10 Tips to Cut Back on Cigarettes
Quitting smoking is extremely difficult, but it is possible. Most people who quit smoking take a long time to kick the habit and experience setbacks along the way, so you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you struggle to cut back.
When you first decide to quit smoking, you may feel highly motivated. Willpower isn’t enough to break the addiction, though. Studies have found that self-regulation and self-control are limited resources, so they won’t see you through to the end unless you take other measures to help yourself quit.1 Fortunately, there are a variety of tips you can try to successfully quit smoking.
1. Reward Yourself and Celebrate Success
Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to stay on track when quitting smoking. If you plan a reward for yourself once you reach a certain milestone, you’ll be much more motivated to follow through. Over time, you’ll begin to associate the positive feelings of being rewarded with quitting, so quitting itself will make you feel good even without the reward.
Some people give themselves small daily rewards like a favorite meal or a relaxing bath whenever they stay on track. Others prefer to focus on larger rewards for bigger milestones. You may have to try a few different reward systems to find which works best for you.
2. Spot the Triggers
Like with any addiction, the urge to smoke can be triggered by certain environmental factors. Addiction is largely psychological, and if you often smoke in certain places, around certain people, or when feeling certain emotions, your brain may associate these factors with cigarettes.
Your triggers may not be obvious, so it can help to keep a log of every time you feel tempted to smoke. After a few days or weeks, you can look for patterns in your entries to identify triggers. Then, you can try to avoid these triggers or be extra careful to resist temptation in these environments.
3. Stay Positive
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll quit smoking cold turkey without any slip-ups. Breaking an addiction takes time and patience but beating yourself up for making mistakes will only make quitting more difficult. Many people become so upset when they have a setback that they decide to give up entirely.
Staying positive while quitting smoking can be difficult, but it will set you up for success. Try to forgive yourself for your mistakes and celebrate your successes instead of focusing on failures. Remember that quitting is a long-term, gradual process. Look back on how far you’ve come and visualize what your future will look like if you stay in the right mindset.
4. Eat for Wellness
Nutrition plays a major role in your physical and mental health and following a healthy diet will make quitting much easier. Some people begin to overeat when they quit smoking because they miss the feeling of having something to do with their hands and mouth. If you feel the urge to snack, try to choose healthy foods instead of high-calorie junk foods.
The following are some of the best foods to keep on hand while you quit smoking.
- Butter-free popcorn
- Frozen grapes
- Sugar-free gum2
5. Get Your Heart Rate Up
Exercise has a wide variety of benefits that can help you quit smoking. A study from the University of Exeter found that smokers experienced fewer cravings immediately after exercising than they did normally. This may be because exercise can increase levels of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain.3 If you feel a strong urge to smoke, exercising could distract you and temporarily decrease your cravings.
6. Write Down Your Goals and Build a You-proof Plan
Writing down your goals will make them feel official, so you may be more likely to follow through. After deciding exactly what your goals are, try to create a detailed, specific plan to reach them.
Most people are great at procrastinating and making excuses for not reaching their goals, so you should consider all your possible excuses when creating your plan. For example, if you know you’ll be in an environment where you’ll be tempted to smoke, make a plan for how you’ll resist the temptation. This will set you up for success and prevent you from backing out before you hit your goal.
7. Use the Buddy System
Having someone to support and encourage you while you quit can be highly motivating. If you know a smoker who’s expressed interest in quitting, ask them to quit with you. They’ll understand the challenges of quitting smoking, and they may have helpful tips and tricks that you didn’t think of. You’ll also feel more compelled to stay on track because you won’t want to let your friend down.
If you don’t personally know anyone who’s trying to quit smoking, you can look for online forums or in-person support groups. The support from others who understand your struggles can keep you going when quitting gets tough, and it’s helpful to know that you’re not the only person making this lifestyle change.
8. Bait and Switch
Sometimes, the urge to smoke a cigarette will be so strong that it’s hard to ignore. However, there are several tricks you can try to resist the temptation. You can distract yourself by going for a walk, talking to a friend, or doing chores around your home. If you still have the urge, try brushing your teeth or chewing minty gum. You may no longer want to smoke a cigarette when your mouth feels fresh and clean.
Smoking cessation products like nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges can be helpful during these moments, too. The nicotine isn’t healthy, but these products are better for you than cigarettes, and they can reduce your cravings while you cut back.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
You don’t have to quit smoking on your own. If you’re struggling, you should reach out for help. Health care professionals and other experts know the best ways to quit smoking, and they can consider your individual circumstances when giving you advice.
The following are some valuable resources for quitting smoking.
- Mental health counselors
- Support groups
- Online resources
10. Don’t Stress Out
If you’ve made the commitment to quit smoking, you’ve already taken the hardest step. You should be proud of yourself for making the decision to quit, and you should celebrate all your victories along the way.
Find hobbies or habits that help you relax, so you have actionable ways to relieve stress when you feel cravings. Meditation, music, art, and exercise can all be great stress relievers, but everyone has different preferences. Most importantly, you should be kind to yourself if you fail, and you should keep trying until you’ve reached your goals.