Going cold turkey may work for some, but for most, a gradual approach works better. You’re less likely to crash and burn. And with smoking especially, your body is addicted, so you’ll experience a lot less withdrawal (and less temptation) when gradually cutting down.
If you start by taking out just one cigarette a day, for example, it’s easier because you can remind yourself that you still have your next one soon. In addition, the task seems a lot less daunting and you’re less likely to put off starting.
Choose a new, similar habit
Choose a new habit instead of smoking, something you will do when you feel the urge to grab a cigarette. Remember, you’re doing this gradually, so start by replacing just one cigarette a day with your replacement of choice. Common choices include chewing on a piece of gum or a piece of chocolate.
These are helpful because they provide you with something to do with your mouth, which many say helps. Other choices can involve activities. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend replacing it with some exercise like going for a run!
Do the research!
It helps to know the ins and outs of why exactly you want to quit your bad habit and why your good habit is better. It’s not enough to know that smoking is harmful and that you want to quit. That won’t get you very far.
You should research what exactly smoking does to your lungs and body, and why it’s harmful, and what secondhand smoke can do to those around you. And when the going gets tough, periodically look into those reasons again.
Think about your “why”
Having concrete reasons why you’d like to quit smoking, or any bad habit is also key. Going back to the research tip, use what you’ve found in your research to come up with a few, meaningful reasons as to why you want to quit.
For example, “I don’t want to get lung cancer.” Or, “I want to be able to run and play with my kids and not get out of breath.” Write these reasons down on a piece of paper and put it in a visible place. Alternatively, you can write one reason each on post-its and place them around the house and other places. Keep one on your pack of cigarettes too.
Stick with it
Despite what you might have heard, the latest research shows that new habits usually take longer than 21 days to form. In fact, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit and on average it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. So don’t feel defeated if you’re still struggling 2 weeks into your quitting journey. Your brain needs time to rid itself of the old habit and get used to the new habit.
Accountability is huge when it comes to sticking with goals…whether that goal is exercising more or quitting smoking. Find a friend going through the same thing, or just any supportive friend who will be someone to check in with along the way.
Or join an online message board for people trying to quit smoking (or whatever your bad habit maybe). State your goals and your action plan for quitting. Let your friend or group know that you plan to check in daily (or whatever interval you’d like) with updates.
Putting it out there and knowing your friend or group are expecting these updates will make you more likely to hold yourself to task.