Smoking triggers: The smoking gun behind your urges
When you’re trying to quit, smoking triggers can pop up at every turn. People, places, situations that are otherwise benign can trick you into reaching for a cig. So, it’s helpful to break down smoking triggers into three common categories: stress, mindlessness, and smoke itself – that is, the things that drive you crazy, the things you mindlessly do, and the thing you most crave. Every smoker has his or her own combination of these triggers, and discovering yours can help you conquer your habit more easily.
Here are some common smoking triggers:
- Stress. Many people turn to cigarettes when they are feeling the pressures of work, relationships, a busy schedule, or other stressors. They believe that smoking provides relief, when in actuality it’s just temporarily covering up their issues. Additionally, some people have difficulty expressing their emotions, and when they don’t express, they get stress. This can result in stuffing down their feelings by stuffing a cigarette in their mouth. And why events like weddings, funerals, family holidays, even promotions, are often big triggers for smokers.
- Mindless Activities. Face it, serial smoking, like eating popcorn, is often a mindless activity that loves the company of other mindless activities. Think drinking alcohol, sipping coffee, dining, driving, taking a work break – all situations where running on automatic can leave you open to other habits. Alcohol is especially tricky because it lessens your self-control and thus your ability to say no to smokes.
- Other Smokers. Hanging with other smokers obviously makes it near-impossible to say no. Even watching someone else smoke on the other side of the room can trigger the habit. Up close, the taste and smell of smoke can excite the part of your brain that craves pleasure and has been habituated to feeling good from smoking.
Despite finding smoking triggers everywhere, there’s still hope for quitters. Here are some strategies to conquer them.
- Reflect and record. Emotional awareness is king when it comes to overcoming smoking triggers, especially ones that occur during mindless behaviors. Take some time to think back to times that you felt the urge to smoke. Jot down what caused you to smoke (or what you were doing at the time), how you felt, and how you could potentially deal with similar triggers in the future.
- Employ distraction. When the urge hits, be well armed. If you need something in your mouth, suck on a mint, chomp on a carrot, or chew sugarless gum. To blow off steam, go for a run or walk around the block. If you’ve just finished a meal, don’t linger at the dining table; even brushing your teeth immediately helps shift the post-meal habit. When talking on the phone, use your smoking hand or play with a small squeeze toy.
- Find stress relievers. Since stress is often a big smoking trigger, find ways to relax and calm down anytime, anywhere. Try meditation, deep breathing, or some light exercise.
- Clean out the signs. As with any failed romance, remove everything in your life that reminds you of smoking! First, throw out all those secret stashes you’ve hidden away. Empty your ashtrays and lighters and buy air purifiers – at home and in your car. Do a big load of laundry because even your sheets and blankets might smell of smoke. Everything to start fresh!
CH-ch-ch-change is the best advice for quitting. Every change you make around the experience of smoking can strengthen your resolve to quit. Sometimes, just taking one thing out of the equation can make the whole structure fall. And every time you substitute a more positive activity, the urge to smoke defaults. It all starts with awareness and ends with a fresh, clean breath!
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