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Becoming a nonsmoker means learning to manage your daily routine, and it takes time to grow comfortable with this.

The biggest challenge most people face in the first few weeks of quitting is regular, persistent cravings to smoke. Some cravings are due to your body wanting nicotine but others are due to the association your mind has made between certain aspects of your daily habits and routines and smoking.

Change routines

Each smoker has their own particular triggers to smoke. If you’re aware of some of yours, you can change your routine to trick your mind into not expecting a cigarette.

When a craving hits, often it will subside if you briefly focus your attention on any other activity. Some typical habit-based triggers and some tips for changing the routine, below...

Smoking Habit


First thing in the morning

Have a shower first thing

With coffee (or tea)

Change to a different drink, brand of coffee or mug; or change the place where you drink it

At morning tea

Read a magazine or book; sit in a different place or with a different people

At the computer at home

Shift your desk around or redecorate it

After lunch/dinner

Go for a walk

At afternoon tea

Try a herbal tea; read the paper

Straight after work

Do some exercise or meditation

Just before your start dinner

Have dinner earlier or later

With alcohol

Change to a different drink; hold drink in smoking hand

As you plan the next task/chore

Breathe deeply or try a quick relaxation exercise

As a reward e.g. completing a chore

Listen to music; have a piece of fruit

When you're with another smoker

Chew gum; bring a water bottle

At night in front of the TV

Change the furniture around; hold a stress ball; do some stretches

Just before bed

Have a warm drink or herbal tea; read a book

Each time you resist the urge to act on a craving you’re helping your mind break the link between that activity and the cigarette - you’re teaching yourself to be a nonsmoker one day at a time.

Treat each act of resistance as a victory. Remind yourself that you always have a choice each time you have a smoking urge: act on it and smoke, or choose from one of many other options to distract yourself until the craving passes. The bigger your list of distraction ideas, the better.

More distraction ideas:

  • Have a piece of gum or fruit instead
  • Sip a glass of water slowly
  • Play with your pet dog or cat
  • Call a friend
  • Play a game on your phone
  • Ask a friend/partner for a shoulder massage
  • Do some gardening
  • Put some hand cream or moisturiser on
  • Grab a stress ball
  • Do a jigsaw or crossword puzzle
  • Peel an orange

Think of the benefits of quitting and the positive changes in your life since you’ve quit and how you’re building a happier and healthier future. Short term goals are good - take it one day at a time.

Learning to manage cravings is challenging at the beginning because it’s new. But like any new skill, you can learn to do it and get better and better as time goes on.

Change smoking thoughts

You’re bound to get smoking thoughts for at least the first few weeks - thoughts of how nice it would be to have a cigarette or how much you “need” one.

  • Don’t dwell on the smoking thought
    • Accept it then focus your mind something more pleasant and stimulating.
  • Use self-talk to stay motivated and determined:
    • “I can quit, and I will quit.”
    • “I don't need cigarettes – I might want one, but I don’t need it.”
    • “I’m going to be strong because it’s worth it.
  • Break your smoking thought patterns
    • Focus your mind on something else, such as a relaxing image, a happy memory or how you are going to reward yourself for reaching your quitting milestones.