How To: Reduce Cravings
I know it doesn’t feel like it, but your cravings will pass. Really. Your body is actually great at getting rid of nicotine. You typically process nicotine in about two hours. This creates other chemicals that act like nicotine for a while, but eventually you’ll get most of the nicotine out of your system.
The first week is typically the hardest, so if you’ve already made it through that—congrats! It’s going to get better. If you’re still in the thick of your first week, don’t panic. Here are a few ways to beat the cravings and stay on track:
Use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
The most direct way to reduce cravings is to address what’s causing them—nicotine withdrawal. Quitting cold turkey is incredibly hard. Only about 3% of people are able to quit without help. So, use every tool available to help you quit.
NRT gum takes the edge off of cravings while gradually weaning you off of nicotine to help you quit. Plus, it gives you something to actually do. Quitting can sometimes feel passive. Not having to do something can be harder than replacing that inaction with something effective. Take charge, stick to your plan, and use NRT to actively affirm your choice to quit every day.
Physical addiction is powerful with cigarettes, but it’s not the only thing that causes cravings. Boredom and social triggers can cause you to smoke. Don’t let the opportunity to smoke happen. Keep your hands—and your mind—occupied and avoid the impulse to smoke. Build a puzzle. Play a monotonous video game. Learn to knit. Do whatever it takes to keep busy, especially during the beginning stages of quitting.
Remember That It’s Temporary
Remind yourself that cravings will pass. Sometimes people give up because cravings are so intense that they can’t imagine handling that feeling for a very long time. But the reality is that cravings come in waves. Even better, your cravings will lessen. You just have to give your body a little time.
Breathing exercises are a great way to reduce stress, control cravings, and calm your mind. Some of the more popular breathing techniques include:
Each comes with their own unique benefits and practices. Sometimes just breathing through the craving is the best thing you can do until it passes. Find one that works for you.
Take a walk. Take a run. Take a swim. It’s hard to smoke when you’re underwater. Activate other parts of your brain and body with exercise and activity that releases “feel-good” chemicals like dopamine. You desperately need dopamine right now, so get out there and make your own.