instructions are right on the back of the bottle. Fight the battles against smoking and gingivitis both at once. You're a warrior!
  7. Learn to play an instrument. It takes a special kind of stupidity to use an ashtray and a harmonica at the same time.
You might not get much local radio play, but these instruments are easy enough to make sounds with, and if you've never tried them, you might be surprised how addicting they can be. Much safer than the old smoking addiction.
  1. Keyboard/piano. Just push the black and white buttons. Use both hands, and leave the ashtray outside.
  2. Harmonica. Inexpensive and foolproof.
  3. Guitar. A little tougher to get started with, but with either an instructor or a good book you can be making melodies within a short time.
  4. Harp. I haven't tried one of these (yet), but in searching online for opinions on the easiest instruments to get started with, it came up again and again. The main negatives seem to be difficulty finding instruction, and it appears that all product choices are relatively expensive when compared to the others.

Exercising doesn't have to mean three hours at the gym. Exercise to quit smoking only has to last a few minutes, remember. Here are a few exercises that will stimulate the body, and keep you away from the cigarettes for as long as you can keep them up.
  1. Pushups. You can do modified pushups (with your knees on the floor) if you're not ready for full pushups yet.
  2. Punching bag. It's a commitment getting one of these and setting it up, but it's worth every violent moment. Sometimes you just need to beat the crap out of something, and stopping smoking is likely the best excuse you'll find.
  3. Jump rope. Actually a deceptively challenging activity.
  4. Swim. If you're fortunate enough to have access to a pool or natural body of water, swimming is said to be one of the best all around exercises in which you can get involved.
  5. Go for a bike ride. You haven't forgotten how to ride, have you? Here's another activity that will stop you from thinking about cigarettes, yet can be done for any length of time and at any intensity level. Bring a water bottle, and enjoy the scenery.
  6. Walk. Feel free to bring along a friend or two.
  7. Jog or run. Like walking, but faster. With this, you get the bonus of being able to slow to a walk in the middle, thus doing two exercises on the list in one session.
After a few days of quitting smoking, the nicotine is gone from your system and the cravings are mainly psychological in nature. Part of this is that your hands are trained to grab a cigarette at certain intervals or when bored.
  1. Do a crossword puzzle, or try some sudoku.
  2. Play Cards. No company, no problem. Here's how to play solitaire.
  3. Paint your nails, or paint your lady's nails
  4. Draw something. Don't have an artistic bone in your body? Use tracing paper to get started; You might just surprise yourself with a little practice.
  5. Cook. Can't cook? Learn to cook. Which brings us to...
Everybody worries about the weight gain when quitting smoking. This is because the habit of constantly having a cigarette in your mouth is easily replaced by stuffing your face with food. This is actually a pretty good idea, if you don't let yourself go down the road of sugary candies and ice cream. Here are some less damaging alternatives.
  1. Sunflower seeds. These are my favorite cigarette substitute, aside from sweets. In the shells, and salted to hell and back. It can be ugly finding a place to spit all those shells, and make sure to drink plenty of water to offset the salt.
  2. Pickles
  3. Raisins
  4. Celery
  5. Grapes
  6. Oranges
  7. Berries. Any kind of berries, maybe try something new. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, whatever. And for the record, these are all being counted as one list item so I don't want to hear any nonsense about padding my list to make it look like more things.
  8. Spearmint leaves
  9. Gum. sugarless
  10. Yogurt
  11. Popcorn
  12. Cinnamon sticks are another interesting thing you can let hang out of your face-hole that don't require ownership of a lighter or matches.
  13. Lollipops. Yes, they're technically sweets, but you can get them sugar free I guess, and they take a long time to get through, so they're not as bad as the other sweets I'm not listing.
  14. Carrot sticks
  15. Orange juice. I remember not wanting to have a cigarette after drinking orange juice because of the bad way the smells of OJ and cigs mix, and it's still true.
  16. Water or ice water
  17. Seltzer or tonic water
  18. Ice cubes or shavings
Made it this far? Good. If you were having a nightmare craving before, you're probably feeling a little better now that a few minutes have passed. If not, you'll be better equipped for next time you do.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Twelve Days Since I Stopped Smoking

Another successful day on the quit smoking train, choo choo! My weight is still around a three pound net gain from when I started quitting smoking again, same as last week.

I have learned that my favorite cigarette was not the after dinner cigarette, as previously assumed, but the after sex cigarette. Who knew?

"Remember, if you smoke after sex you're doing it too fast." ~Woody Allen

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Studies Add Skin Health To List Of Reasons To Quit Smoking

( July, 2007 - While most Americans are keenly aware of the potentially deadly health consequences of cigarette smoking on the heart and lungs, many smokers don't realize the effects that smoking can have on the health of their skin.

We've very likely reached the point where most people with either an adequate education or any exposure to media are aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking.

My eight year old can tell you about that you need the cilia within your lungs to be functioning well if you expect to hold your own at the gym, and that if you've been a smoker for any length of time, that probably ain't happening.

He could also tell you that more people die from smoke inhalation than burns in structure fires, but I'm straying from my intended topic again.

I found a current article in HealthNewsDigest listing
five dangers smoking poses to skin health. If you love lists (doesn't everybody) or your skin, check it out.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Yeah. Zits from quitting smoking. They're stupid zits that start appearing on the faces of otherwise perfectly normal looking adults who have recently quit smoking.

Why? How? WTF? You must be asking all these questions at once.

Me too. Like I need another symptom today. I'm grumpy, I'm tired and I'm hungry as a bear that just came out of hibernation. Ugh.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Reward Yourself With Money Saved From Quitting

When I initially decided to stop smoking, one of the major factors was the money that I could save. Here in New Jersey, it's well over six dollars a pack. Figuring myself at a little over a pack a day, that's an easy 50 bucks weekly, two hundred a month.

If you're giving up cigarettes, or have given them up, you've surely considered the money spent over the years. What are you doing with yours? Something, I hope.

I keep mine tucked away, and every once in awhile it's a nice bonus to have it there for impulse spending. Depending on circumstances, a person could easily use that cash to go out to dinner or have some kind of a night on the town every couple of weeks.

Maybe you want a copy of Guitar Hero, or your own domain name (just so you know, it's uber-geeky to have your own name registered as a dot com, I think I'm gonna go for it). Hell, for that kind of money, you can probably make payments on a nice entry level car. When I say nice, I mean that it's this year's model, not necessarily nice as in power windows and air conditioning.

I guess it's been about nine days quit for me today, and I didn't have any really bad cravings over the weekend consciously, but I was halfway between insomniac and inconsolable most of yesterday. Managed to sleep like a rock overnight, and today is much better.

I'm taking myself camping this coming weekend with my quit money, what are you doing with yours?

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Quit Smoking, Gain Weight?

The myth is true. one of the side effects when you stop smoking, is you usually gain weight. Day 6 of my quit has me at plus 3 pounds. Not terrible, all things considered. Remember that last time I tried to quit smoking, I gained a few pounds, but lost it all within three weeks, only to gain more weight shortly thereafter. Sigh.

Where does this weight come from? It's an unfortunate combination of a few things. Firstly, smoking increases your metabolism. When you stop, your metabolic rate may slow by as much as 20%, causing you to burn less calories. The average weight gain for a quitter is said to be somewhere in the 5-20 lb. range. That's 2-9 Kgs or so for my international readers. What's that, you say? You're not into statistics? Okay, here's the simple version: you have to do something or you're going to start getting to be quite the fattie!

Did you know? more than one third of readers to this blog are from outside the U.S.A.?

The logical (not to be confused with easy!) choices to counteract this weight gain would be to either raise the metabolism via exercise, or eat less. Maybe up to 20% less. Yeah, right.

The thing is, when you stop smoking your senses of taste and smell start improving pretty quickly, and you'll probably enjoy some foods more. Especially stuff that's full of sugar and carbs. Yeah, the stuff that will pack on the pounds most quickly.

My recommendations are to increase your activity level by starting a new workout routine, or at least adding whatever activity you can. Maybe walk down to the end of the driveway to pick up the mail instead of driving, stop sending the intern down to pick up lunch everyday, and make yourself something healthy in the morning instead, or at least take the walk yourself.

Combine this with a little extra willpower and common sense regarding your eating habits, and you should be able to minimize the weight gain commonly attached to quitting smoking. No more midnight snacks, fattie!

Much of this info I remember from past studying, and cannot cite the sources. There are however, a couple of excellent articles listed on the topic over at Maggie's Mind, along with 30 or 40 other "linky loos" (don't looky-loo at me, I didn't make it up) to all sorts of quitting resources.

As for me, I think I'm going to try to finish my super awesome surprise post, which won't get published until at least Monday, because nobody ever reads my stuff on the weekends. Good for you guys, get out there and do something fun this weekend!

Hey, I made it through this whole thing without mentioning that it's Friday the 13th, how cool is that?

Crap. I just blew it, didn't I?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What To Expect When Quitting Smoking

A common question for those about to quit is, "What should I expect?"

Coming off nicotine will trigger withdrawal symptoms that vary widely from individual to individual. One thing that seems true though, is that the symptoms seem to be worse and longer lasting for people who have been smokers for longer periods of time. So if you're considering quitting the cancer sticks, it will be easier on you if you start sooner rather than later.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Tightness in chest
  • Nausea
  • Feeling of fatigue or exhaustion
  • Insomnia (quite frustrating when combined with the above)
  • Increased appetite (almost universal, this one)
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Unusually vivid dreams
Just remember that whatever symptoms you're experiencing will fade soon enough, sometimes surprisingly abruptly.

Most of the nicotine is gone from your system between three and seven days after your last cigarette. If you're still experiencing discomfort after that time, it's good advice to adopt the mindset that the worst of your symptoms will be disappearing any time now.

Think mind over matter, and use it to your advantage. Don't talk yourself into having prolonged withdrawal symptoms.

It's been around three and a half days for me, and I still might be just a little more irritable than normal (it can be hard to decide if this is even a withdrawal symptom for me, as I can go from zero to crabass in less than four seconds if I haven't gotten enough beauty sleep), but otherwise my worst thing might be the not-quite-quenchable tendency to eat anything sweet that finds itself in my field of vision.

Maybe I'll get on the scale tomorrow.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Day 2 Of Quitting Smoking Success

Operation quit smoking continues to run smoothly. Day 2 of a wonderful success story. I have not been able to find any hard and fast info regarding sunflower seeds, though I swear I remember reading something last time about them containing a vitamin or something that was beneficial to the process of quitting. I'll keep on the prowl for this, because now I'm curious.

Quitting sure did make me tired yesterday, I've probably slept for around 12 of the last 24 hours, certainly a 2007 record for me. I've been a little more moody and irritable since I quit smoking, but not as bad as I expected. I also haven't left the house since Saturday, so we'll see how things pan out for the rest of the week.

The outside world usually finds some way to aggravate me if I spend enough time to give it the chance. Hey, I did say I was a little irritable.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Survived First 24 Hours Without Smoking

Once again, I have joined the ranks of nonsmokers. The first day of quitting smoking, as anticipated, was not very bad at all. I have my sunflower seeds to help me with cravings, and they have been doing their job wonderfully, as they did last time I quit smoking.

There's not much else to report, as Sunday is typically a day of R&R for me. I intend to do a little research in order to find out what it is about sunflower seeds that makes them such good help with eliminating the nicotine cravings. I'll let everybody know tomorrow what I'm able to find out, if anything.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Quitting Smoking Again, Again

So yeah, My first serious attempt at quitting smoking was a miserable failure. I had a few too many beers, and one cigarette turned immediately into me smoking for the last 2 months.

I have managed to quit drinking though. I don't really think I was going to be able to succeed in quitting smoking otherwise. Drinking and smoking have always gone hand in hand for me, as seems to be the case with many others who try to give up cigarettes.

I don't expect day one to be so bad, and will stock up once again today on sunflower seeds, seltzer water and whatever else suits my fancy.

Here we go again.

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