Brushing Teeth Instead of Smoking
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.
DO STUFF INSTEAD OF SMOKING:
- 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.
- Start a blog. Blogging is fun, and can be likened to a journal or diary without all the erasing.
- 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.
- Visualize yourself as a non-smoker. Paint a mental image of yourself with pretty, pink, healthy lungs and other organs.
- 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.
- Count the money you've saved from not buying cigarettes (You are saving money, aren't you?)
- 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.
GO SOMEWHERE THAT YOU CANNOT SMOKE:
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.
- Movie theatre
- Coffee Shop
- Shopping mall
- House of Worship
Some activities just don't go with smoking cigarettes. Spend a couple minutes with one or more of them.
- Wash your hands. Remember the wrists and forearms.
- 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.
- Chew on a straw. May look funny hanging out of your mouth, but not funnier than a blazing death stick.
- 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.
- Brush your teeth. They're probably not exactly white anymore. Work on it, and give yourself something else to smile about.
- 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!
- 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.
- Keyboard/piano. Just push the black and white buttons. Use both hands, and leave the ashtray outside.
- Harmonica. Inexpensive and foolproof.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pushups. You can do modified pushups (with your knees on the floor) if you're not ready for full pushups yet.
- 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.
- Jump rope. Actually a deceptively challenging activity.
- 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.
- 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.
- Walk. Feel free to bring along a friend or two.
- 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.
- Do a crossword puzzle, or try some sudoku.
- Play Cards. No company, no problem. Here's how to play solitaire.
- Paint your nails, or paint your lady's nails
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spearmint leaves
- Gum. sugarless
- 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.
- 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.
- Carrot sticks
- 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.
- Water or ice water
- Seltzer or tonic water
- Ice cubes or shavings
Labels: cigarettes, cold turkey, cravings, health, nicotine, quit, quit smoking, quit smoking weight gain, quitting smoking, smoke, smoking, stop smoking, substitution, sunflower seeds, weight, withdrawal