How do I handle my smoking cravings?
In order to cope with nicotine cravings, it is important to understand why cravings happen. That makes it easier to come up with strategies for beating them. Other smokers have some great ideas too.
Cigarettes deliver high doses of nicotine, which changes your brain.
Cigarette smoke contains high levels of nicotine, which is quickly absorbed in the lungs and delivered rapidly to the brain. This high dose of nicotine from cigarettes makes your brain release chemicals linked to memory, learning, motivation, and habit formation.
This means that the more you smoke, the more your brain links smoking with good feelings, which makes it harder to quit. For most people, regular smoking creates physical changes in your brain that leads to stronger cravings for more nicotine. This process can be more intense for some people because of their genetics, and how their brains change over time.
Cravings and urges
Your brain often links smoking to specific activities, social situations, needs, feelings, and times of day. When you find yourself in one of those situations, or feeling one of those feelings, your brain expects a high dose of nicotine. These ‘triggers’ then cause an urge or craving to smoke.
Think about how you feel when you get to the end of a meal, or when you feel stressed – that’s your brain telling you to smoke because it has already linked those situations and feelings to a dose of nicotine, which makes it harder to not smoke.
Nicotine leaves your body and brain relatively quickly (within a few hours). As nicotine levels go down, that can cause unpleasant feelings like irritation, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, hunger, and frustration. Inhaling a puff can quickly relieve these unpleasant feelings, which increases the strength of the association of smoking with the specific activity, emotion, or time of day.
It is difficult to quit smoking because your brain gets wired differently – it actively works against you when you try to quit, and any time you smoke, those links get stronger.
How have other smokers handled their triggers?
Each smoker’s coping strategies for smoking triggers are as unique as they are. EX Community members get pretty creative when they want to be! Take a look at what other smokers have done to cope with their own triggers in the EX Community.
- Blog posts
- Giulia – To bust my cravings, sometimes it's needed to RE-focus on the GOOD things I have...when I'm feeling down. It gets my mind AWAY from the "pity party" state.
- SkyGirl - It would be great if you could walk into a hardware store and say, "I'd like to buy some Quit Smoking tools, please." You can't. But if you COULD...here's what you'd walk out of the store with.
- Check out this EX Community collaboration page – so much great advice on how to beat common triggers!
- Mark - we can use this document to provide triggers and possible exercises to avoid giving in to those triggers. If you have come up with a list of steps for a particular trigger, share it in the comments below. Those who are looking for examples on how to beat their triggers can then be referred or reference this document as the need arises.
- Expert advice
- NDC.Treatment.Team - Conquer the Craving - in one minute or less.
- Still not sure where to start? Ask a question – see how fast you get an answer that works for you!
What should I do next to figure out my smoking patterns and what will work best for me?
- Track your cigarettes. Use this tool to figure out when and why you smoke.
- Cope with cravings. Once you know what causes your cravings, figure out strategies to beat them.